Let’s Talk

Seeking Clarity in Pain

Q. How can I better deal with emotional pain during chronic physical pain?

A. Let’s Talk! We can experience emotional pain without physical pain, but physical pain nearly always brings a level of emotional pain. Of course, emotional pain varies, depending on the length of physical pain and its intensity. It’s totally within the normal range to have these emotions . . . but not healthy to hold
onto them.

So, while emotional angst is normal, what is a next step for helping our emotions while we are still suffering physically? Seeking clarity is always a great place to start. Untangling the dark tangles is a reasonable goal – to list and even separate out our struggles if possible. When the emotional tangle is still in one big wad, there is no clarity.

One of my favorite exercises is to be still before God and ask Him to illuminate and name all of the issues in my dark wad. Then I write down what gets identified. There’s encouraging victory in calling emotional issues by name! Examples are grief, depression, anger, or self-pity.

If this practice is new for you, keep persevering to listen to Him and to your own heart. God longs to unlock unhealthy strongholds in our lives. Really.

Next comes the opportunity to reframe and recalculate. You’re probably quite familiar with Siri or other GPS guides that correct your wrong turns with, “recalculating.” We want to do the same thing when we have gained some light on a dark emotion. After reframing, recalibrating, and recalculating, we can move forward better. We are wiser about what’s going on, and have warded off a heap of discouragement just knowing the issue(s) of our heart. Bite-size pieces are easier to chew on.

I always want to encourage you to not go at this journey alone. God longs to clarify, but has a lot of folks on this earth able to help us too. Do be careful, though, because sometimes well-meaning friends can make it worse. One example is for a friend to say, “Don’t feel that way!” Remember that when we finally can name what we are feeling, much truth is underneath—almost like panning for gold. Let’s seek the courage to dig.

For Deeper Reflection

Habakkuk 3:17-18Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be nofruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com.

 

Let’s Talk

Being Honest About Pain

Q. What about being honest with your pain when you’re not sure others will understand?

A. Let’s Talk. (I asked Beth to write about her own perspective on the balance between talking openly about pain and focusing on other aspects of life.)

Chronic pain. I detest those two words, but I’m learning to not let them define who I am. When Dr. Helen asked me to write about my own struggles with physical pain, I hesitated. I don’t relish talking about something that is at times so raw for me, but I also want to be authentic with you. One of the main reasons I started this website is to be of encouragement to others facing pain in all its bullying ugliness.

I just found one of my journal entries from 2005: “I can’t hang on much longer. I feel financially and emotionally stripped. I feel physically pressed to my limits. How many more spins must I take on this super-speed medical merry-go-round?” That was almost a decade ago and I still feel dizzied at times by my physical limitations.

Three car accidents and a rare metabolism disorder aggravate my spine, nerves, and muscles. Even though I control my conditions via a host of modern medical helps, I cannot recall a pain-free day in almost 30 years. Yet many of you understand the disruption of pain in a far greater degree than I do. You get the agony, the tears, the fatigue, the discouragement. You get the tenacious torment that continued physical discomfort elicits.

May I share a couple of positive things pain is indelibly carving into my own life? Pain:

• Awakens me to being sensitive to others’ struggles.

• Redirects me to narrow my focus and concentrate on this day.

• Nudges me closer to God’s heart, even when He hasn’t healed me yet.

• Redefines what I consider important.

• Deepens my appreciation for laughter and lighter times.

• Increases the value of the family and friends who genuinely care.

Both physical and emotional pain are real and need real validation. Not everyone will understand your combat with pain, particularly if you look “normal” and appear upbeat on the outside. Find an invaluable few that you can truly trust with your pain journey. Stay gracious with those who fumble at how to accept your discomfort. You don’t need everyone to understand your zigging and zagging of hurt. And stay gracious with yourself. Honestly, your pain matters and you deserve all the gentle TLC in the world.

For Deeper Reflection

Job 2:13 “Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great.”

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com.

