Overnight, chronic pain burst into my life. I used to be the mom who worked out twice a day while my children were napping. I even exercised through my whole pregnancy—with sciatica and nausea. My house was always clean and organized. I thought I had it all together.
But then—one morning I woke with pain that radiated throughout my body. However, I felt it mostly in my back, legs, and joints, like the sciatica pain I had during my pregnancies.
For the first time, I struggled with chronic pain. Discouragement grew as the person I once was seemed to vanish. Fast forward to today, I’ve learned so much. I’m still in pain—and it’s worsened. Soon, I realized that I’d started to live with the lies of chronic pain and I had to learn what to do when these lies sneak up on me.
Chronic Pain Lie 1: I am a failure.
I scan my apartment from the dishes growing in the sink to the expanding pile of dirty laundry. Toys litter the floor. Then, a little voice burrows in my head and I see what I can’t do.
You aren’t good enough.
Did you see that mom on Facebook who posted a picture of her beautiful floor? What about the mom who made a fun project with her kids?
You’re a stay-at-home-mom. If you can’t clean the house and keep up with the dishes, what good are you?
Every time I call myself a failure, I take my eyes off Christ and focus on little ol’ me. Yes, when I’m left on my own, I will fail. I can’t do everything I need to do. It’s too exhausting, too overwhelming, and too depressing. So the best medicine for the feeling of failure is to combat it with God’s Word and prayer. Satan wants to keep us down. When I allow those feelings to burrow in my heart, I do fail. I fail to trust. And—my work just gets harder.
Chronic Pain Lie 2: My kids are missing out.
Nausea prevents me from pushing my kids on the swing or going down the slide with them. I can’t crawl on the floor while they ride my back because of pain in my joints. I can’t dance with them or chase them. I’m limited. So, then comes the conclusion, that other kids have it so much better.
Live in the moment. When my body decides to work, I get on the floor with them. We dance from one end of the room to the other. I play hide-and-seek and squeeze into corners. It sets me back a little—and those evenings I’m feeling it. But those giggles that follow me are so worth it. When the pain gets too much, find a comfortable place, cuddle them, and read to them. Love on them in the way that you can.
However, God chose to bless me with two crazy, sweet, beautiful children. He put them in my care. There is no better for them. As long as I love them, they won’t be concerned about what I can’t do (especially when they’re little, like mine.)
Chronic Pain Lie 3: I’ll do it tomorrow.
This one is tricky. There are days I can barely walk across the room. I struggle to make meals and change diapers and pick up my kids. If I can’t do the minimum, how am I supposed to do laundry and dishes and clean-up?
I’m learning that if I put it off for tomorrow, it may never happen. In fact, it will be harder to do tomorrow because it piles up.
Prioritize. If I could afford to hire a cleaning service, I probably would. Sadly, chronic pain isn’t a pass to get out of cleaning and laundry. I do have to be careful. If I push myself too hard, I set myself back for days. Weeks, even.
One week, I had it all together. I pushed through the pain. I completed every task on my list. But then, I couldn’t walk. I limped across the room, using the furniture as my guide.
Determine what absolutely must be done versus what you would like to do. For me, I must clean the toilets, sinks, shower, and tub, sanitize knobs and handles, wash the diapers, and keep up with the dishes. Anything else is bonus. My husband helps where he can.
On a good day, I stick to a schedule that works. It balances playing with the kids, cleaning, and writing, but takes my full day. On bad days, I focus on twenty minutes. I set the timer and clean for twenty minutes. Then, I sit down with the kids on the couch and read a book while they play. Twenty minutes later, I play with the kids. If I can’t do much, I have them bring toys and we’ll build blocks on the couch or read a book.
On my bad days, twenty minutes is manageable.
On my worst days, I feed the kids and change their diapers. I cuddle with them and love on them.
Chronic Pain Lie 4: I can’t ask for help.
My husband will laugh and shoot me a scathing look when he sees this. I am horrible about asking for help. I avoid it at all cost. I’d rather make myself miserable than ask for help.
But with chronic pain as my constant companion, I need help.
Ask for help when you need it. Surround yourself with people who care and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Then, when you can, offer to return the favor. I know I’m not the only one who struggles with this. (Let’s work on this one together.)
Don’t forget to seek medical advice. Personally, I see a chiropractor once a week and it makes a huge difference.
Chronic Pain Lie 5: I can’t let anyone know.
Someone asks me how I am and I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to lie, but I don’t want to complain so I settle for “okay.” For some people, that’s enough. Others, pick up on what I’m really saying.
The truth: If someone wants to know, tell them.
I am notorious for calling it ‘back pain’. Well, it’s not back pain. It’s a series of spinal irregularities (similar to MS) that causes all sorts of problems. Now, I don’t need to go into all the detail with every person that I come across, but I do explain briefly to anyone who asks and wants to listen. Even then, it’s surface. But, if I tell others what’s going on in my life, they can pray for me. Or, going back to lie #4, they can offer to help.
Always, always pay that back by praying for them, asking about them, and helping them.
To be honest, I struggle with all five of these. I hate feeling weak and in pain. I hope one day, I’ll be back to my normal self. Until then, I need to focus on Christ. Keep my eyes on who He is, not what I can’t do. Use the slower pace to draw closer to Him.
Now your turn. In the comments, tell me if you struggle with any of these. Also, feel free to add tips for what you’ve learned through chronic pain.