A summer to make friends with pain.


It’s the final day of summer, and this photo was taken right at the beginning of this summer, which was a great one for us on the whole. It was a unique summer in that, for whatever reason, I was compelled to address some chronic pain issues I have been living with for … well … almost 20 years, if I am honest about it.

This summer, I was inspired to face my chronic neck, jaw and shoulder pain in a new way. I have never been an Advil kind of girl, and I have always known that stress was a major contributor to my pain. Over the years, there were times when I  couldn’t even open my mouth to eat because of the pain. Dietary changes have helped me greatly, so in that sense, I have been on a positive track, experiencing decreasing pain over time, instead of increasing pain. However, that just reaffirms for me how much pain I actually started in.

Many of us are in pain. Physical pain, emotional pain, or both. I have found that my physical pain causes the emotional kind and vice versa, so it’s a relentless feedback loop.

There are many ways to address pain, and anyone who tells you there is just one way to fix it is oversimplifying it.

This summer, I decided to get really intimate with my pain, and see what I could learn from it about why it was there.

I read Norman Cousins’s 1979 book “Anatomy of an Illness” which was written almost 20 years ago, but you’d think it was a new release because it is still so relevant. I read and re-read the chapter on “Pain is not the Enemy”. I highly recommend this book to anyone in pain.

Even though I wasn’t the type of person who used medications to cover my pain, I had always tried to cover it and hide it in other ways, and worst of all, ignore it all together. And, by the way, this is not a referendum against pharmaceutical pain killers … remember, anyone who tells you there is only one way to go about this is misrepresenting the process.

This summer, Traditional Chinese Medicine and herbalism have been the cornerstone of my way “in” with my pain. These modalities have offered me a vehicle to walk towards it, move into it, get up close to it, and communicate with my body. Really communicate.

For me, Chinese medicine (hence the cupping mark on my chest plate), herbalism, specific types of exercise, an early bedtime, adequate heat and sunshine, space for joyfulness and plenty of nourishing foods are the players in my pain management system.

I did not learn everything about my pain this summer, but I learned a lot and will do what I can moving forward to view pain as an ingenious communication tool, rather than what I viewed it as before. I don’t even know what I viewed it as before, to be honest, I actually just panicked every time I had pain. And since I have been in chronic pain for 20 years, I guess I existed in a perpetual state of panic!

So, the final day of summer which means the first day of fall tomorrow. The autumnal equinox … the equinox is equal parts night and day. The yin and yang. The balance. The change. The evolution. I am ready for autumn and all it has in store … It’s season of gratitude and the season of harvest. It’s also the season of letting go. Perhaps the trees will let go of their leaves, and I will let go of panic from pain. I am looking forward to all that and more.

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