You can listen to JoAnne’s story in the Courage for Pain Podcast, Episode 1: Joanne’s Chronic Pain Journey.
In our first episode of the Courage for Pain Podcast: JoAnne’s Chronic Pain Journey, Becky Curtis talks to JoAnne, who suffered from chronic pelvic pain for over 20 years. The pain had taken over her life, and medication no longer helped her. She started out feeling hesitant about the program because she felt like she already knew all the information. She said, “I knew this for other people. Not for myself. “
Read JoAnne’s Chronic Pain Journey
JoAnne’s first coaching session came at an inconvenient time, and the only quiet place she could find to talk to her pain coach was in a closet in the hospital where she was visiting her elderly parents. She was skeptical about how talking to someone could help relieve her chronic pelvic pain, and fitting it into her busy schedule was bothersome. But soon, she started noticing the benefits of meeting with her pain coach every week, and she started to look forward to the sessions. She started learning the tools that helped her manage her pelvic pain, and they also helped her through the difficult process of losing her parents.
Becky Curtis Talks to JoAnne, a nurse practitioner who has lived with chronic pelvic pain for over 20 years
JoAnne began to think, “You are such a good nurse. Why don’t you start being a good nurse to yourself?”
Here are some of the tools JoAnne now uses daily to put her chronic pain in the back seat.
The Art of Reframing
There are many ways to think about the same situation. Reframing is taking a negative thought and creating a positive thought.
Here’s an example: Negative thought: “I’m in so much pain today, it’s just not going to be a good day. Look at all I have to do.”
Reframed thought: “Okay, I have pain, but is it really stopping me from doing what I want? Well, not really. I can do this. The pain isn’t stopping me. I CAN change the way I’m looking at it.”
Self Care and Compassion
JoAnne realized how much she was doing for others and started taking care of herself too. She realized that there were more than three people for whom she was providing care. In addition to her husband and her two elderly parents, there were actually four people when she included herself. Read this article on how self-compassion allows for more flexible thinking.
After reframing several difficult things in her life, JoAnne also learned how to find joy in them. She looked for the joy in spending time with her family, and she discovered joy in her day-to-day activities. She even found the joy in letting some tasks wait until tomorrow.
She learned how to be grateful for her parents and husband. Grateful for the times when she wasn’t whining about her pain and for the times that pain didn’t stop her. And grateful for her pain coach’s determination to catch her negative thoughts. Here is an article that shows the positive impact gratitude has on your brain.
She realized the pain wasn’t stopping her, but she was also setting too many unachievable goals for herself. She discovered some goals could and should wait for tomorrow to have enough energy to manage her pain and be functional. So, by making realistic goals, she could conquer more tasks while still practicing self-compassion.
JoAnne discovered that when she didn’t use the tools, it made her pain worse. When she realized she wasn’t using her tools, she revisited her chronic pain toolbox. She pushed herself to look inward and started reframing again. Even after her parents passed away, she decided to allow herself space and time to experience grief. She decided not to feel negative about the grief she was feeling, but she allowed it to be real.
This is what managing life with chronic pain looks like. It is a difficult and challenging journey, but if you look for joy, find things to be grateful for, and continue cultivating and using the tools available, it can be beautiful. Thank you for reading about JoAnne’s Chronic Pain Journey.
The Courage for Pain Podcast with Becky Curtis is available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and more.
For more tools and resources on managing chronic pain, read Ten Ways To Reduce Fear and Anxiety in 2020.