Tuesday, March 05, 2019

How I Stopped Making Pain, Trauma & Grief My Identity

Years ago, I suffered from chronic pain. Some doctors called it "degenerative disc disease" while other physicians referred it to "fibromyalgia." They couldn't quite pinpoint what was wrong with me and why I was experiencing such excruciating pain. They admitted me to the hospital for a week to do some testing for autoimmune diseases and other possible diagnoses, to only come up with "myalgia." I guess it's another word for, "We don't know, but we're gonna slap a label on it." During that time, I also developed an ulcer due to all of the NSAIDS (ibuprofen) I was taking to relieve some of the pain. They also gave me Percocet, but it didn't work quite as well as the anti-inflammatories. I had no choice because my stomach would suffer. When I realized I was developing a dependency on the pills, I weaned off and tried smoking weed, which did nothing except make me high and hungry. I never understood why people used it for pain. It did absolutely nothing for the pain.

I spent countless hours online searching for support groups who had fibromyalgia and chronic pain in general. There was a word they used that I wasn't familiar with. They called themselves, "spoonies." I wasn't sure if this label was right for me, but I used it, hashtagged it, and created a pseudo identity for myself. Establishing that identity enhanced my involvement, but I also noticed my chronic pain enhanced as well---as if I'm supposed to have pain and constantly be in this group of "spoonies." It gave me a sense of belonging, since nobody around me truly understood it.

But that wasn't who I was. That wasn't my identity.

I then discovered a new identity: grief. I became apart of the support groups, the hashtags, the voice for those who also grieved---not realizing that the intense involvement somehow made my grief that much worse. See, by allowing the grief to remain is to allow the pain to occupy residency 24/7. You will never heal. I'm not saying that repressed feelings are good, but to constantly remain in the past, to remain in that pain without reaching out for the proper help to pull you out of that pit of despair can be a life or death situation.

I believe Langston Hughs said it best: Life is for the living.

Here's how I detached from those "identities."

Stop Feeding the Beast

They say that whatever you feed will grow. I was at a point in my grief where the sadness and despair was consuming every portion of my life. It also made me lose friendships and it was also destroying my marriage. In the support groups, you'll always hear, "There's no time limit on grief," but I say---give yourself a time limit. If you don't, you will lose your life---either by losing everyone around you, or worse off, your own life. Broken Heart Syndrome is real. If you keep torturing yourself with added on "reasons why to be sad"  -- your heart will never heal.  Every single night, I slept with my mother's favorite sweatshirt. It made me feel safe and comforted. What I didn't realize was it also made me incredibly sad, to where I didn't want to get out of bed. After a period of time, and acknowledgement that this wasn't a healthy step to my recovery, I folded up her shirt and put it in a closet next to a very few items I still had of hers. On my phone, I removed the picture of my mother holding me in her arms at the age of 10 years old. I thought that by having that photo as my screensaver on my phone, that it would give me comfort. It didn't. It gave me a great sense of sadness---like I just wanted to jump into the picture and be there again, when I should be wanting to be in the present moment---the now--with the people who are still alive now. I stopped keeping her photos near, put her belongings away and started to focus on everything that was important 'in the now.' The day I told my mother on her deathbed, "It's OK to let go, Ma," I finally realized that it was also OK for me to let go too.

Whatever You Resist, Persists --Carl Jung 

The physical pain that I suffered as a result of being diagnosed with fibromyalgia was somehow making me believe that this pain was my entire identity. This was my life: pain and pain management. My life revolved around different treatments, physical therapy, trying different pain meds and dealing with the side effects on a daily basis. I'm not saying the pain wasn't real or that it was all psychosomatic---but I was feeding it more and more. So finally, I spoke back to it. I know, it sounds crazy, but I literally sat up in my bed and said, "Bring it on!"  For the first time, I didn't resist the pain. I started to thank God in the midst of all my pain and suffering, and somehow, through the grace of God, my pain lessened. I became stronger and able to do more things than I ever could. There are times when I still get pain, but I remember the remedy: thanking God in the storm, because this too, shall pass. Don't give it power. I am NOT a "spoonie," and I am not a victim of pain. I am not going to label myself a grief-ridden victim of LIFE---that's what life is! We live to die and we already know this. That's why it baffles me when someone loses faith in God just because they lost a loved one. THIS is LIFE. This is why you need God even more. The bigger picture is something we could never comprehend.

Trust God & Know That Your Pain Has a Purpose


My friend Jackee always says, "You're somebody's answer!" If we don't go through trials and sorrows in our lives, how can we ever be of help to anybody else? There's this power we all get when we experience such pain and trauma. We discover new inner strengths that we never thought we had before. Through trusting God, He gives us supernatural powers to plow through our worst nightmares that unfold before our very own eyes. He carries us through the fire without smelling like smoke.

"Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything." --James 1:2-4

I always notice that each time we get a bigger snowstorm, we keep getting people with bigger plows to help us get through it. That's how God works though. With each terrible storm comes a bigger solution or (plow) ---if we allow it, if we call on them...if we call on God to work in our lives. And in due time, after withstanding so many storms, you'll eventually have your own plow so you can help everyone else who's stuck. Just have patience and hope. Without hope, there's nothing to hold onto.

Who Are You? 

My identity is not my physical pain, it's not my grief, it's not my anxiety and depression. My identity is in Christ. My identity is trusting God with everything. I'm a believer. I'm a King's kid. I'm a child of God. I am not orphaned, even though both my parents died. I have a Father. I have a best friend I can turn to at any given minute of the day. I have a comforter when I'm lying in bed scared. I have a healer when I feel sick. I am not a spoonie, I am not a victim of my circumstances...I'm a believer that all things work for the good. How would anyone know what joy truly is if they haven't experienced deep sadness? I have a purpose here. You have a purpose here. Isn't it funny, how most of us can't really say what that purpose is, but eventually, after our lives have passed, others will definitely know.  What do you want to leave behind? What message do you want to leave for your children, your grandchildren, or just people who are still on their earthly journey? When they ask who you were---what will people tell them? Who are you? You don't want to be 'that person who was always complaining about this n' that,'---you want more than just your pain and agony to define you. You want to be a conquerer.

"Since I know it is all for Christ's good, I am quite content with my weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." --2 Corinthians 12:10

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog at Deb's Cucina for some of her famous recipes!

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