Thursday, May 15, 2014

5 Lessons I've Learned For Coping With Transitions

I feel like I've spent the last 8 years of my life in transition. I've transitioned from living alone to living with hubby; from being single to being married; from being an active healthy professional to being so debilitated by chronic migraines and fibromyalgia that I can't hold a job; from thinking about my chronic pain as something to solve to thinking about it as something to manage; from living in Minnesota, to North Carolina, to Virginia, to St. Louis (where we continued to move around locally); from living near dear friends to living far from anyone except hubby; from being a renter to a homeowner to a renter and back to homeowner again; from being a 20 something to a 30 something... There has been very little stability over these past 8 years.

Thankfully it does seem that this time of continuous change is winding down. Hubby has a great job that he is settling into so we've finally been able to buy a house that we fully intend to grow old in. After 8 years I've gotten better at living with my chronic pain. Settling into a more permanent location will only help me to better manage my pain in the future. I can finally look for good doctors without the stress of relocating and starting from scratch again and again and again. A tremendous relief has been setting in over the past few months as we settle into a more stable time.

Transitioning is stressful and difficult for most people but it is even more so for those of us living with chronic pain. Why? Well mainly because the essence of change runs contrary to optimal pain management. I need a routine of sleep, food, water, rest and pacing in order to function even at my lowest level. It is near impossible to maintain this much needed routine when making big transitions. But life is a series of changes - it is inescapable. Learning to cope through these big transitions in life is an important skill. Here are some lessons I've learned:

1. Don't allow yourself to spend too much time dwelling on what was left behind. As natural as it is to compare now to then, this doctor to the previous one, this new set of limitations to the old abilities, etc. I find that it prevents me from moving forward in the present. I give myself a little bit of time to think back and miss or mourn what was, but then I pull my focus back to the here and now. I look for the positive aspects of my present situation and try to keep that in the forefront of my thoughts as much as possible. Then I can set about changing the things that are within my control.

2. Take your time and be patient. Adjusting takes more time and requires more effort now that I'm dealing with chronic pain. It just does and that's okay. I find that when I'm patient with myself and don't allow myself to get caught up in comparing my time frame to that of a healthy person the process is smoother and more enjoyable. Eventually, a new routine will develop and things will normalize. It always does. Then it changes again. Such is life.

3. Lean on the people around you. I find that having love and support from my family and/or friends is never so critical as it is during big transitions. Being able to talk about the changes, be heard and get advice from trusted loved ones helps in so many ways. There is just something so elemental about love and friendship, I can't imagine where I would be without it.

4. Try to always keep something of comfort and consistency nearby to lend some level of normalcy to these big transitions. The consistency of walking, feeding and tending to our pets has made the past 8 years of constant big changes easier for me. I also find that watching old movies or shows that I've loved most of my life can lend a level of comfort and consistency when struggling through a difficult transition.

5. Find the fun and laugh. That's really good advice for every situation, isn't it? I find that my natural tendency is to take myself too seriously but everything is always easier when I take the time to find the fun and laugh, especially when I can do it with loved ones. It relieves tensions, reduces stress, pumps positive chemicals throughout the's like a reset button.

What do you do to cope through transitions?

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