 

Let’s Talk

Coping With Physical Pain

Q. Would you please share some thoughts about facing chronic physical pain?

A. Let’s Talk! We’ve talked a lot about emotional pain this past year, and now we’ll begin conversations about physical pain. It matters that you hurt. It matters that someone you love is in pain. There is help.

One of my dear friends has had nonstop, excruciating pain for a long season of time, and I wanted you to hear from her. Brenda Hauser has weighed in on this post before and I asked her to tell us about her journey:

I suffer with chronic pain but I am not my pain! I want things to be different – the way
they used to be – but they are not and I have come to grips with that. I have learned
to live above my circumstances. Satan has tempted me to despair andI have prayed to die,
but God has said, not yet, so I know there is something left for me to do in this life.
Augustine once said, “Nothing, therefore, happens unless the Omnipotent wills it to
happen. He either permits it to happen or He brings it about Himself.” So, every day
I get out of bed and get dressed like I’m going somewhere, even if I’m not. When
someone says to you, “You don’t look like you feel bad,” inside yourself shout a big,
“YES” with a fist pump!

I have attended a pain rehabilitation clinic and they helped me to change my thoughts,
emotions, and behaviors in relating to my pain. I am not capable of changing the pain,
but I can change my attitude about it. I don’t allow pain to be the center of my world
I don’t make/cancel plans based on how I think I might feel; I make plans! Medications,
a TENS unit, and a back brace have been prescribed, however, I also exercise (yes, even
when I hurt) and use distraction, humor, music, reading, Scripture memorization,
relaxation techniques, and deep abdominal breathing to deal with the pain. I also use
moderation and modification in how much I do at one time and how I do it. I pray and
ask others to pray for me because prayer changes things!

We all have a journey with pain on some level, so we truly invite your comments and reflections on your own pain experience. What helps you cope well with pain? We will continue to dialogue about physical pain next week.

For Deeper Reflection (also from Brenda)

Hebrews 12:1 “So, let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus because this momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory, far beyond all comparison.”

2 Corinthians 4:8 “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed, perplexed but not despairing, struck down but not destroyed.”

Philippians 4:6-7 “Therefore, be anxious for nothing, but in EVERYTHING by prayer and supplication with THANKSGIVING let your requests be made known to God and the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:11 May we be like the apostle Paul and quickly move towards being able to say “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.”

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com.

 

Let’s Talk

Standing Through Pain 

Q. I am miserable and I know I am not alone. Why is life is so painful at times?

A. Let’s Talk. This week I went to a forgotten part of my woodsy backyard and saw an amazing sight. There in the barrenness from a hard winter were dozens of breathtakingly beautiful daffodils. I even had to cut some branches away to make a path to them. My point? The glorious white blooms had pushed through leaves and brambles to just stand. They stood victoriously!  

Several blooms were even still pierced by sticks and foliage, but the daffodils made it. I thought of my many friends going through agony right now – and they are standing. They are not minimizing the pain or denying the pain or smiling it off like a mask, but they have chosen to stand and bloom anyway. That is brave and resilient.

There is pain promised in the human experience. Pain is a given, although we seem surprised when it shows up. Perhaps Job 5:7 says it best, reminding us that man is born for trouble as certainly as sparks fly upward. And when our sparks are flying, it is painful.

Reaching out to others, honestly expressing your pain, and asking for help are all good beginnings. We do need support when we hit the valley of the shadow. Add to this the times we are living in and we need vision out of that valley of the shadow. I hope your “I am grateful for . . .” list [See last week’s blog in case you missed this important concept] has helped as well. Gratitude is a mood changer, even though your tough circumstances may remain for a time. We choose which channel we are tuned into and below I have a song from Habakkuk for your reading pleasure.

For Deeper Reflection

Habakkuk 3:17–19

“Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the Lord,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
The Lord God is my strength,
And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet,
And makes me walk on my high places.”

[A note from Beth: Without consulting each other on our topics this week, Dr. Helen and I both wrote about how flowers brave their way from winter dormancy to stand and bloom anyway.

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com.