Pain through a child’s eyes

Those of us who feel chronic pain tend to linger in our pain state. How often do we magnify our pain? Stretch out the pain experience beyond the actual physical sensation? Increase our physical pain and its hold on our life by talking about it, complaining about it, or ruminating on past experiences?

I am looking forward to some much-craved time with my family back in California—and especially hanging out with my niece and nephew. They are truly the cutest in the world and each time I see them I seem to walk away with more than just memories and cute photos—I stumble upon some newly found lesson for myself. As winter draws in around me and the temperature drops, joints are surely aching and reminding me of just how painful arthritis can be. Joints that throbbed with the humidity of the Houston summer are now sending electric shocks of pain when I take my first steps in the morning. Raynaud’s attacks in my fingers come on with a vengeance in the cold weather and restoring blood flow feels like holding my fingers to flames.

A bumped head or a fall on the floor is not unusual for my niece and nephew, as they are under 5 and learning to navigate the world. And when these accidents happen, you can bet we know about it! For that moment, all energy is focused on soothing and healing that child’s hurt. But as quickly as they are hurt, they are back to playing, and miraculously the hurt is forgotten. There is no discussion of the quality of their pain, or moping about why they had to fall on the floor, or whining about how unfair it is that they experienced pain, or comparing their pain to someone else’s. A child feels the pain, cries out for it to be soothed, and then immediately seeks distraction and something more meaningful to take its place.

Those of us who feel chronic pain tend to linger in our pain state. How often do we magnify our pain? Stretch out the pain experience beyond the actual physical sensation? Increase our physical pain and its hold on our life by talking about it, complaining about it, or ruminating on past experiences? When pain seems relentless, it can be difficult to recognize those passages of time that are pain free or at least several degrees less of pain.

We forget our option to choose—a new muscle young children love to flex to assert their independence. They choose to move on from pain and we choose to remain in pain. As the old proverb states, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” True suffering comes from reliving our pain and anticipating our pain.  How much relief might come if I released each pain episode and enjoyed each respite from pain, instead of living in fear of the pain that plagues me.

As you reflect on 2010 and gear up for 2011, may you see your pain with child like eyes and find all the joyful distractions you can to fill your days and move on from pain.

Happy New Year!

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