Illness As a Gift: My Experience of Chronic Pain

When I share my story, people often ask me, “So what exactly helped your migraine pain?” I’ve thought about this question over and over again in my head. I have talked with other people who have had similar stories of healing. Of course, everyone’s story is unique.

I know chronic pain and illness more than the average person. At age nine, I had migraines and suffered with excruciating stomach cramps from what was then diagnosed as a stomach ulcer. When I turned twelve my occasional migraines became chronic. At times, I had migraine spells that could last for as long as a month. My life consisted of doctor appointments and hospital visits. Due to the pain and subsequent isolation, I developed an eating disorder (anorexia) and became deeply depressed. I was on several medications, including methadone for pain, for many years.

I considered myself a spiritual person and I wanted to believe there was a reason and purpose behind all the suffering.

In 2004 I experienced what some may call an awakening, which I explain as a biochemical release, a very sudden shift of perspective and, most importantly, a conscious choice to heal. This led me to look at the underlying resistance and fear I had around healing and living life. I went to see an Energy Healer and a Somatic Movement Therapist and had some deeply healing and powerful experiences.

I also found support through many other mentors and teachers. I read books and educated myself about pain and the body-mind connection and studied Energy Psychology, Pilates, Yamuna Body Rolling and Embodied Movement methods. For about 5 years I was consumed with this process of learning, growing and healing and became a bodywork therapist and teacher myself. Eventually I came off the medications and relied on the self-healing methods I learned through Energy Work and body-mind therapy.

Everyone’s story of healing is different, but there one similarity, one consistent message that comes up with every one of these stories I hear: That the person who was able to heal symptoms came to a point of complete acceptance of the pain and enjoyed the process of self-healing.

OK, so I don’t want to tell someone who’s in pain, “Enjoy your pain! Accept it as a gift”! I’d probably be knocked out if I said that (I would have probably knocked someone out myself if someone said that to me 9 years ago!), but there are ways one can enjoy the process of learning about pain, the body and the mind! I got fully into “naval gazing”, I admit. I was so into exploring myself and sharing my insights with others who were interested. I enjoyed my body’s processes, and would walk home from a Biodynamic Crainosacral session amazed by how I could actually feel fluidity and lightness around my brain and nervous system. Was the pain gone after the session? Nope. But man, that was a cool experience. And through embodied movement therapy I learned how to allow my organs to move me, and could feel the vitality of my liver and the weight of my own brain. Was my pain gone after that experience? Nope. But holy smokes did that make me curious and excited! And through Energy Work, I could sense energy fields…. I could sense myself and another’s energy fields! How cool was that? Did that immediately take my pain away? Nope. It took years of study and practice of Energy Work and Energy Psychology to eventually have long-lasting periods of relief of physical pain, but the whole journey certainly was interesting!

I believe what was most beneficial was not what healing work I did, but how I did it. I hear the same from other people who have disease or pain and have found health and wellness. They’ve realized that if it wasn’t for the pain, they would have never known themselves as much as they now do, and so they began to deeply accept and even become grateful for the disease or pain. Personally, I would have never known about my body’s incredible wisdom, or about Energy Work, or the power of yoga, or the peacefulness of being able to lovingly hold my “inner child”. Pain has been a great gift to me!

I offer some suggestions based on my experience that will hopefully be helpful for you in your journey:

1.) Find a practitioner or teacher that you resonate with. There is a belief that it’s the modality that heals and I think this is only in part true, as I believe even more healing happens within the relationship between you and your practitioner/teacher.

2.) Be curious and keep open. I don’t believe everyone can totally relieve 100% of chronic pain as the body-mind is far more complicated than can sometimes be understood, but I feel we all have the potential to change our experiences of pain by shifting our perspectives of it. Therefore, it’s very important to keep open and keep questioning when you are on a healing path, “What am I learning? What are the opportunities here and what am I letting go of?”

3.) Honor your body and the process. Good teachers will talk about this in yoga. It’s not about mastering a yoga asana, it’s about being OK with wherever you are in the moment, and staying in breath. Yes, it’s good to have goals and drive, but there’s a difference between attacking an asana and attempting a pose that is too advanced and will eventually hurt your body, or listening and respecting your body and letting it guide you (not allowing your ego to guide it) towards appropriate movement and action. Same with self-healing work – focus on taking one step at a time and know it is a process.

4.) Enjoy the process! Healing does not need to be so serious! It does not need to be all about trauma and what’s wrong with you. It can be a way to explore the incredible potential of your own being! Find ways to make healing fun, exploratory and light. A teacher once said to me that healing was just a natural process of our evolution. I agree with this and through time and attention to each step, healing is happening.

*Photo by Roxana Albusel Photography

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