• RSS Feed
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
49 Comments

What 14 Years of Chronic Physical Pain Taught Me About Life

Posted by & filed under Personal Growth.

Dark secret

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?

prescription

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:

  1. What is important now?

  2. 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:

READ

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.

AUDIOBOOKS

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

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.

MOVIES

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.

MUSIC

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.

TED Talks

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.

FOOD

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 ClockCompass_Lost

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.

email
Want more posts like this?
Sign up below and get email updates and my free eBook, Battle-Tested Branding.
We hate spam just as much as you

  • http://www.karyoberbrunner.com/ Kary Oberbrunner

    Thanks for your courage in sharing your story.
    I too struggled with Chronic Pain.
    And I’ve written on it.

    Pain is inevitable, misery is a choice.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUUXCrFCBJ0

    • mmodesti

      This video takes a long time to happen and then I’m not sure what happened!

  • http://www.mattham.com/ Matt Ham

    Prayers your way Robert! Proud to see you use your struggle to encourage others – that takes a great amount of gratitude and shows the content of your character!

    Blessings to you, friend!

    • http://therobertd.com/ Robert D. Smith

      Thanks Matt!!

  • femmeflashpoint

    Mr. The Robert D. – in reading this, you nearly had my own teeth aching. I’m sincerely sorry you, or anyone, would have to suffer from such acute and chronic pain.

    Considering that all of your work I’m familiar with has been produced during the time you’ve been suffering through this, I have to applaud you.

    I’m hoping your post does more than help others. I hope it helps you too.

    Now that your readers know you’ve been dealing with this, no doubt there are many who are in habit of praying for folks who are in need of relief and healing.

    Thank you for working and reaching out even when you’ve not felt like it.

    It’s appreciated and I’ll be praying for your recovery.

    • http://therobertd.com/ Robert D. Smith

      Thank-YOU for the kind words and for reading!

  • Shelley Hess

    ROBERT, BROTHER…

    How is it that in our darkest moments, and times, the absolute best is produced in us and by us.

    You are indeed AT YOUR BEST!!!!! Every syllable resonates in what you have written here.

    Immediately, as I consider chronic physical pain, knowing firsthand, and its immense possibilities, I also consider the immense emotional pain that each of us deals with from time to time throughout life. THAT crushing, searing, endless pain is oh so silent, and life-taking as so many suffer it sooo alone. And ashamed.

    Your message speaks volumes in both camps, and I THANK YOU SO VERY, VERY MUCH ROBERT, for sharing on such a bottom-of-the-pit level, both the pain, AND so very many AWESOME IDEAS, ACTIONS TO TAKE.

    Words fail me, so just very simply, from a very positive person who is also very human and knows that every one of us breathing needs your message today…

    humbly,

    gratefully,

    THANK YOU.

    You are in our prayers for perfect healing…

    and OUTRAGEOUSCELEBRATION as you dance into this new place with all you are and all you have, for His glory!!!

    We love you, Brother!

  • Don Cann

    Thank you for sharing your insights and ideas.
    I too suffer from chronic pain (CRPS/RSD). Sleep and concentration are both rare commodities, but we do the best that we can.
    I pray that you will experience relief and will have a positive effect on many lives by sharing your experiences.
    Blessings.
    CannMan

    • http://therobertd.com/ Robert D. Smith

      Thanks for reading, Don! I hope you found something in here that will be helpful to you.

  • mmodesti

    What’s most inspiring to me is that, though I don’t know you well, I’ve ways been blown away by the positivity that comes from you in your writing, interviews, etc. to think that all the while you’ve done so in excruciating pain makes it seem, well… Supernatural is the only word that comes to mind. Perhaps that is the right word. Bless you for being such a willing and supernaturally positive vessel. I’m just amazed.

    Ironically, a close friend of mine is also dealing with chronic pain and I am passing on the blessing!

    My hat is off to you, Robert D.

    • http://therobertd.com/ Robert D. Smith

      Thanks soooo much for passing onto your friend! My hope is that there is just one idea in this post that could be useful to someone else experiencing something similar.

