Chronic Pain and Chronic Illness

Marble dominos falling as a metaphor for the domino effect of losses that chronic pain and chronic illness often bring to our lives.

Chronic pain and chronic illness can drain all of your resources – time, energy, money and motivation.  Whether they are all-consuming or a constant, nagging awareness in the background, chronic pain and chronic illness both have the ability to steal our joy.  In my role at Emory Healthcare’s Winship Cancer Institute, as well as in my own life and the lives of those around me, I am surrounded by the physical impairment, emotional anguish and all-around exhaustion that accompanies pain and illness. 

Women, often in the position of caretaker to others for so long, often feel alone when chronic pain and chronic illness become a part of life.  Feeling alone can stem from the very real truth of being alone or from the learned habit of not asking for help or being able to accept the support that may be available.  Women are also frequently reluctant, even in the face of physical impairment, to take the time and space necessary to prioritize care for Self.  Finally, and most cruelly of all, women often face misogyny (in its many forms) from the medical establishment and the very providers whose role it is to offer comfort and care.

Physical sources of pain and chronic pain are often made more intense due to the psychological overlay of our emotions about the pain, it’s origin, the ways it limits us and more.  For the pain sufferer, there is no way to distinguish between the physical-only ‘functional’ source of pain and the psychological overlay of pain.  Even more surprising, sometimes chronic pain is due to emotional and psychological factors alone.  Also true is that many of us carry enormous burdens of loss, grief, and anger stemming from emotional and psychological pain that eventually manifests physically in the body.

Processing the myriad feelings that can accompany our changing abilities in life is a process that takes space, time and intention.  The good news is that chronic pain can be reprocessed, reduced and sometimes even eliminated with various somatic therapy approaches.  By engaging the Nervous System with somatic, body-based therapy it may be quite possible for you to experience relief.  And while there can be no guarantees, I personally have seen clients eliminate decades-long physical pain – completely.  

I welcome your questions, healthy skepticism and critical thinking on all of these topics.  It can be hard to believe until you’ve seen it or experienced it.  I myself started out as a skeptic.  Until these approaches worked.  And worked.  And worked.  And worked.  Most often, chronic pain relief doesn’t happen in one quick session.  And it can be a process.  Please let me know if you have any questions at all.

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