Seizing Joy - My Story With Chronic Pain
A blog post by Chantal James
No one asks to join the club of those with medically mysterious ailments but when we find ourselves joining it I believe finding whatever it takes to persevere and believe in our continuance is the only option to seize joy from our days.
I think everyone's journey with chronic pain is unique. I began having pain on the surface of the right side of my body in late 2020 which makes about two years that I have been living with this condition. It has coincided with the isolation and fear brought about by the pandemic. Over my journey I've experienced disappointment I'm sure folks can relate to as a dermatologist and neurologist offered no solutions. Sometimes we can feel discarded by doctors when they are unable to figure out what's wrong and it can compound our physical problems with a psychological component including feelings of abandonment. But that's not the place where I want to leave you all reading this.
I will not say I don't have days of despair where I wonder if I will always be in daily discomfort, but focusing on what my body still allows me to do has been key. Some find the idea of prioritizing gratitude corny but for me reflecting on all that is good in my life is essential to keeping me going. It's my desire to survive and my desire to persist. That means I do everything within my power to realize I'm still a very capable person who can keep on contributing and even finding joy without denying my struggles. It's so easy to dwell in the "woe is me" space. We can feel our feelings and allow them to be valid, but often if we step back and give ourselves perspective we can see that many things still are going well, we have love in our lives and various others things we can mark as signs of worthwhile living.
I discovered that Vicks Vapor Rub made my pain better and that began my journey with products to provide relief that has culminated in my finding The Feel Good Lab products, which bring me the most reliable relief. Depending on the severity of my pain on a given day I will also use those ice packs designed to keep your lunch cold to relieve my pain.
One thing that seems very true to me is that because we're encouraged not to talk about what we suffer from and to keep it out of polite interactions many are under the impression they are the only one going through things. That's not true. I'm writing to you all to let you know you're not alone in experiencing a physical condition you'd rather not be because so do I. But life is a gift no matter what, and as sentimental as it sounds every day brings a reason to be glad we're here.
CHANTAL JAMES lives in Washington, DC, and has been published across genres—as a poet, fiction writer, essayist, and book reviewer—in such venues as Catapult, Paste Magazine, Harvard’s Transition Magazine, The Bitter Southerner, and more. Her honors include a Fulbright fellowship in creative writing to Morocco, and a finalist position for the Alex Albright Creative Nonfiction prize from the North Carolina Literary Review for 2019. Her first novel NONE BUT THE RIGHTEOUS was released by Counterpoint Press in January 2022. She works for a nonprofit.