  • Kathleen Thompson

    Dear Robert,
    My heart goes out to you and everyone else who deals with chronic pain. I had it myself a number of years ago, and wish I had some of this wisdom then. I also think of all those dealing with grief or other emotional pain. Pain is pain, and when it is acute, it is so difficult to think about anything else. I love the perspective that we can even use our “downtime” in a constructive way. When we follow our compass we don’t have to worry about the clock.
    You have always inspired me, Robert, and now I know why. Yours is the wisdom born of painful experience. And that’s the most compelling kind.
    Blessings, Kathleen

  • Sherry Carver

    I love what you have written about what to do while in pain — physical pain is something I do not do well with and being sick just makes me anxious — you are exemplary in your attitude toward it. This post could also be applied to those in emotional pain who can’t seem to take themselves out of the loop of despair. When sad, I used to go to the local bookstore and immerse myself in other’s writing and gravitate to the section that seemed most interesting. Your updated ideas (now that local bookstores are very limited) will be in my list of “to do’s” whenever I need to be re-energized. I have always counted myself as a positive thinker but you are the ultimate! I hope this finds you healing and your pain journey coming to an end.

    • http://therobertd.com/ Robert D. Smith

      Loooove the idea of going to a bookstore when you’re sad, Sherry! I too enjoy that feeling of being totally surrounded by wisdom. The possibilities of what you might find on the shelves are endless. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://JonDHarrison.com/ Jon D Harrison

    Robert – thank you for sharing – after reading and hearing your positivity for a while now, this confirms that I have no excuse not to do the same.

    I’m thinking about how this can benefit some of the patients in the hospital where I work…I’d love to have this available to share with them as a word of encouragement.

    thank you.

    • http://therobertd.com/ Robert D. Smith

      Hey Jon! I would love for you to share this with any patients whom you think it might help. Feel free to do so! Thanks!

  • Johnny Lee Phillips

    Hi Robert! Thanks SOOO much for this post. I am praying for you my friend! Your post will bless many people. A few years ago, my wife was struck with “chronic pain”. The doctors said it was a mystery. Specialist after specialist…..the battle went on for three years. My wife hurt so bad that she thought she was going to die. It was the darkest time of my life. To watch her in pain and not be able to take it away. But she was strong. She said that she had the joy of the Lord inside of her! I was amazed because I knew it was true but I couldn’t understand how she could have joy and hurt so bad. I felt like a weak Christian because I became angry with God for letting her suffer. I knew better!!! Anyway, she has been completely healed but I live with fear everyday because I am afraid it will come back. I know that’s not right but the fear is deep. Your post has helped me today. I have been blessed by it. Thank you and God Bless.

    • http://therobertd.com/ Robert D. Smith

      Woooow, Johnny! Thanks for sharing this. You added a unique perspective. So glad to hear your wife has healed.

  • Nola Moon

    I am blessed to NOT have chronic pain..yet I hear so many of my friends who do experience chronic pain. Your share has given me some answers/suggestions to offer to my friends. Thanks so much Robert D..and I have shared your post on Facebook. Great suggestions and glad you have found some answers and methods to overcome the madness!

    • http://therobertd.com/ Robert D. Smith

      Hey, Nola, some of your friends are very fortunate and are going to be very grateful to have you as a friend. Thank you for sharing with so many others.

  • Kelly

    Several years ago, I went through a period of depression. After a heart to heart with my sister, who is in recovery, I started getting the help I needed. The counselor kept encouraging me to add a prescription drug to my care. I was getting better with his help, but still was a long way from well. At first I was very resistent to this idea. I was taught to just trust God and he wii heal. Eventually, I made the choice to suppliment our sessions with medication. Before long, the work needing to be done was completed and the decision was made to come off the prescribed drug. The tools taught to me to overcome I still use today. I am grateful to have had someone in my life who saw the big picture and didn’t mind who got the credit.

    • http://therobertd.com/ Robert D. Smith

      As you know, Kelly—prescriptions can help manage a lot of ailments once you are guided into how to do it. I too was resistant to the idea. But I am very grateful too many close friends that encouraged me along this path. And thank your sister for me. She must be very cool.

  • Kim

    I hear you’re pain and understand it from my own 15 yr battle. Somedays it is not worth it, I say, then I move on. A few prayers and know it could be worse I keep going one day at a time. God Bless, prayers for you and your family. I know they go through lot where they can’t help us. Keep strong and know this ” In heaven there is no pian.”

    • http://therobertd.com/ Robert D. Smith

      Hello, Kim! Thank you for your many kind words. I don’t know if you’ve read the book, Heaven is For Real. It is awesome and gave me a lot of hope and I still get excited thinking about the possibilities. I believe that book is coming out as a movie very soon. I can’t wait to see it.

