Step 1: Accepting the Condition
The first step in controlling chronic pain is accepting that you have it. Chronic pain is a separate or at least an additional problem from the injury or disease that caused it. Remember, chronic pain is caused by a malfunction of the nervous system in which pain messages continue to be sent although ongoing tissue damage does not occur. Coming to grips with this is often difficult for individuals to understand, however, grasping this concept will go a long way in helping to develop coping mechanisms for chronic pain.
Accepting chronic pain does not mean you are accepting a lifetime of needless suffering. There are many treatments available to help reduce pain but you should not expect medications to relieve all of your pain or a procedure to completely solve all of your problems.
Accepting chronic pain does not mean you have to give up hope for the future. Although things may be difficult for you today, and you may not be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel, you should maintain hope for a better future.
Accepting chronic pain does not mean that you do not care about your situation. It does mean that worrying over your condition serves no purpose. Thinking that you’re going to live a life of misery will result in a self fulfilling prophecy-you will become a miserable person.
One beneficial coping mechanism is a “spiritual surrender”. This is the letting go of one’s useless efforts to control the unpleasant realities of life. Spiritual surrender is recognized by major religions, including Christianity and Judaism. Also, 12 Step Recovery Programs use this concept by reciting “The Serenity Prayer” at their meetings. The first verse reads:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
As the serenity prayer implies, you must accept those aspects of your chronic pain condition that cannot be changed. Focusing your efforts on aspects of your condition that you can change will take courage and wisdom.
The following sections describe many aspects of chronic pain that are under your control to change. How you incorporate these ideas into your daily life will affect the quality of your life. All it takes is the courage to change!