By Barby Ingle, Columnist
Mental health can be disrupted when living with a chronic illness -- even more so when it involves chronic pain. Anxiety, depression, isolation, and feelings of hopelessness and helplessness can increase to dangerous levels -- particularly for people who have been suffering with a pain condition for a long period of time.
There are going to be good and bad days, and if this is a bad day for you, remember to focus on the good times, good feelings, and positive past and future experiences. It is very important for you and your family to recognize the symptoms of diminished emotional well-being and take action.
Depression and thoughts of suicide are common among chronic pain patients – so it is helpful to create a strategy to get through the rough times. Chronic pain patients learn over time that they can better cope and adjust to both physical and psychological problems with the help and support of spiritual guidance, family and therapists. Creating an arsenal of tools, such as spirituality, physical modalities and meditation, are all ways to better your situation.
Chronic pain is not understood very well, and there are physicians and psychiatrists who believe that it is all in our heads or that people just complain for the sake of workmen’s compensation or personal injury cases. If we are seen as malingering patients who just won’t go away, doctors who don’t understand chronic pain may find it difficult to look for any other diagnosis other than psychological.
With the loss of independence and function, it is hard for many patients to accept their changing life. Be sure to surround yourself with a team who is on your side, or you will be in a fight with long-term health consequences that you will have trouble winning.
It is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including getting enough sleep, exercise, and eating healthy foods.
Patients with chronic pain typically lead a more sedentary lifestyle, making them at greater risk for developing other medical problems, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and osteoporosis. The risk for these conditions is heightened with inactivity.
Creating a positive attitude starts with being inspired. Begin by finding an interest or hobby you can become involved with and will enjoy. A few suggestions are joining a non-profit cause, solving puzzles, writing a journal, joining or starting a support group, or even starting a blog.
Creating a purpose can assist with your self-esteem and confidence. Just because you are disabled does not mean you are not worth anything. I have learned that every person has value. Believing in yourself and your abilities, choosing happiness and thinking creatively is good motivation when it comes to accomplishing your goals.
Learn to expect success when you are going through your daily activities. It might take you longer or you may need to use more constructive thinking to achieve success, but it is possible.
Negative situations are bound to appear, but when you are looking for solutions and displaying self-esteem and confidence, you will also attract other people to participate in helping you accomplish your needs and goals. Try looking at failure and problems as blessings in disguise. Doing so will help solutions find you. Seize the opportunities in everyday life. Using your outings to inform others about your condition and finding pleasure in minor accomplishments are ways to increase your power of positive thinking.
There are great benefits to having a positive attitude. Staying optimistic will give you more energy, happiness and lower your pain levels. Achieving goals is a great motivator for positive thinking. Success is achieved faster and more easily through positive thinking, and it will inspire and motivate you and others. I have found that when I am letting the pain get the better of me, it comes across to others as disrespect and brings those around me down.
Staying calm and positive creates an atmosphere for greater inner strength and power. You can also create better communication with a calm positive attitude, which will assist you in working with your doctors and caretakers. When you take life one task at a time and approach each challenge with optimism, it leads to fewer difficulties encountered along the way and increases your ability to overcome problems. As my father always says when I am having a bad day, “Tomorrow will be a better day.”
No matter the challenges of today, they will pass, and in retrospect they will not seem as bad as time moves on. The challenges may just turn out to be a bump that looked like a mountain at the time. Try displaying a positive attitude, and the moods of others and the challenges of life will become easier to deal with.
Choosing to be happy starts with you. No person or thing can make you happy and positive. It is a skill you have to practice and develop when living with chronic pain. When you are able to live in a happy, positive and optimistic light, your life will become a life worth the ups and downs that come with it.
Barby Ingle suffers from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) and endometriosis. Barby is a chronic pain educator, patient advocate, and president of the Power of Pain Foundation. She is also a motivational speaker and best-selling author on pain topics.
More information about Barby can be found at her website.
The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.