For 14 years, I kept a dark secret known by only a handful of my closest friends and family.
It all started with a dental mishap that went from bad to worse over the course of a decade. The details as to how it happened are not important. All you need to know is that it caused me to experience intense, chronic pain that, at some point, affected every aspect of my daily life.
Every few months I was in front of a new specialist who looked, tested, asked questions, analyzed…and came to no conclusion.
Nobody knew what to do. Nobody saw anything to do. So I tried to internalize the problem. Thinking I must be causing this pain, I did everything from meditation to acupuncture to yoga. I exercised and watched what I ate. I was more intentional about sleeping. I had total awareness of my physical body.
The pain continued to get worse and out of control. To the point I literally could not move my mouth. Paralysis set in due to pain. Pain that I had never felt before.
It was indescribable. I did not know how to compare it or talk about it with anybody. Pain is such a personal thing. It is hard to find the words to define it accurately. And when science can’t determine the cause—it brings into question your mental stability.
Several months ago, everything changed. The pain, which had been manageable for the past few years, intensified to the point that I started looking under every rock I could find for a new solution.
While watching TV or reading something, I discovered the phrase “holistic dentistry.” So I Googled it. An amazing amount of information came up.
At the top of the list was a dentist office that specialized in so many different areas that they could have been a one-stop shop for all the specialists I had been to over the past three years.
No doctor, dentist, or surgeon had ever spent more than 15 minutes with me in person discussing the problem prior to or after an examination. My first visit with Dr. Nina Foley was four hours long. Four hours. That is 16 times longer than anybody else had ever spent with me in 13 years.
Her ability to think in lightning speed thoughts was unprecedented. She could gather more information and then format them into concepts, in English, that even I could understand. I agreed to her plan and it was activated.
Ten days later I underwent eight hours of oral surgery. Some of my surgeon friends said they could have done triple bypass surgery two times during that same process.
For the next six weeks I experienced intense pain at virtually all times. I did not know how to handle it.
This is when I truly lost control.
Out of necessity, I had to be open to new ideas. For many—including me—this is often even more painful than the physical pain.
Many people get stuck right there with the concept of a new idea. They are unable to acknowledge the possibility that they may be wrong in their current thinking. This is a barrier you must learn to overcome quickly.
You can adapt or you can waste away until you die.
The Benefits of Chronic Physical Pain: How I Learned to Adapt
There are benefits of being down when you’re used to being up. You have an enormous amount of time that is not scheduled the way you normally schedule time. The question is, what do I do with this extra time…when I can’t do what I normally do?
A lot of it has to do with management of pain. If you’re in a physically debilitated state—you have to learn how your body works in a way that you’ve never considered before. For me, it was truly understanding what prescription medication—used properly—could do in the process of pain management.
This was a tough lesson to learn. I had no idea that I needed to learn it. I was so against foreign substances of this type being put in my body that I simply could not understand it, nor adhere to the instructions. If they had prescribed me a bunch of broccoli and a crate of carrots I could’ve understood and complied with no problem.
Life is a series of choices and transitions. You get to make your choices; you have to deal with the transitions. <– Click here to tweet that.
You may consider these tribulations and tests from above. If so please, pray about your next move. Otherwise, continue to live as if this is your last day and you are still going to make it your best. This concept alone will allow you to live in a positive, productive, profitable way on a daily basis. Do not neglect that you are still in control of your thoughts and your reaction to anything and everything that takes place.
It is so easy to suddenly think your life is over. In one way you are correct. When you encounter a problem like this, you are at that tipping point of a transition. It may be a shock to you. It may appear to be a roadblock or even a dead end.
In reality it is simply a sharp turn in the road of your life.
During any life transition, there is a series of sayings/clichés that may become your best friends:
- Everything happens for a reason.
- God never gives us more than we can handle.
- Every cloud has a silver lining.
- Think positive.
I know that people mean well when they tell you these things. I know that, at times, they will challenge your own thoughts when you think them and you will feel that something must be wrong with you.
