I am fortunate to be part of a group on Facebook for people in their 20s and 30s who have MS. On there, we discuss living with the condition: our ups and downs, and we help one another cope.
Recently, one of the members was talking about how hard it is to have our condition and to be surrounded by healthy family members who do not understand the levels of pain that we often reach, and sometimes are constantly mired in.
Empathy can only go so far when you’re not living in someone’s body. I know that no one knows exactly what I feel because no one is experiencing my physical feelings but me.
Neuropathic pain can be as simple, mild, irritating and annoying as that pins and needles feeling that you get when you’ve let a part of your body fall asleep, or it can be as heinous, torturous, and world-shattering as child-birth (or so I’ve heard). At its worst for me, it’s felt like a broken bone where nothing is broken.
And that’s the beauty of MS: it’s different all the time, for everyone. It just depends what neuron that demon disease has decided to chomp on at the moment.
That’s also one of the hardest things for those of us with MS, because we cannot anticipate where or when the pain is going to come. We just know that it will eventually show up.
The sudden pain (or even constant pain) can make it very difficult to relate to the people around us, whether it’s co-workers, friends, family members, or even the significant others we love most in the world. Because when the Big Bad Pain comes, it makes you hate everybody, even yourself, and the only thought you have at that moment is, “Make it stop.” Or, in the alternative, if you’re more emotional and less pragmatic, “I hate everything.”
There have been only 2 things that have helped me in this situation. 1.) Cannabis 2.) Meditation
This post is not about the wonders of weed. It’s a band-aid on a gaping wound for what I’m talking about right now. A bucket of water on a raging fire.
Right now, I want to talk about the space between pain and suffering, which actually can exist, and which widens with increased meditation practice.
Pain is going to hurt, no matter what, but you don’t have to suffer with thinking about how badly you feel. When you know what is causing the pain, you can acknowledge it and move on with your day (sometimes). Being able to separate the physical cause of emotional distress from your emotional state allows you to be more friendly and compassionate to everyone around you, and makes you a happier person overall.
Now, I’m not pushing any religious agenda here – just an activated mind-body connection. Heck, even researchers in Switzerland have shown that mindfulness meditation help those of us with multiple sclerosis with depression, fatigue and anxiety. There is even research documenting the positive effects of meditation for those of us with MS dating as far back as 2003 at the Multiple Sclerosis Resource Centre.
Meditation is really just as simple as sitting in a comfortable position, hands clasped, and focusing only on your breath for 20 minutes. You don’t need to do anything specific besides focus on your breath and clear your mind.
For those who would prefer to clear your mind while listening to a guided meditation for pain, here’s a good one.
I hope everyone has a peaceful, pain-free (or at least less painful!) day! Namaste. 🙂