Spirituality and Chronic Pain

 

This x-ray was taken 6 weeks post-op. Spinal fusion with instrumentation L4/5-L5/S1, disc replacement L3/4

This x-ray was taken 6 weeks post-op. Spinal fusion with instrumentation L4/5-L5/S1, disc replacement L3/4

Chronic pain is hard to describe to someone else. Pain is a very personal experience, and everyone has their own threshold for it. It’s real, but cannot be measured in any real way. Sure there’s the pain scale of 1-10. I’ve had extremely painful diagnostic testing, trying to tell my dr. my level of pain as I was being tortured. It’s emotionally draining and spiritually challenging. It’s an ongoing battle that I have struggled with for over 6 years. I was diagnosed with FBSS or Failed Back Surgery Syndrome and Degenerative Spondylolisthesis.

It’s actually difficult for me to remember what life is like without pain. my life before pain. I know there was a time when I went about my day to day life with no pain, I just don’t remember what it felt like. My two smallest children don’t know a Momma who doesn’t “hurt”. They’ve grown up hearing their Poppa say, “No, Momma can’t come with us this time because Momma’s back hurts.” I’ve missed out on a lot, and quite frankly it pisses me off.

I like to think I did my best, tried to make the right decisions and had high hopes for a successful surgery. What would it be like to not have to have frequent ice packs? No pain medication?

What would it be like to not wallow in self-pity? It sucks to live life while watching from the sidelines. I want to be able to run and play with my kids. I want to have a tickle-fest with my husband, even though I hate being tickled. I want to be able to have coffee with a friend without worrying about sitting in one place too long.

I’m still hoping for that day. And hope is a beautiful thing. It’s a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. It gives purpose and fosters dreams. It’s also fragile. Easily plucked from your grasp.

My pain level fluctuates, but is never ‘gone’. This makes Spirituality difficult at times I have good days and I have bad days.  I can have a good morning and by 10 a.m. be back in bed with an ice pack. The pain is an entity in my life and the lives of my loved ones. It’s constantly hanging around, popping up in conversations and taking center stage when I am absent from life. It’s like an annoying relative that nags and complains and never goes home. You learn to go on with your life, but that negative entity follows right behind, shadowing every family meal, every outing, every moment of every day, ready to jump out from behind bushes or trip you up when you least expect it.

Pain is a complex, multidimensional experience that comes from the interrelationship among biological, psychological, social, and spiritual factors. I use (and have used) many cognitive and behavioral strategies to cope with my pain. My spirituality has had to become a daily part of my life, even on those bad days when I don’t feel like getting out of bed. Especially on those days I feel like getting out of bed but I am physically unable to. So I’ve had to adjust and I’ve had to learn how to bring my Spirituality to me. Instead of this ‘spirituality thing’ floating around out there, always just beyond my reach, over there across the room at my altar, or down the walkway in my studio, I had to create that sacred space within me. Therefore there were no more excuses to be made because meditation and spiritual practice could be done anywhere at any time.

I know that when I ignore my spirituality, I begin to wither like a flower in the desert. I cease to really function. I’m definitely not living every day to its fullest. I then start to have more and more days in bed, contributing to more and more pain. More depression. More loneliness. Knowing these things happens when I neglect my spirituality doesn’t mean I don’t ever put it on the back burner, because I do. But I know the longer I leave it, the worse those flare-ups get and the longer it takes to get a handle on things again. I’ve learned this the hard way.

There have been many times over the years that dealing with my chronic pain has left me feeling powerless. Hopeless. Helpless. I vividly remember 6 months after my 2nd back surgery when I held a handful of Ambiens in one hand and a glass of water in the other. I couldn’t take the pain anymore. I couldn’t bear to live another day holed up in my bedroom listening to life going on downstairs without me. Hearing my children laugh, but not being able to see their beautiful shining faces. Knowing my husband was washing dishes with his strong, hard working hands, and I couldn’t help him. I felt pathetic and useless and I no longer knew what to do.

So I sat on my bed, so badly wanting relief, and looking at my life in my hands. And I cried.

I don’t remember what happened next, only that I had moved to my chair in the corner of my bedroom and had my feet propped up on an ottoman and my journal in my lap. I pulled the pen from the spiral binding and began to sketch. I don’t draw, I can’t draw. But that day I began planning and drawing my outdoor ritual area.