But there’s always another side of the coin:
- Maybe everything really does happen for a reason. But no one seems to know what that reason is. Therefore, your situation still sucks.
- It is true that God may never give you more than you can handle. But people sure do.
- Every cloud may have a silver lining. They also might all have a lightning bolt. Therefore, you have a 50-50 chance.
- And regarding thinking positive—every positive has a negative. So there.
Forget these clichés if they do not resonate with you right now.
Create a list of your own affirmations and sayings—things that inspire only you. Here are a dozen I used to get you started or to use as your own.
- I trust myself.
- I approve and love myself.
- I am eager to live each day.
- Anger is replaced with gratefulness.
- I continue to have much to offer the world.
- I take delight in following my own intuition.
- I see my future with enormous possibilities.
- Wonderful things continue to happen to me.
- I sleep soundly and awake with new vitality.
- I love being alone and take pleasure in my own solitude.
- I accept full responsibility for where I am right now with joy.
- I find new and exciting ways to look at my present situation.
All of life is a series of adaptations to choices being made. Some of the choices you make yourself. Others are made for you. Some of it is just called life itself.
Your job—should you choose to accept it (and I know you do)—is to master these adjustments on the fly.
You can only do this if you calm your mind and anticipate that life is going to change. There are no guarantees in life except change. It is the one thing you can count on. <– Click here to tweet that.
It is so easy to feel like you’re in a huge bubble. That you can’t get out and people can’t get in. Suddenly you’re alone. An intense aloneness all by yourself facing a dragon you didn’t even know existed. It’s a fight that you have to win from within.
If you are dealing with chronic pain, survival begins to happen on a moment-to-moment basis. Every thought and feeling is overshadowed. Your soul is crying out for relief and no one is there to hear.
I cried privately. At least twice a day. The pain left me speechless.
The responsibility to manage this is yours. It is so easy to succumb to the thought that the doctors know what they are doing. That they know best. That they are the ones in authority.
But this is not always true. You must take responsibility and find the information that applies to you and your situation. Use your doctors’ thoughts and instructions as guidelines.
In this age of endless information, Google will become your best friend. Here you can search for any answers your heart desires to find. This may take time. It may take a variety of questions worded in different ways. And then you can spend endless hours reading and researching.
There is no shame in pain. But it is easy to surrender to the lackluster reality it creates. To buy into the distorted self-image it gives you. This is where it will become critical to comprehend and master only two questions:
What is important now?
And what is next?
Your physical ability will limit the answers to these questions.
But within the possible answers for each question—your answer will be there. That is when you must take massive action, even if it is a little bitty baby step. It is this movement and the will to do something more that will keep you going and keep a smile on your face.
Your mission is to find that one Easter egg in the forest. You know it is there, but you have to hunt for it. Even though it is small you have to continue moving—at least in your mind and your thoughts—to find that one prize. I promise it is there.
You have to make a list of possibilities. You have to throw everything you can on this blank canvas. There will be one idea on that list that will inspire you. It will make you excited about the possibilities. Choose that one.
That is THE one thing that you must make happen with massive action. It may be tiny. You may move as a newborn in little uncertain steps initially. Remember this is a transition.
What to Do While You’re in Pain
There are tons of possibilities of things to do during downtime. Since we can’t keep your body active, this is no excuse to let your mind become inactive. It is almost like a seesaw. When one is up, the other might be down. This is only during this transition of healing.
Here are the things that I found to work during my transition:
Search things on the Internet. It is endless. Choose wisely what you want to know. Ask specific questions. Look for specific answers. Even answers to your situation now.
I know there’s a book you want to read. Now you can download almost any book in the universe.
Do some dream building—get some current magazines that interest you. I love travel—cruising, secluded cabins, all-inclusive resorts, the best islands on the planet, anything to do with scuba diving, and even trips around the world.
The ideas are unlimited. And let’s pretend you have an unlimited budget—where would you go, what would you do, and how long would you stay?
