Living Peacefully With Chronic Pain

Writer at the Daily Path Adrienne McGuire joins us to share her story of living with Ehlers-Danlos and the healing she’s found through mindful living.

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As far back as I can remember, I have lived with chronic pain and many physical difficulties. I just never felt “well”, even as a child.  It was a very hard thing to explain to my parents, although I tried.  I was taken to a number of specialists and given a variety of tests – to no avail.  I recall having chest and shoulder pains in my adolescent years that were so severe that I was taken to the Emergency Room on several occasions. When I was 18, on a trip to the beach, I awoke every morning with a back so painful that it was hard to breathe. Since then, I have spent 19 years trying hit-or-miss therapies to alleviate my chronic pain. Over the years, the pain has waxed and waned, steadily growing in intensity until it peaked a few years ago, when I had small children.  I couldn't even bathe them most of the time because bending down to wash them was far too excruciating.

At the age of 36 I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Type III - Hypermobility Syndrome, which explained my life of pain but unfortunately did not come with a cure. In an attempt to alleviate my pain as much as possible I took many drastic steps to allow my body to become my priority. I quit a well-paying job, completely changed the way I viewed exercise, dramatically limited my activity level, and most importantly, I began the process of living mindfully.

At the recommendation of my therapist, I purchased several books to aid me in my quest for mindful living, one of which was Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life. I began to put many mindful practices into effect in my life after learning that everything that we sense in our body and all that we become aware of in our mind is food for our sense consciousness. This concept really resonated with me, and I had a revelation. Although I have a genetic syndrome, I still have the free will to decide much about what direction my life will go.  I could either head toward misery and pain or toward peace and happiness. I figured that the path toward peace and happiness surely would lead me to a life with less pain, and so my journey into mindfulness began in earnest.

I now draw on mindfulness to bring me relief from my pain as well as fear of the intensity of the pain. Instead of watering my mind’s seeds of pain and fear, I constantly nourish and tend to the seeds of mindful energy that ultimately help to free me from the pain. This works by allowing my mind and body to become one. My mind acknowledges and embraces the parts of my body where the pain is present and notes that I am not separate from the pain. By regularly observing my entire body and my aches and pains, I do not allow my thoughts and feelings about them to escalate. I also began to practice progressive relaxation and mindful eating.

By putting all of these practices into place in my life, I have seen a real improvement in my pain levels. I have gone from being bedridden to being able to walk short distances. I used to suffer from constant high levels of all-over body pain. Through mindful living, eating and moving, I now live with a much lower level of all-over pain. Before living mindfully, I frequently had excruciating, mind numbing hip pain that brought me to tears, and now I only get rare twinges of mild pain in my right hip. My entire adult life and teen years I have lived with constant highly painful and disabling spasms in my multifidus back muscles and thoracolumbar fascia. These are now controlled through mindfulness practices, physical therapy and osteopathic approaches to medical care.

My back used to be so distorted due to malfunctioning vertebral joints that I stood like this:

And now, 8 months after becoming mindfully aware of every aspect of my body and what goes into it, I stand taller and stronger than ever:

Adrienne McGuire is a writer and wellness enthusiast who abandoned the corporate world to create a life that worked for her.  To read more about her experiences with mindful living, visit her at DailyPath, where she is now an integral part of the writing team.

Comments

I am very proud to be guest posting for Savor today, and I am hoping that my story resonates with at least a few people. Mindfulness really will make a difference!

If you'd like to connect with me on Facebook, please visit facebook.com/dailypath, and follw us on Twitter @DailyPath. Thank you immensely for reading, and good luck to all of you on your journey toward mindfulness.

PS. The book is awesome!!!

Dear Adrienne,

I read your article this morning after a google alert and thought you would be interested in "Living Well with Pain & illness", a book written by Vidyamala Burch. Her book, which is an easy accessible read and is available here http://www.soundstrue.com/shop/Living-Well-with-Pain-and-Illness/2140.pd.

This is based on her experience of 35 years of severe spinal pain following accidents as a teen and 25 years meditation.

I have provided a link to an interview she gave with Conscious TV you might be interested in watching, where she tells her story of dealing with the changes she had to make in transitioning from a vigorous, active outdoors woman to being restricted first to her bed, then a wheelchair, by severe injury and accidents, as well as post-operative problems with her spine to finally reaching a place of acceptance, adaptation and flourishing in the life she leads now.

http://conscious.tv/consciousness.html?bcpid=2439355001&bclid=6764359240...

Vidyamala founded an organisation called Breathworks, the web address is here:- www.breathworks-mindfulness.co.uk.

This organisation teaches mindfulness techniques to people living with pain and illness, as well as those dealing with over-whelming stress in their lives. The course is delivered by Breathworks trainers in over 30 countries around the world with great effect to the participants.

In addition to her own well established meditation practices, Vidyamala has also worked with Jon Kabat-Zinn, who has endorsed her work, writing the foreward for her book and he is leading a weekend workshop in a conference in Bangor University in March 2013, co-sponsored by Breathworks.

I work for Breathworks developing social media and internet connections so am delighted to reach out to you in this way and hope you may be interested in working with Breathworks, contacting Vidyamala or passing on the details of Breathworks to others who you feel may benefit.

best wishes

Karen Hall

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