Pain Sucks, Part 7 of 7: Face the Fear!

Do the thing we fear, and death of fear is certain.

ralph Waldo emerson

 I have talked about the benefits of regular exercise, good nutrition, proper sleep, laughter, and mindfulness meditation for chronic pain management.  In this final instalment of my Pain Sucks series, I share lessons that I have learned as someone who lives with chronic pain.

Six years ago, a workplace injury to my hands compounded by later surgery on my right arm made it difficult to draw or paint.  My hand control was gone and my paints and brushes along with any artistic inspiration disappeared into storage.

I had adopted an “all or nothing” attitude – I would never be able to draw the way I did before so there was no practical point in trying.  In truth, I wanted to spare myself the fear and anxiety of producing what would be, in my mind, “bad” art.

Feeling brave and curious, I ultimately hauled my art supplies out of storage and realized that a big part of who I was as a person had also ended up in the storage bins alongside the paints and brushes.  As someone who is always seeking creative expression, I recognized that art would play an important role in my personal recovery and growth.  Art, in fact, has become my best form of pain management.  I still experience muscle spasms in my hand and I unexpectedly drop things on occasion but it has not deterred me from putting brush to canvas.  When I draw or paint, I am calm, happy and focused; it is perfect mindfulness meditation

What did I learn?  I learned as a chronic pain sufferer, how easy it is for many of us to allow our pain to define and confine us.  We stop doing what we love or doubt and fear keeps us from pushing boundaries or exploring new passions.  I learned the valuable lessons of non-judgement and acceptance; when I look at my current artwork, I do not see it as “bad.”  It is simply different.

I learned that we are not our pain. Being mindful of our physical limitations does not exclude us from living full, rich lives and importantly, from expressing our authentic, creative selves.  Lastly, I learned not to fear my pain; it is what motivates and challenges me to live each moment of my life with joy and  honesty.

Will you face your fear?

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