Ms. Meniscus:

I went to one of your pain events in Philadelphia and it was great. Thanks so much for doing these in our communities. I especially liked the insurance guy who explained how to negotiate with your insurance company. But my question is about Dr. Laurie’s presentation. She said, “you are not your disease,” and I wonder if you could tell me that again in your own words. I understood it when she said it, but now I’m finding that I keep focusing on my pain and not myself.


Pain in my own neck.

Dear Pain in my own neck:

Fortunately, I was able to attend some of the Taking Charge of Pain events which ran nationally this year. Besides the fantastic speakers, I would have to say that the messages were soaked in valuable information that even taught a seasoned woman, like myself, some valuable information.

If you look at the different stages of your life, you will see a person who has overcome a lot of challenges to get where she or he is today 

Dr. Laurie’s final presentation was the perfect ending to the evening, and she is absolutely right.  Unfortunately, our perception of ourselves has a tendency to be inaccurate.  This is a scary thought, considering how much time we spend with ourselves – we should know ourselves the best.

One of the worst mistakes I see people make is to define themselves by their circumstances.  Right now, I am not even talking about living with a chronic disease, but the same logic applies to so many aspects in life.  In some cases we have to learn to stop being the “victim of the crime” per say and step up and become the Heroine or Hero of our own story.  The “damsel in distress” shtick is overplayed, and ultimately leads to lots of damsels with no “knight in shining armor.” Sometimes, it takes a little re-evaluation and a step back to get the whole view of what is going on in your life.

Focusing on living with a chronic disease, what you need to do is step back to take a thorough look at your life.  If you look at the different stages of your life, you will see a person who has overcome a lot of challenges to get where she or he is today.  Remember how you felt when your mother dropped you off for first grade, armed with nothing but a tin lunchbox? Do you remember when you stepped into that rowdy high school cafeteria on your first day of school, and you were more concerned with where you were going to sit and not what was on the menu that day? How about when you had your first job interview or possibly even said “I do” to a person you loved, without knowing what the next day would bring? These moments each have their own worries, fears and priorities which were pressing on your mind while you stood there. 

Your mother came back later that day to give you a big hug after your first day. You eventually made it out of high school, and by the end of your senior year you had a table you immediately walked to every afternoon. You learned from your interview experience, and you went on to have other jobs and better interviews. You found yourself walking the other way down the aisle, but this time with your new husband or wife in tow. Your disease is just one of those circumstances that you have to deal with now, but like those other situations, you are not just standing at the entrance of your first grade class, high school cafeteria, potential employer’s office, and the alter anymore.  You kept walking.  You had that experience, and whether or not it was a positive one, you learned from it and continued walking.

That is how you need to deal with your chronic disease.  Do not let it become you, but simply accept that it is now part of your life, and learn to manage and continue walking.


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