  • Michael B

    Thank you so much for the wonderful words! God has given you a gift and it’s great to see it used to positively impact so many. Much of my own life revolves around the chronic pain I’ve had for 8 years. I’ve worked in the pain management industry for 10. Daily, I see people struggling through the fog life can become when chronic pain takes over. I thank God every day for showing me how to successfully manage my pain and be a productive and loving human being again. Luckily, I live on the west coast where my doctor recommended marijuana as a supplement to my prescription painkillers. It may not work for everyone, but what a difference it made for me! I cut out 90% of my pills within the month and the brain fog has mostly gone. God is truly wonderful. I’ll be praying for you and may you have a fantastic day!

    • http://therobertd.com/ Robert D. Smith

      Michael—you are simply the best for sharing your comments and insight and giving a testimony. Thank you for doing that. It sounds like your job is a ministry—and not just a job. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with so many of your patients.

      • Michael B

        I’ve never thought of it as a ministry before, but you’re right, it really is. What a great way to think of it! Thank you for that.

    • guest Bert

      I found a website for those left behind due to suicide. I don’t have it in front of me but I goggled aftermath of suicide and this link was on the list that came up. It went over the stages of grief, not to feel guilty for another person’s decision, etc – lots of info. I don’t think his wife or extended family ever thought he was serious, just frustrated/. I think they will go over the material I printed out for them. Its just so sad but thanks for writing your article – people won’t talk about their physical/emotional pain willingly – they are embarrassed, uncomfortable – I don’t know — but when we keep our painful experiences to ourselves we miss the opportunity to let another reach out and talk from their hearts. Transparency is an overused word currently but being real is what people are dying to find.

      • Shelley Hess

        Care to share that link? Sounds like an EXCELLENT RESOURCE I and many others will appreciate having!

  • Steve Pate

    A friend of mine, lost his wife, daughter and mother in law in a car crash some years ago, and One thing I remember from his story of about dealing with the pain was, he would reading books about dealing with pain and read until you don’t need them any more. I never personally dealt with anything chronic wise, but if and when the day comes I will remember both yours and his personal story with this.

    I also took away about finding the right doc who will take the time to listen and ask the right questions and dig more into my life then just come up with a quick solution. Great job being persistent.

    Thanks for sharing your heart Robert.

    • http://therobertd.com/ Robert D. Smith

      Thank you, Steve – for your comments and insight. I had no idea how critical it was to find the right doctor. I assumed if they couldn’t find anything, there was nothing to find. Finally one of my doctor friends said, “Robert, the reason they cannot find anything, is because they are looking in the wrong place.” A huge eye opener. Dr. Foley finally looked in the right place. Yeah!!!

    • Michael B

      Finding that one doctor really can make all the difference in the world. So many of them seem to follow one set path – one size fits all approach. As I said below, it was that one doctor making a different recommendation that got me started down a different treatment path. I believe God sent me to that man and it saved my life.

  • Bert Savarese

    I felt sadness as you recounted your long bout with chronic pain, As in a family I know a close friend talked often of the pain the husband was in due to a medical mistake/damage during dental surgery. Whatever happened, he was in chronic pain, having been to every specialist, clinic and nothing ended the pain for him. Often he would say, “if I weren’t a Christian, I’d kill myself.” And 2 weeks before Christmas he did just that. The ramifications of his 10 yr battle with intense pain, meds that didn’t work, was difficult for the family & extended family. The aftermath will be part of their lives for a very long time.

    It would be wonderful if he had read your blog; whether it changed any thing for him or not, but sadly we wish he had found these options. I hope your thoughts reach someone Who may be limbo feeling there are no options.

    • http://therobertd.com/ Robert D. Smith

      Hey, Bert! I am so, so sorry to hear of the loss of your friend. I know that is extremely painful to a lot of people especially during the holiday time. Many years ago I work for two years at a suicide hotline and was always amazed at the pain—many types of pain that people were experiencing. Sometimes the best we can do is simply listen. Reach out and let people know you’re thinking of them. A quick email, a voice-mail, anything that you can do to let people know that they are in your thoughts is beyond helpful. Continue to reach out, Bert! I know you are being a great friend to many. Thank-YOU for that.

  • Jonathan Lazar

    Robert, it sounds like you may be dealing with TN. I have helped many patients with chronic pain. I would be happy to send you my number and discuss some options with you. This might sound presumptive and please forgive me of it does. All I can say is I’ve been blessed to be able to specialize in a very rare form of care and it’s helped a lot of people in situations like yours. You’re in my prayers. Great post!!!

