Pain Companion: Overcoming Victimization

By Sarah Anne Shockley, Columnist

One of the most challenging things about being in chronic pain is the powerlessness we often feel because we are unable to heal our bodies and stop the constant pain.

We may feel victimized by our conditions, pharmaceuticals, invasive procedures, the impersonal nature of most institutions, and even our own bodies.

We may feel we are at the mercy of an interlocking system of agencies and organizations, one or all of which may not present a caring or compassionate face. Medical and insurance forms, appointments, tests, procedures, and legal hearings don’t take into account that we are not at our best physically, mentally and emotionally.

Yet we may blame ourselves if we are not on top of the situation or able to answer questions clearly and accurately.

Sometimes, being ill or injured feels like a crime committed by us!

Take Responsibility

Believing that others are responsible (or guilty) places them in a position of power – leaving you to become the victim. To leave that feeling of powerlessness behind, I decided that, regardless of the circumstances of my injury, I was responsible for my situation from that point forward.

I declared myself at the center of my own emotional and physical well-being and recovery. I decided not to accept an outside source as the final authority, no matter how credible. I knew that I was the one who would ultimately heal myself anyway, regardless of the method used.

That decision alone, while not bringing with it an instantaneous and miraculous cure, at least afforded a measure of relief and a feeling of having more access to different choices, rather than living entirely at the mercy of outside authorities and systems.

Notice What You Can Control

In an effort to feel less at the mercy of outside forces and more in control of my life, I started noticing what aspects of my life were still under my control.

I noticed the decisions I was already making and congratulated myself for them. I also looked at the ones I could take back -- that I had handed over to others because I didn’t know I could make them for myself or felt I didn’t have the knowledge or strength to make on my own.

Instead of following along with everything suggested by medical practitioners without question, I took authority back for myself and became part of the decisions about medications and treatments.

Choose Your Own Path

I decided that I was in charge of my own healing path. I became as knowledgeable as I could about my condition and what modalities were available, so that I could make informed decisions about my treatment.

I researched alternative therapies, natural healing, recent studies and the latest medical breakthroughs. I read blogs and stories about how other people were coping with my condition, and how some had made improvements or found ways to cure themselves.

I looked into what I could can do for myself: How improving my diet could help healing, how I could think more positively, what herbs and supplements might be beneficial, how I could reduce the amount of stress I was under, and how I could get more restful sleep.

Some of these things made only small changes in the amount of pain I was in, but doing them gave me a greater sense of direction in terms of finding ways to live with and ease my pain. It felt empowering to make my own choices, instead of putting my condition and my pain at the helm all the time.

Living with constant pain can make you feel powerless. It’s easy to feel that you have lost control over your own destiny. But thinking of yourself as a victim of pain or a victim of circumstances does very little to help you move toward whatever healing is possible for you.

Deciding to take control of whatever is in your power, taking responsibility for your own healing path, and making conscious choices toward increased well-being on a daily basis can help relieve feelings of victimization and powerlessness. And it allows us to be more fully available to new possibilities that may come our way.

Sarah Anne Shockley suffers from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, a painful condition that affects the nerves and arteries in the upper chest. Sarah is the author of The Pain Companion: Everyday Wisdom for Living With and Moving Beyond Chronic Pain.

Sarah also writes for her blog, The Pain Companion.

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represent the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.