Yesterday in my Chronic Illness/Chronic Pain Support Group, we talked about Managing Emotions. Huge topic. One thing that I did was to have everyone take 5 Post-it notes, and on each one, write an emotion they have or have had related to their pain or illness. I had a poster divided into 4 quadrants, labeled Mad, Sad, Glad and Afraid. All emotions can fit into one of those emotions, or a combination of them. I had everyone place their Post-it notes on the board wherever they thought they best fit.
We had no surprise when we saw that the fullest quadrant was Mad, followed closely by Sad and Afraid. There were only 2 Post-its in the Glad quadrant. Some people were surprised there were any in that quadrant at all. Who would be glad to have chronic pain or illness? What positive feelings could possibly come from being sick and hurting all the time? One of the Glad words was mine, the other was from someone who I know from our local Sjogren's Syndrome Support Group which I co-lead. Her word was 'surprised'. She said she is surprised when she has times when she feels good and can do what she wants to do. I like her use of that word. She could have used 'pleased', and that would have covered the basic feeling, but 'surprised' has another connotation to it. 'Surprised' includes an aspect of an unexpected gift. When you are used to not feeling well, having a day when you do feel well is truly a most pleasant unexpected gift.
The Glad word that I contributed was 'grateful'. That word has several meanings for me here. I am grateful that at this point, my issues have settled down into manageability, and my pain is not constant. Various parts hurt when I do various things, but I do have times during the day when I can pretend that nothing is wrong with my body. The other way I am grateful is for how it has changed my life. If I did not have pain and illness, I would likely be working full time, and not only would I not have time to write this blog and run my support group, but I likely would not have thought of doing these things. I have a nice mix of things I do with my time, and my illness has allowed me the opportunity to do them.
As I write this, some other positive thoughts come to mind. Because of my illness and pain, I have learned patience. I have learned mindfulness. I have had more time to devote to my art and to writing. I have met many people I would not have met. I have done some traveling (to the national Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation patient conferences). I have time to nap during the day if I need to, which I just did. You probably didn't even notice I was missing for awhile between the last paragraph and this one.