    • http://therobertd.com/ Robert D. Smith

      Thank-YOU, Dr. Lazar, for your very kind offer. Would you mind emailing me your contact information? Thank you so much for your consideration. And for reaching out.

  • http://www.chancescoggins.com/ chance

    This is beautifully written and felt. Truly. Thank you for sharing your private pain for the sake of the rest of ours. In due season, each of us will benefit from your wisdom and example here.

    And I am beyond honored for you to make me a small part of this incredible piece. Thank you. Love you, Robert, and I’m so glad you’re on the mend.

    • http://therobertd.com/ Robert D. Smith

      Thank, Chance!!! I am so ready to join you for dinner again soon—of course, with dessert first.

  • David Ross

    Robert. Why did you have 10 hours of dental work done?? Were you thinking your teeth was the source of your pain?

    • http://therobertd.com/ Robert D. Smith

      Hey, David!! It was actually about eight hours. And it was discovered that a mishap with a bridge many years ago ended up being the main source of pain to a nerve. None of this could be seen by normal x-rays. Not only did the bridge, but two crowns also contained metal which kept the X-rays from seeing the real problem. Dr. Foley had access to some of the latest technology that I had never seen. She discovered major potential problems which she literally attacked during this surgery. Gratefully, I believe she was spot on. It will still be several more months of procedures to get all this back to normal—if there really is such a thing. :-)

      • David Ross

        Thanks Robert. Sorry to hear about your ordeal. I’m a dentist also so I was just curious. Thanks for your post!

  • abbi

    Wow, very powerful! I appreciate the honesty in your pain. Please let me know… are you still in pain. I kept hoping to read you became fine after the 8 hour surgery and 6 week recovery period. How are you now>

    • http://therobertd.com/ Robert D. Smith

      Hey, Abbi!!! So sorry about the confusion. This blog was originally sent as a personal email to one specific person – requesting how to deal with intense chronic pain now. I was shocked, that out of the blue, anyone would ask me such a question. So few people knew I was going through this.

      Last Thursday, only six days ago, I had my third surgery in seven weeks. We are hoping that is the final. There is still more specific dental work to be done – one bridge and two crowns to be replaced with no metal. Today is my third day with no pain medication whatsoever. That is a huge breakthrough. So yes, I am doing better.

      It will continue to be an on going process for several more months – maybe even up to another year. I still must refrain from being too active or talking too much. But the limitations are a lot less now. I hope this gives a little more clarification. And thank YOU very much for asking!

  • Kurt Beasley

    Robert D for years i have been placing all of my petty concerns at your feet, never knowing your personal struggles. Forgive me for missing the opportunity to carry part of your load. You are a great man! Kurt

  • Allie

    All makes sense. But what if the chronic pain isn’t physical but emotional? Or spiritual? What if the chronic pain is the result of choices by a trusted adult to violate a child? What’s the relationship of choice:transition then? I’ve heard it differently: We are free to choose, but we are not free from the consequences of our choices.

  • DW

    Robert, I have a former boss who lives in chronic pain and takes meds to manage the pain also. The list of activities you listed are great ideas to get ones attention off the problem. I will pass these on. He just recently lost his wife which has not helped matters. He asks for prayer daily. DW

  • Christa Sterken

    I have lived with chronic and often debilitating pain for 16 years, thank you for writing this well done piece. There is still a rich, full life to be lived. Gratitude makes such a difference, as does the willingness to be still without feeling like you “should” be doing more on the rough days.

  • payitforward

    Wow! This is a GREAT piece. I had to laugh when I got to the cliches as I just gave a speech with the exact same lines. I can’t post the entire speech, but here’s a small part of the introduction:

    When I was growing up, my parents taught three lessons;

    1.) God never gives you more than you can handle

    2.) Everything happens for a reason

    3.) You can do anything you set your mind to

    I never had cause to doubt this wisdom, until I got sick at 37 years nold. That’s when I decided these lessons were Big. Fat. Lies.

    In the speech, I eventually learn that these lessons were true in my life all along.

  • Debbie S.

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Robert. I used to have chronic migraines; but I thank God they’re gone. I like your concept of “compass over clock.” Thanks also for introducing me to TED Talks. I’m going to start with “How to Spot a Liar.” Yes, I’ve read “How Do You Kill 11 Million People?” I bought 2 extra copies to share and spread the word.