Tips for managing chronic pain and illness

The last 18 months have been rough, in fact more than rough, it’s been one of the hardest periods of my life. I am no stranger to surgery, in fact I’ve had over 40 surgeries in the last 20 years and I am only 41.

Living with multiple chronic illnesses is tough and challenging, living with them and needing surgeries an average of twice a year for 20 years is a challenge few people understand, especially when they are invisible illnesses. Don’t get me wrong, I am in many ways, grateful that my illnesses are invisible, despite the challenges they bring I do not have the burden of people looking at me and making judgements and assessments about me based on how I appear. The flip side however is the constant challenge of people saying I don’t look sick, and not believing there is anything wrong with me.

People who live with chronic illness or chronic pain each have their own challenges and crosses to bear, we all face criticism, discrimination, ignorance and misunderstanding amongst other things. How we chose to manage those things however is what defines us, not our illness or pain.

I have come across many people suffering from chronic illness and/or pain in my journey and can typically break them down into three types of people;

  1. Those who are defeated by their illness and chose to let it control their life, often with a ‘poor me’ attitude who wallow and in some cases thrive of the negativity.
  2. Then there are those who accept their circumstances and are ambivalent about their situation, so much so they are simply going through the motions of life, and
  3. Those who accept the hand they’ve been dealt and chose to not let it hold them back or define them.

Understanding and acceptance of the illness or pain you have is much like stages of grief, you have to work through the stages in order to arrive at a place of acceptance and be able to move on. How long that journey takes is up to you and no-one can rush that or push you through the stages faster than you are able to work through yourself. Once you get through those stages however and can make it to the third stage you will find an inner peace and strength you did not know was possible. You can tackle any adversity and challenge with grace and dignity and even inspire those around you with their own battles.

If you can take control and be the master of your own universe then your illness or pain will not hold you back, sure it will slow you down some days until you feel like you’re moving at snail’s pace but as long as you are moving in the right direction then progress is progress. Even the old saying ‘fake it till you make it’ applies, sometimes you have to push through and pretend you’re ok and before you know it you actually are ok.

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Those I have met in this journey who have taken control are much happier people, they can accept any new challenges or obstacles their illness throws at them and can pick themselves up much faster and bounce back to being in control. How do people do this I hear you say…. There is no magic pill, no instant answer, it takes time to process your emotions and to truly accept that this is what life has dealt you, to no longer be in denial or hold out hope for some magic potion that takes disease or pain away, to stop being angry and resentful. What it does take is work, the ability to be honest with yourself and to want to live the best, most authentic life you can. Once you have arrived at ‘Acceptance Station’ then there are a few things you can do to take greater control.

People often ask me how I remain so positive and don’t let my illnesses and pain get to me, the answer is of course some days it does get to me, some days I do feel like my issues have bested me, but those days are in the minority, the most part I am strong, I fiercely fight against the pain and try to live a happy and full life, albeit with some modifications to how I do things to make it work for me. The biggest changes I made in my life however that turned the tide for me are listed below in my top tips.

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Our top tips for taking control:

  • Learn all you can about your disease, knowledge is power
  • Keep track of what triggers your flare ups or symptoms in a health journal, once you can identify them you can reduce the frequency or severity of your flare ups
  • Be your own advocate for better treatment, don’t be afraid to ask questions of your doctors, if they aren’t prepared to answer your questions or answer the hard issues then seek alternative advice from another doctor, be your own advocate
  • Join support groups or online networks, support others in their journey to overcome the illness, share tips and help for managing symptoms
  • Raise awareness about your illness, talk to people about it and break down any taboos there may be about it
  • Get active and volunteer for a charity or group that relates to your illness, this can be a powerful way of taking control against your disease
  • Write a journal or diary of how you feel, own the bad days and feelings and then pick yourself up and keep fighting
  • Find an outlet that feeds your soul and grounds you, gardening in being out in nature has a proven restorative impact on well being, try adult colouring books, art or crafts, walking on the beach or laying in the garden watching the sun and clouds, whatever it may be, find your ‘thing’ and do it on the bad days.

For free printable list click here: Top tips for managing chronic pain

Do you have any other tips you would like to share? Email us at whoamumma@gmail.com or head to our contact us page, we will add you suggestions to the list.

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11 thoughts on “Tips for managing chronic pain and illness

  1. Thanks for sharing some great advice and insights into what it is like to suffer. I love the way you have also organised a printable list. I am sure many people will find strength in your words.

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  2. I suppose the mind is your most powerful tool to help deal with chronic illness and pain. The better your mind-set, the better life can be. I like your tips about journaling and creating awareness. Such a good way to connect with others who may be in a similar situation and also helps those who are not to understand better.

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  3. Wow some beautiful words and advice here. I too have some chronic pain issues that yes do slow me down and put me out sometimes but I like you choose to just live my life. Nobody’s life is perfect and we are all going through something. What we do with our life and outlook can have a huge impact. Thanks for sharing these tips.

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  4. I can totally relate to this since I too have to inject painkillers several days per month due to my chronic pain. I just don’t let it put me down. Sometimes, if the pain is too strong I wonder “why me”, but then I say, why not? I don’t wish that to anyone, but there is always something worse out there and we never get what we can’t handle. I love the tips and advice you are mentioning here, they are indeed very helpful!

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  5. Karen

    Love those tips for taking control! Everyone (mom or not) could benefit from those pointers. I especially like being an advocate for your own treatment. I often find that doctors (especially male ones) can be dismissive of women’s questions and complaints. Ask all the questions you need to no matter what. It’s your body. Very good advice!

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  6. hertraveltherapy

    I luckily (touch wood) don’t live with chronic pain or illness, but I do have chronic mental health issues, so I can definitely relate to your struggle on some level. It can be really hard some days when you feel like things may never improve in any way, and that you will be suffering forever. I think that it’s perfectly natural to have days when you feel defeated, but it’s admirable that you have decided to try to live your best life. I agree that learning as much as you can about your illness is really helpful. I think that it makes you feel less alone in your struggle and also helps you to make a practical management plan. Raising awareness is also amazing because it helps you to express yourself and also help others. I do this for BPD as much as I can 🙂

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  7. I suffer from two ‘invisible illness’ and it is hard but you are right, fake it to you make it!
    I also have days where I can’t deal with all the pain but I remember it will stop. Even only briefly it will stop. Like you my illness is affected me for 20+ years and I know it is who I am not what I am. You adapt. I hope you fair well with the colder weather coming to us and send healing thoughts to you. Thanks for sharing a great post so close to my heart x

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  8. I can relate to this a whole lot because I had to deal with ulcer pains about the whole of 2015 and some part of 2016 but I learnt to live past it because I knew that one day, it would stop which it finally did and because I don’t like to be pitied, I never really told so many people even though I usually looked duller than my normal self. These symptoms gave me new pains in each body part every day.

    During those days, I was always joyful and even tried to take care of others without them knowing I was sick with pains. I lived joyfully even though there were some days that were really bad (just like you) and I would want to collapse but get better when I find out that there are people who have worse illnesses.
    I really agree with your principles as I practiced some of them.
    Reporting to the doctor yielded some results as the doctors(even the male) usually made necessary examinations on me.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Roses of Life http://www.cerielss.wordpress.com

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  9. Tahna de Veyra

    I love your resilience and strength. It can’t be easy living with pain on a regular basis. But it’s important to note that people with the condition can thrive in spite of … just like Lady Gaga (she’s known to have the condition) and you! 🙂

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