I couldn’t remember the last time I spoke to the Goddess, cast a Circle, or did magickal workings of any kind. It just all got lost in the messy smear of self pity and misery. After about an hour of contemplation through scratches of ink and paper, I paused. Had I taken those pills? Because I had forgotten about my pain. How could that be? Maybe I was really lying in bed with my life slipping away, daydreaming in peace, without pain. Finally, without the pain. Something within me stirred and it was at that moment I became keenly aware of my body, mind, and spirit. I knew with such clarity and without a doubt that I so badly wanted to live.

In a panic I grabbed the bottle of sleeping pills. The lid was on at an awkward angle, but the pills were in there. I was filled with such relief that I began to laugh. I didn’t care to know why I was laughing because it was a beautiful feeling that filled me with light. It had been so long since I had laughed, much less smiled.

Since then, every day I have to make a conscious choice as to whether or not I control the pain or allow it to control me. It’s an uphill battle I face every day but as long as I try to stay on track spiritually, I can handle most things that come my way. I say ‘most’ because no day is perfect. I’m not perfect. Life isn’t perfect. No day was perfect before my pain, so why put unreasonable expectations on now?

The way Spirituality is practiced and felt is as unique and individual as the spirit we carry within. A spiritual practice can be difficult to maintain when you suffer from chronic pain. There are times I feel as though I can barely function, but that is when I have to modify the spiritual practice.

I used to think that if I was unable to sit on the floor in front of my altar, then I wouldn’t be able to successfully meditate. I couldn’t practice a proper ritual without casting a Circle or having libations set out. How could I draw down the moon if I couldn’t walk outside with a bowl of water to catch its reflection in? What about incense and candles? I certainly had to have those.

I was overwhelmed, finding it to be too difficult to gather all the things I needed. I finally told myself, “Get over it!”

In order to do that, I had to learn how to compromise. My spiritual focus didn’t have to be brought about by physical props when my spiritual altar, my Circle, the dancing candle flames were even more powerful when held in my mind. It’s easier said than done. It takes practice.

I love it when I am able to physically do those things, but I have come to appreciate the power of my mind. Visualization, focus, and intent. The three best tools of the Witch. I still love my props, and most of them have been with me from the start of my journey on this path.

So, what’s the upside of pain? There’s gotta be something; I continue to ask myself regularly, “What have I learned? I journal, like crazy. I still don’t have all the answers, but I do know what helps. The biggest thing is to never lose hope, even on the darkest days. I can’t let isolation and despair win. My life is too precious.

Here are some of the ways in which I deal with my pain while nurturing my spirituality.
Find That Quiet Place

Do you have a place of solitude that’s outside your own head? I love to sit under the giant cedar outside our back door. I am fortunate to have a small studio, a place all to myself that I can go to. On really bad days I have a favorite chair nestled in the corner where I can just ‘be’.

Breathing
Deep breath-work can help with pain, clear away the clutter of negative thoughts, and allow us to take back some control. I like to breathe in for a count of 5, hold for 4, then exhale for 5. Doing this just three times makes so much of a difference and makes me realize how much I skimp on really truly breathing.

Listen to Music
Calming and meditative music can inspire our spirits and soothe our pain like no other sound. It can also help us get in touch with our spirituality even if we live with severe pain. Let the music carry you away from your pain to a place of calm.

My Personal Favorites for Calming and Relaxation:

This music was a life-saver for me. I can put on my headphones and completely go somewhere else.

I Love Wendy Rule. I listen to Wendy Rule and Gary Sadler a lot on my own. My children and I listen to this together when doing crafts, including playing with play-doh. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GoGA-4mhf8M&index=8&list=PLVaTj7ieZT7aGmYtzwXCY_KbTsI_k4Vvt

The Goddess is in Everything Short Meditaion

Celestial White Noise: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vcJ-o_fh1B4&list=PLVaTj7ieZT7Zju5mDOpsLJZX6WKHqXFwo&index=1

Space Ambient:

My Dead Can Dance Playlist

Spellwork

Spellwork for Pain needs to be as personal to you as your pain is. There are many pain relieving/healing spells out there. It’s effectiveness will depend on your level of energy connection to the words. Find a spell and then make it your own.