Act as if your life is waiting for you to resume living it.
When you get tired of reading, you can listen. Usually these are read by the author. Some are dramatized by professional speakers. They’re all exciting. And if you’re intimidated by large, thick books, the audiobook is the way to go. Audible is the Amazon of audiobooks. It is amazing to go online and see all the possibilities. There are many how-to books, novels, and topics covering any subject that you can imagine. Download one immediately and start listening.
Write an email. Write in your journal. Write a physical letter to a friend. Write a list of things you’re grateful for every day. I cannot overly express how critical that last one is. Gratitude is the most basic of the ingredients of living. Why we are not instructed to master this as children I do not know. But it is never too late to learn.
You have to be reminded to be grateful in spite of this challenge. Keep a journal and list the items you’re grateful for on a daily basis. This is self-serve therapy in the present that will remind you of the past—of how great it was then and how you do have a future of greatness before you. This is the first thing I beg you to do. Right now start listing things for which you are grateful.
Laptops can now go to bed with you. I sat up typing for hours in bed. Quiet, active, and connected. This was my main source of reaching the outside world. Even Andy Andrews and I stayed connected only through texting and the Internet. It is the way I stay connected with my team at least once a day.
I love the concept of white boards and use them frequently. During this time period, I could not stand up to write. So I got a large sketchpad. It was 18″ x 12″. I also picked up a variety of sharpies in different colors. I could write as large as I wanted and mind-map anything I desired.
I love movies. My favorite movie to see is literally anything in an IMAX theater. I love that experience of hugeness and loudness and the visual that seems to surround you. Now you can download and watch instantly . . .whether it be on cable, Netflix, or Amazon Instant Video—movies are available to you almost instantly.
Get familiar with this technology. It will open up a whole new universe to you. From old movies in black-and-white, to documentaries that are current as of yesterday, to love stories, spy movies, and drama. It’s all there.
I love concerts. I love iTunes. I love music.
Create a playlist that inspires you. That makes you happy. That makes your soul jump just by listening to it. It may even make you want to dance even though you can’t; this is the music you want to play.
Not only do we want to allow your body to heal, we want to take care of your soul and spirit during this time. This is the greatest medication you can take to be inspired.
If you’re not familiar with TED Talks, you must become so immediately. Short, inspiring, intellectual, funny, amazing talks all free at the click of a button for you to listen to and watch. More are added daily. It seems to be unlimited. Pick a topic or subject and you can instantly learn more about it—very interesting information in small chunks of time. You listen to what interests you most or what you want to know more about.
I know it seems odd to list this in things to do while you’re healing. But this also is critical to your spirit.
Do you like ice cream? Get at least a small bowl of it—your favorite flavor with your favorite toppings. It might be Jell-O. What about a donut? I don’t know what it is; it doesn’t matter. But celebrate the small moments with something that makes you smile.
And if by chance you are not able to physically eat these items, or for medical reasons you should not, then watch the Food Network. You will find shows that are fun, enlightening, and amazing to watch. Watching these people make amazing meals will inspire you.
You must get used to pretending this is your own private three-ring circus. It is your choice to pick which ring you will watch and participate in at the moment. Just know that all three stages are going simultaneously. There are options continuously. You can almost wear yourself out just in the process of decision-making.
The Compass and the Clock
You have to decide right now which came first—the compass or the clock. You have to decide and determine what your priorities and goals are, and the direction in which you are headed (the compass). Where you are headed is much more important than how fast you get there (the clock).
Use this down time to focus on what is most important to you now. What “compass” tasks can you make progress toward?
A great friend of mine once told me, “Life is growing shorter with every breath. You were created for something unique and specific—not just an ultimate calling, but a daily something to do. It matters so much that you discover it, and do it.” — Chance Scoggins
I could not have said it better. Your life is not over. There is still more for you to do. Today.
I wish you renewed health and total inner peace.
P.S. Please forward this to someone who may be dealing with chronic pain or an unforeseen medical situation. It may just contain the one idea they are looking for.