by Ellie Bartone

Chronic pain is… a giant pain… a mean, nasty buzzard of a crimp in my style. It slows me down and is trying to take me out. It wants to take over and destroy my life.

Six of the buzzards are currently trying to take me out – emphasis on “trying”. Chronic pain is heartless. It doesn’t care about my plans. It doesn’t care that I have to go to my job that day, that I have plans, or how plain old tired I am of feeling bad.

My chronic illnesses are monsters that can bring me to my knees, literally and figuratively. Balance is an issue with my Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and often causes falls, which in turn cause a variety of injuries, from cuts and bruises to the more serious concussions and broken bones.

MS, POTS, and blood sugar issues can also cause fainting, migraines, and mood problems, just a few of my other issues, and prime examples of how those buzzardly, monstrous chronic illnesses can take me out.

Pain, you aren’t beating me! I am tougher than you. I see you there. I feel you, but I do not and will not give in to you. As a matter of fact, Mr. Pain Monster, I’m thankful for the way you’ve shown me my strengths. Because of you, I stumbled head first into them. Those strengths have included a new compassion for others. Pain shows me that love and kindness always wins, and to always aim for grace in every interaction.

That being said, I still wish you’d go away, pain. I’ve learned so much from you, but you hurt so much. Since you won’t, I recognize that you’ve been a teacher in my life. Here are some of the things chronic pain has taught me:

1. How to wait. I spend a large portion of my life waiting – on doctors, on medication to kick in, at infusion treatments, on hold on the phone trying to line up all these appointments and treatments. Being uncalm in those situations only makes the wait harder.

2. How to do things when doing things sounds impossible. Sometimes there’s no other choice. Without pushing through, I’d have no life. No life is no way to live. Balance with my limits may be a struggle, but giving up is not an option.

3. How to be empathetic. Chronic pain and illnesses that are largely invisible to most people have taught me that situations and people are not always what they are on the outside. I know that an individual’s pain isn’t always lit up in neon for the world to see, but that person’s pain isn’t any less real because of its invisibility.

4. How important a sense of humor is. Why be miserable when you can be funny? When I was new to the world of chronic illness, I grumbled my way through most everything. Each dizzy spell or fall made my mood worse. Now a fall down the steps outside might hurt, might even cause the occasional ER visit, but hey, at least it didn’t take 20 minutes to get to the bottom this time!

5. How to accept all my feelings. Sure, choose happiness over misery, but don’t ignore the bad things. Feel them. Take them in. Acknowledge them fully and then kiss them goodbye. No dwelling for too long.

Those are the biggest things I’ve learned from just over six years with full-time chronic pain. I’ve also picked up the basics like swallowing multiple pills at once and how important comfortable clothes are.

These lessons have gotten me through the rough times with humor, power, and courage, strengthened my relationship with faith, and the people in my life.

If you live with chronic pain, what lessons has it taught you?

Ellie is a cashier, freelance writer and blogger from South Carolina. Her favorite things are her family, friends, writing, cats and many other crafty pursuits. As a child, she was on a local TV kids show. She told the host that she wanted to be a butterfly or a writer when she grew up. As an adult, she is very glad she’s not a butterfly.

Cover image by Roy Harryman from Pixabay