The power of perspective when living with pain
People often tell me how upbeat and positive I am, despite living with pain from dystonia all day, every day for the last 20 years. I would say this is accurate most of the time nowadays, but I wasn’t always this way. For years, I denied, I resisted, and I ran from my suffering. I did everything I could think of to avoid the physical and emotional pain, anxiety, and depression. In retrospect, it was the running from facing my life changing disorder that fueled the anxiety and depression. I continue to be a work in progress, but for those who know me or have read my book, you know that I have come a long way from some very dark places, and you can too. Below are some photos that give a bit of a glimpse into my journey.
For those of you who are deeply suffering, encouraging you to shift your thoughts and perspective to foster acceptance may anger you, and I completely understand. There was a time when it would infuriate me also. What I have learned over time though, is that this is the way to live well with any life challenge, but we can only embrace this mindset when we are ready. Take your time. Allow the grief process to play out, understanding that there will hopefully come a time when we realize that if we go into our suffering rather than running from it or denying it, is the way to transcend it.
Look for what lessons the suffering might be teaching you. Find a way to be grateful for it if possible, without forgetting to be grateful for all the blessings in your life. Without pain, we would never know what joy and pleasure feel like. Everything in life has its opposite. Everything has a silver lining if we look for it. I know what suffering is like so I am not putting a fluffy spin on things. Bottom line. Life is hard! The important thing is what we do when life hits us in the gut. It is called the “decision point.” Some people feign happiness and a positive outlook, while others live it, head on. Living it, no matter what is going on in our lives, is the key, because when we look for the opportunity in an obstacle, it brings hope and optimism into our lives.
There is a popular saying, “attitude determines altitude,” and this is the truth in my opinion. I lived in a very pain filled, depressed and anxiety ridden world for a long time, but I chose to not let myself be that person anymore. I was living the life of a victim, which I want to clarify. Events and people can victimize us, but we choose whether or not to become a victim of that event or circumstance. It is our choice.
It took me a while, but I realized that there was no way for me to live and battle successfully with anything if I wallow in misery. Even though I try to find the silver lining in most things, I still struggle as we all do. Instead of fighting those really tough days, I try to flow into them. One of my favorite affirmations when it feels like life is running out of control is, I relax into the flow of life and life flows through me with ease.
I encourage you to shift your perspective about “the fight.” Many of us with a health problem often talk about “fighting the disease” (or “disorder” based on one’s preferred word). I think this mindset can makes things worse. The more we fight against it, the more power it has over us; the more strength and control we give it. Instead of fighting against it, embrace it as a part of who you are and then FIGHT THE DESIRE TO GIVE UP ON YOURSELF during tough times. To me, this is the real “fight” and a far more productive battle. It also releases us from being so angry. Anger stirs up stress chemicals which make our symptoms worse. So, by fighting against it, the problem will always win. As counter-intuitive as it may sound, if we can learn to let go and find peace of mind with whatever is “right” or “wrong” with us, we give our body a better chance to heal. This is when we win the so-called fight. I keep the following image on my desk to help me stay in the moment and put my mind more at ease.
Forget about yesterday. Forget about tomorrow. Just get through this moment right now and tomorrow will take care of itself.
Tom Seaman is a Certified Professional Life Coach in the area of health and wellness, and the author of 2 books: Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey (2015) and Beyond Pain and Suffering: Adapting to Adversity and Life Challenges (2021. He is also a motivational speaker, chronic pain and dystonia awareness advocate, health blogger, volunteer for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) as a support group leader, and is a member and writer for Chronic Illness Bloggers Network, The Mighty, Patient Worthy, and The Wellness Universe. To learn more about Tom, get a copy of his books (also on Amazon), or schedule a free life coaching consult, visit www.tomseamancoaching.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dystoniabook1 and Instagram.