Post by Lee Stephenson on March 30th, 2012
My goal is not to be a “Debby Downer” today. Actually, my desire is to do the complete opposite. I hope some of my reflections inspire you and even encourage you in some of the challenges you face. One thing is for sure…life is full of challenges.
My ACI surgery (coupled with the Fulkerson Osteotomy) has not been the easiest surgery to recover from by any means. The 5 weeks spent in bed and the hours spent sitting in my chair has been challenging physically, but also emotionally. Knowing that life will have a new normal is part of the problem. However, the time down has given me great time to ponder the implications of pain, loss, and grief. Here are five things that I have learned, pondered, and even come to appreciate.
1. Balance – Pain, illness, injury…whatever you want to call it is exhausting. I have regularly found myself feeling or wishing that I could do more to handle the demands of life, to help around the house, to play with the kids. However, I have come to understand that even some of the most simple and mundane things become quite difficult when dealing with the stress of pain and illness. Not only does the physical pain see-saw back and forth…so do your emotions. I found it normal to watch my emotions go back and forth from negative thoughts to positive thoughts and back again in a matter of minutes.
In these moments it is helpful and very important to manage your energy well. Knowing that the stress of injury, illness, or pain drains your energy tank is a critical piece to the puzzle. Thus, you have to manage your energy wisely. Find things or people that bring you energy and avoid tasks and even people that drain energy. Make sure you to-do list is reasonable and don’t push your self beyond your energy level or you will pay for it!
2. Don’t let your injury or pain win – There have been moments that I have felt like succumbing to the pain or my identity as the guy with knee issues. Even spending time with good friends the conversation easily moves towards talking about my issues, my recovery, my pain as though there is nothing else to talk about. Don’t allow this to be come the new normal. Focus your conversations and help lead others to talk about the many other interesting things that help make you.
3. Talk with others who have been there before – Even with six surgeries over the past six years I had never gone through a prolonged season of being in pain. If you are anything like me…you probably haven’t either. In preparation for my last surgery knowing that the pain would be tremendous and the time laid up would be lengthy I sought out several people that had walked through similar hardships. These people gave me great information, understanding, advice, and ecnouragement. All of these things helped create for a foundation that would help me persevere through the challenges of surgery and rehab. The shared experiences showed me I wasn’t alone in this journey…which trust me is a nice reminder.
4. Don’t isolate yourself – When I am in pain and nursing an injury I find it easy to isolate myself from activity, people, etc. Bed rest also made it extremely easy to isolate myself and to spend time watching TV (not mentioning the pain meds). I think part of this is normal based on circumstances. However, fight through it. Ask people to visit and to bring your favorite milk shake from time to time (Mexican food was helpful too). Watch things that are uplifting and that don’t add weight to your already shaken emotions. And when possible…get out of the house. Going to church and even a restaurant helped me feel normal again.
5. See the bigger picture – I have come to recognize that without pain and hardship I would never come to know God as my Comforter. 2 Corinthians 1, tells us that in times of trial and in times of hardship, when we turn to God for answers and help He will be there and will be our Comforter. If we were to live life without pain, then we would never get to fully experience God for all that He is; without pain there is no need to be comforted. If this be true, then for us to truly mature and to become Christ like we must have periods of pain in our life! Thus, pain in the long run really is a blessing, because it is in our pain that we get to see and experience God.