Tune in to Nature
Pain can isolate us and make us feel very much alone. It’s important to remember that we are part of an amazing world. Take a walk, look out a window and daydream, sit in your garden or on your front porch. Spend time with a pet, blow bubbles with your children. These are all reminders of the wonderful world we live in.

Laugh More
There is nothing funny about pain, but laughter can be both physically and spiritually uplifting. It relieves tension and pressure, and makes us forget about our miserable pain if only for a short while. So find the laughter, listen to a favorite comedian, a Seinfeld episode, a favorite funny book. Laugh it up!

Reach Out to Others
When we are in pain, it can be easy to feel as if no one cares. But there are many in the world who feel the same thing – and we can make a difference in our lives and in others’ lives by reaching out in comfort and care. A phone call to a hurting friend, a visit to someone in need, even an email to an online support group – all of these can help.

Lighten Up

It’s easy to live in darkness when in pain, and I mean this both physically and emotionally. Pain doesn’t mean you have to grow into a mushroom. Open the blinds, turn on some lights, get a small lamp to put beside you. Light therapy can also do wonders. Check with your insurance provider to see if they’ll cover some or all of the cost.

Take Care of Yourself

There is no ‘cure’ for my pain, but it doesn’t mean I’m powerless. It’s easy for me to begin to feel that my life is out of control. The fact is, I control 100% of how I react to the pain. I sometimes react well and have a good attitude, but sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I’m negative, and negativity loves to steal the show. But only if I let it.

Resources

American Chronic Pain Association:
http://theacpa.org/default.aspx

*If you are feeling depressed for any reason, including physical pain, don’t be ashamed of seeing your Physician for more conventional treatment in addition to holistic approaches.

*If you (or someone you know) feels hopeless and is talking or thinking of hurting themselves, immediately call 1(800) 273 8255

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

7 thoughts on “Spirituality and Chronic Pain

  1. “I still don’t have all the answers, but I do know what helps. The biggest thing is to never lose hope, even on the darkest days. I can’t let isolation and despair win. My life is too precious.”
    and
    “Sometimes I’m negative, and negativity loves to steal the show. But only if I let it.”

    Thank you for telling your story, and being so vulnerable in telling it. I also live with pain, maybe not to the same degree, but I battle it just the same with an autoimmune disease. Your story helped me to remember to “Just get over it.” Love that. Thanks.
    K

    Like

    • Thank you for the lovely response. I wasn’t sure if anyone would read it so I just let it all out. There are so many people like you and me who suffer from chronic pain and do so in silence. I’m glad you found your way to my story and it gave you that little nudge to remember your inner strength to “just get over it”. Many Blessings on your Journey )O(

      Liked by 1 person

      • Many blessings to you dear one. I’m glad you decided to journal, and write you way through it. I find it is helping me too-in my case to face so many ghosts at this time. Kind of like an exorcism now, LOL, But I will get though it.

        Like

  2. Thank you Beloved soul siStar for sharing your heartfelt words!!! I loved the meditations you provided! I too am a fellow witch (druid) and have fibromyalgia. I am a single mom and work 2 jobs, 6 days a week and teach at a local community college. Luckily my pain worsens as the day goes on, starting around 3 pm and by 8 pm i can hardly move! I take no medication but use crystals, breathwork and meditation to help me manage. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to the top of my soul! Namaste and Blessed Be, siStar! Shine On! I love your site! What an inspiration you are to us all! xo

    Liked by 1 person

    • Angie, your gracious words have brought radiance to my day! When we face the world while in pain we must achieve and maintain that “place” even when we have to grit our teeth to finish out our day. I admire your hard work and bravery! My empathy for you is so strong that the hairs on my arms stood on end as I read your comment. I admire your ability to control the pain without medication as I continue to strive ever towards that goal. Thank You too dear Sister in Spirit, or as you say, “siStar” (which btw I love) for reaching out and sharing your light, your heart, and connection through Spirit. May your World be Blessed both within and without, as above so below. Blessed Be! )O(

      Like

      • Awee i am honored dear soul siStar! Unfortunately i did not “invent” the term but heard it from someone else, so feel free to share it! Thank you for creating this website! It truly nourishes my soul! Indeed! As above so below! Blessed Be! 🙂
        (I need to learn how to do the moon sign, Lol)! 🙂

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  3. Pingback: Influence of Religion / Spirituality on Chronic Pain – Andy Matzner, lcsw

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