May 7, 2020
Living with Chronic Pain
I was in the best shape of my life. Every part of my body was stronger, more flexible, and more capable than ever before. The cherry on top of this incredible feeling? I was in constant pain.
If I was awake for 18 hours in a day, I would spend 17 ½ hours in pain.
The degree of “discomfort” would change. Sitting or standing would be a delicate nagging: Pain like a dripping water faucet on an otherwise silent night.
Standing up after sitting for 30 minutes? Stretching to touch my toes? This pain was like a ravenous dog biting my backside. These moments made me feel helpless and pathetic.
People saw my youth and my smile, and they would never guess that I had to summon courage and grit my teeth just to stand up.
Before I began training, the pain was understated. I never tried to stretch to touch my toes, so the “dog” never bit me. My muscles were weak and undersized, so they couldn’t squeeze my nerve like stronger muscles could.
As I began training, the next day’s soreness would have me feeling nearly incapacitated. Muscles that had been long-neglected were now inflamed after what should be routine work. This process was very disheartening at times, and I constantly dealt with a choice.
1) To stop training: To prioritize comfort, and to allow pain to unearth itself through the process of “getting old.”
2) To continue training: To discover and face pain on my own terms: To do things that were painfully difficult, until they became easy.
I chose to continue. To this day, I have to reaffirm and recommit to this choice many times every day.
For the first two years of my training, the pain increased. As I gained new flexibility and new capabilities, I would enable myself to do increasingly difficult exercises. When practicing flexibility, I would feel as if I was staring down the barrel of a loaded gun. Knowing the pain that awaited me, I would still manage to stretch towards this pain, and beyond it.
Thoughts flooded my head at every difficulty: “You’ve been doing this for weeks…you’ve been doing this for months….you’ve been doing this for years….and it’s still painful: Just give up!”
But, other thoughts would soon follow: “You can already do things that you never thought possible… You’ve made so much progress… All the work you have done has been worth it… In this life, you have to experience yourself at your best.”
After two years of daily training, the pain started to fade. After three years, it is a small fraction of what it once was.
It still bothers me. It still pisses me off. But I don’t have to grit my teeth to stand up. Standing up is remarkably easy. Honestly, I often feel like I am walking on air.
I can sit down and I can enjoy a conversation. Better yet, I can sit down and hate a conversation, pain-free.
It took two years. It took constant work. It is not fun. It is an uphill battle.
But, it’s worth it. It’s worth every difficult moment.