Accepting The Pain: Fibromyalgia & IBS
I've written about my struggle with IBS and fibromyalgia before (I like to call it,"FIBS"). I've complained about the pain, struggled to describe the flare-ups, and asked "why me?" in a whiny voice more than once.
What's different now? One word: acceptance.
Accepting IBS and fibromyalgia pain
Listen, not everyone can embrace the pain they endure. Not everyone can just shrug it off and say, "okay, I'm having a flare-up, what's for dinner?" I know this, you know this.
I don't mean that you need to let the pain consume you. Nor am I suggesting that you allow the pain to happen without trying to curb it or medicate. That would be dumb. I know this, you know this.
Yes, living with all the pain and flare-ups is hard. Embracing that pain is harder. But, you can learn to accept it.
Acceptance is not apathy
What I am suggesting here is not quite revolutionary. If anything, it's rather akin to mindfulness. Acceptance doesn't mean rolling over and allowing the pain and flare-ups to take over your life. It doesn't require that you stop paying attention to your triggers or refuse to use medication that may help you.
Rather, acceptance means learning to read your body. Acceptance is a thought process, not a lack of thoughts.
How to learn acceptance
As I said, accepting your chronic pain and discomfort is a learned ability. It takes time and is often very frustrating. But, believe me, it's worth it.
The first step to accepting your chronic pain is mindfulness. This is both the easiest and hardest step of all; it's such a simple concept, yet it can take months or years to master. Don't be too disappointed - for this step, you don't need to be a master. You only need to learn the basics.
So, How Do I Become Mindful?
Mindfulness is all about awareness. This awareness then becomes, you guessed it, acceptance. You learn to be mindful or aware of your pain. First, you learn where you hurt, why you hurt, and what is hurting. Then, you begin to accept it and move on. Confused? It goes a little something like this:
"Oh, hi pain in my abdomen. Wow, that's quite a sharp pain, I should probably take some medication to help it. I wonder what this is from? Probably that (insert food here) I ate yesterday. Hmm, interesting."
It can't be that easy
Actually, it can. There's no judgment, no self-blame, and no worrying about how it will affect your life, your day, or your ability to heal. It's not apathy, it's simply awareness of your body.
With mindfulness, there's no need to spiral into self-doubt. No need to feel guilty for eating something wrong, or not taking the right medication. Instead, you simply become aware of the impact. You become aware of the pain, aware of yourself.
Once you've learned to be mindful of your pain the next step comes quite easily. As soon as you've trained yourself to see and acknowledge the pain, acceptance comes soon after. It might not be natural at first; accepting pain seems counter-intuitive. But, I assure you, it's the right move.
Again, I want to emphasize the fact that acceptance and mindfulness are not thoughtless actions. They require you to think, consider, acknowledge. This is a way to turn your judgmental thoughts into action. It's a way to say "interesting" and move on, instead of "why me" and wallow. Moreover, it's a way to learn how your body reacts and how you can cope with your chronic pain. Because with mindfulness comes coping and isn't that the whole point?
Do you live with any sleep disorders (eg. insomnia, RLS, sleep apnea) in addition to IBS?