Limits: Emotionally Managing Chronic Ailments

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A Note From The Author: Dear Darlings, this topic has been on my heart for quite some time and has been a theme that continues to teach me more about my heart and reveal opportunities for growth in my own life. While my sincere hope is that these thoughts find resonance with others, I also want to acknowledge that I can only speak to my own life-long journey with migraine headaches and every illness and every individual is unique. In sharing the ways in which my migraines have shaped me, I by no means assume that these insights are or should be the sentiments of every individual who suffers from chronic illness. I cannot pretend to know the sufferings of others and want to be respectful of every person who experiences illnesses and ailments that I could never speak to. That is each person’s own story to tell. While my migraines are severe and have caused me great discomfort, I can be grateful that my pain is not life threatening. For many this is not the case and I want this piece to honor the story of every Darling that may suffer from chronic illness great or small.

 

Trapped in a prison of writhing pain, pulsing down my back, tensing my shoulders, pounding the base of my skull, beating behind my eyes…no medication or home-remedy can gift an escape. These migraine headaches have plagued me my whole life. They have not only assaulted me physically but emotionally as well. While I cannot say I am thankful for them or could even nobly consider them a blessing, I have learned many things about myself, my insecurities, and what it means to be human…not perfect, but worthy and valued all the same. Here are a few thoughts.

 

Learning my Limits – It seems as if almost every retail store is littered with posters and mugs and other paraphernalia imprinted with the phrase, “I Can Not Do It All.” It’s a simple enough phrase, but I struggle to own it as true for me. I am inclined to work until the job is done, but I often find that my body quits before a task is complete. Early inklings of my pain attempt to warn me and I push through and press on instead of heeding my pain’s admonitions. But lately I’m learning that part of being human is having limits…acknowledging that I cannot do it all. When I am willing to be vulnerable about my limits and “shortcomings,” I encourage a different relationship with myself, and deeper connections with others. While inconvenient and at times, painful, limits remind us of the grace we ought to have for ourselves as well as our need for others.

 

Asking for Help – It’s difficult to ask for help. But the truth, we were not meant for lives of isolation – we are made for relationship. Acknowledging our need for help when we are in pain and accepting others’ offers to assist us builds connection with our loved ones. For most of us, we are more comfortable being or acting self-sufficient. However, what we fail to understand is there is strength in acknowledging that we are not always strong.

 

Compassion for Others – As I mentioned in my note, I cannot pretend to understand the depth and breadth of pain that others’ experience. But I do know what it’s like to feel like excruciating pain will never end, that there is no solution to end our struggle for good, that our pain can come with a surprise attack and ruin the most joyous of occasions. The blessing of this knowledge is of course not in the experience itself, but in the opportunity to have empathy for others. Not only can we help, but we can give others the gift of “getting it,” which is perhaps the most valuable gift of all.

 

Know Our Worth – I have a long history of defining my value based on my performance. The more I do and the better I do it, the more impressive and thus, more valuable I am. Having my day wiped clean by a headache and being incapacitated challenges me to recognize that my value stems from who I am and not what I get done. Owning the truth that I am loved and worthy in the midst of being unable to perform, allows me the freedom to take proper care of myself and heal, giving myself grace in the process.

 

Whatever our limitations may be in life, we are wise to ask how our struggles may be asking us to grow, learning to see the invitation in the most trying of circumstances. What could we gain when we give up the need to do it all?

Photo credit: Jaimee Morse http://www.flickr.com/photos/101547194@N06/ 

Nicole is a writer, speaker, Marriage and Family Therapist and recent east coast transplant where she lives with her husband Jimmy in Fairfield, CT. She loves to hear the hearts of others as a wife, daughter, sister, friend, and therapist and enjoys pouring her soul out on paper with honest talk about what it means to live fully and wholly. Learn more about her thoughts about relationships, joys, pains and the life in between on her website.

9 COMMENTS
  • Melanie November 19, 2013

    I cried as I read this and I am crying even still. I, like many other readers, could have written the post. I live every single “good” day to the fullest as I don’t know if I will be able to in the future. Also, I will never, ever judge a person who has turned to alcohol or abuses prescription drugs to control their pain. Its not a temptation for me and I certainly wouldn’t encourage it but I completely understand how a less strong willed person would give up and give in.

  • Hannah Mayo October 26, 2013

    The moment I began reading this you had me—I could hardly believe I hadn’t written it myself. I’ve suffered from migraines and tension headaches for the past ten years (and less frequently even before that as a child). The emotional aspect of living with chronic pain is not talked about often; I am so thankful to have read this today.

  • Megan Dunn October 24, 2013

    Beautiful. Thanks for sharing your heart, Nicole! I love keeping up on your articles. Missing you and thinking of you!

  • Melinda October 22, 2013

    I really needed to read this today. I have had on and off chronic shoulder and arm pain for almost a year. I have an appt this week and hope to get some answers but I may not I realize. Thank you and I pray for everyone to stay strong.

  • Nicole Zasowski October 22, 2013

    Thank you all for your affirmation! I am thankful that my experience resonates with others and am grateful to you for sharing!

  • Mary Rosanne October 22, 2013

    Thank you Nicole. Your honest insight is very well stated. I have to live with chronic pain too, and I have found I have to fight off self-pity with a giant slayer sized truth sword. I appreciate how much you’ve learned from your pain, sharing those treasures with us, and hope chronic will not remain your companion now that you’ve become sensitive to your humanity.
    I have an occipital nerve neuro-stimulator implant. It’s indicated for migraines(though that’s not my specific issue) with a lot of success.
    http://www.neurologyreviews.com/index.php?id=25318&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=207390

  • Glenda October 21, 2013

    I live with a condition call supraventricular tachycardia and at the same time, I run a cancer support service. I use to believe that I could do it all, but this year, in the midst of planning our annual benefit, I became very ill and hospitalized. I realized how very blessed I am to be surrounded by people who love and support me and my efforts. Thank you for the reminder.

  • Stacia October 20, 2013

    I also suffer from migraines, always have, and what you said here really resonated with me personally. Thanks. 🙂

  • Allie Marie Smith October 20, 2013

    Thanks Nicole for this article. I always enjoy your words of wisdom.

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