“She was recently diagnosed with MS, but she is doing really well. She has a really great attitude.”
“Well, she must be in remission then if she has a good attitude.”
“No, I don’t think she’s in remission. She has just decided to take whatever life throws at her & try to have best attitude possible.”
“Well, most people go into remission when they have MS. It probably can’t be that bad.”
It took everything in me to walk by & not jump in & share exactly what I thought of the one woman’s perception of chronic illness. One of the more difficult parts of illness is learning to live with chronic pain when no one believes you. The medical statistics on people living with chronic pain continue to skyrocket to 26% of the American population.*
When people train for particular events, like athletes who prepare for the Olympics, they may learn to live with a new set of challenges & daily struggles, such as striving for goals that are currently just out of their reach. Eventually, the event does take place, they perform to the best of their ability, & then they’re able to get on & redesign their life in the way they desire. They no longer have to force themselves into places of daily physical pain in training.
For those of us who live with the constant struggles of chronic illness, that are often accompanied by chronic pain, we come to underst& that despite our amazing attitude, our body may still not get better. In some cases the chronic pain may in fact get worse! Chronic illnesses are oftentimes degenerative. Once our body has started to break down, we are more susceptible to additional illnesses, infections, or health challenges.
Speaking with a friend this week who had a terrible loss that she will never completely recover from, I told her that you can get to a place in life where you feel that God is good & that God is in control. You believe that God will never leave you or forsake you. BUT. . . The same time you have a parallel feeling that life is simply miserable!
One would say that if you are a Christian, you should never feel that life can be that terrible because we have the promise that there is a God who cares about us. But we also believe that there is a heaven. No amount of wishing will make this life we live here on earth become a heaven.
Having a positive attitude will make your chronic illness experience considerably easier. Not only on yourself, but also on your family & those around you. It can be very difficult living with someone with chronic severe pain. But it is a cliché to tell someone to just cheer up or think happy thoughts & they will feel all better. “Going to your happy place” in your mind will not necessarily heal your body. But having a sense of humor about it will indeed lighten you load.
I recently spoke at my church about how to find hope when you’re feeling hopeless. There is an excerpt from the presentation in video form below about the humorous parts of living with a chronic illness & the side effects of medications such as prednisone, which I am currently taking. (Please don’t e-mail me & tell me I shouldn’t be taking it. I know. I have been trying to get off of it for years & there is much involved in the process [smile]).
My presentation does have a great deal of encouragement of the spiritual nature, but you’ll find in the video below, that this excerpt is simply to help people laugh.
We already know that chronic illness can be miserable. So can we squeeze a few moments of giggles in there too? Yes!
When speaking to people who live a chronic illness, I don’t ever want to get up in front of the room & watch everyone’s faces fall as I describe how to difficult living with illness is. Instead, a few laughs can quickly make them feel a connection with me & the people beside them as I describe the funny parts of illness. It lightens our heart so we can listen better, feeling we are among peers, & not at a college course we have to “get through.”
Is living with chronic pain fun? No.
Can living with chronic pain be funny? Absolutely!
In my presentation below I mentioned a T-shirt I saw that said “I used to be nice to. Now I am just fun to watch.”
Chronic pain may take away many things in our lives such as our activities, our ability to commit to doing things with friends, or even sleep. But it can’t take away our sense of humor, & laughter may be the best form of chronic pain therapy. People who are daily coping with chronic illness in a child already realize this. Sometimes as adults we forget. And if we are a parent with children still in our home, humor is a wonderful tool in helping children cope with a parent with chronic illness.
So the next time you feel like laughing about something, go ahead & do it. Many people are single & living alone with chronic pain. Don’t feel as though your pain should prevent you from having enjoying your life or laughing alone without someone to laugh with you.
There may likely be days where the only thing you really smile about are your new b&ages that say “crime scene” or that you are stuck in a chair until your knee goes back into place (my life this week.) Go ahead & laugh!
“Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God— soon I’ll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face. He’s my God.” (Psalm 43:5 The Message)
* According to the National Centers for Health Statistics, more than one-quarter of Americans (26%) age 20 years & over – or, an estimated 76.5 million Americans – report that they have had a problem with pain of any sort that persisted for more than 24 hours in duration. [NOTE: this number does not account for acute pain] . Statistic provided by the American Pain Foundation.