I am very happy to introduce our very special new guest blogger Nicole Hemmenway today, with her first tip for the readers of the 365 pain-free days:
As we all know, chronic pain has the ability to change our lives forever. It did for me. I remember being seventeen and a senior in high school with many aspirations for my future. Then, in a span of seconds, the life path I believed I would be embarking on vanished. Immediately, my entire world, my entire identity, was crushed. I wondered if life would ever be the same, or if I somehow lost my chance to be happy.
Chronic pain affects every aspect of our lives. Too often on our recovery journeys, we feel alone, frustrated, or defeated. These are normal responses to the pain, and yet if we let these feelings consume us, the pain wins. During my nine-year battle with complex regional pain syndrome, I had moments when the doubt, shame and guilt became unbearable. I had times when I wanted to curl up in a ball and say, “I’m done.” But I refused to give up. I refused to believe I would be sick forever, and I adamantly refused to let the pain control me.
Since I knew I needed to find a constructive way to release the emotional and mental angst, I contacted my spiritualist and mentor. She explained the concept of an “Attitude of Gratitude” journal, and encouraged me to begin my own.
It was imperative that I begin concentrating on the positives in my life. Although I was dealing with disabling full-body pain, had lost complete mobility of my right hand, and relied on my family for all my most basic needs, there was still light and happiness in my life. She told me I had to focus on the joy: the moments of meaning and purpose.
While I no longer had use of my writing hand and was too sick to write full journal entries, I jotted down simple phrases in my “Attitude of Gratitude” diary that I personally named “Waiting for my Miracle.” For every struggle and frustration I recorded, I wrote three encouraging and optimistic points. While this was difficult to do at first, I soon saw its significance. I realized where I focused my attention was what thrived in my life.
I invite each of you to start your own “Attitude of Gratitude” journal and see what you discover about yourself. For me, keeping a record of my highs and lows made a considerable difference in my overall healing. Not only was I more equipped to cope with the flare-ups, but I also had a new tool that helped me gain insight and perspective. It made me realize that although my life might not be the same, I was still living. I soon understood that I needed to hold onto hope for a brighter future while finding a way to live in the present; because in reality, that is the only moment we are truly guaranteed. Even though I had faith that I would someday find my answers, I had to look at this day and find pleasure. I had to find meaning in the darkness ... and I did. I hope you do too.
Remember to continue to believe in the unimaginable, and you are never alone on this journey. I am sending each of you healing thoughts.
Believing in Miracles,