Accepting Reality

It is not fair that you have chronic pain. Our health care system isn’t equipped to provide you with optimal care. Your insurer, compensation board, employer, friends or family may not understand what it is like for you. Even the doctors you see may seem more suspicious than supportive when you repeatedly ask for help. It can be really hard not to focus on these things that are so – well – painful.

Some may cope by withdrawing helplessly while others become louder in their cries for help. Many spend time bemoaning their fates and many embark on a quest for a cure while rejecting opportunities to improve. None of these behaviours is likely to result in long term help for chronic pain. They suggest a lack of acceptance of the realities of chronic pain.

The patients I’ve seen who are the least distressed by their pain are those who have accepted the fact of their pain and its consequences. In other words they have a realistic view of their pain and limitations. They are better able to make therapeutic choices without being lured by unrealistic desires. They understand that health care providers, friends and family are hampered in their ability to deal with them and work with this in mind to get the support they can.

Above all such patients show a willingness to learn how to cope better and take responsibility for learning. None have given up and all have a determination to live fulfilling lives.

Accepting reality also means accepting flaws in one’s ability to accept things. Anger, frustration and fear can sometimes be overwhelming. Making progress in the ability to cope may be just as, or more difficult than learning how to pick things up after a back injury. Acceptance is a key to reducing the distress caused by unfairness and the lack of understanding that pervades the treatment of pain patients.

Another way to look at it is this: Your pain is there and help is hard to get. If you truly understand this you will be better equipped to get help. False hopes and fears can hurt you and send you down blind alleys. You need to learn about what can really help you and how to get it.

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