For many people pain is perceived as a means for the body to signal to us that something is not right. Naturally, we hope to find the cause of the pain, and treat it so that we can get back to our regular routine. This is the perception of pain for many, however this is not the reality for all.
According to a Canadian Community Health survey in 2008, 1 in 10 Canadians experienced chronic pain in some form. Chronic pain is used as an umbrella term to describe any form of pain that lasts longer than 3-6 months. For many, chronic pain is a part of their everyday life. The goal for those living with chronic pain moves from curing the pain, to now managing the pain and living their most fulfilling life despite the pain.
This is easier said than done. Chronic pain can have an impact on so many aspects of life, from a financial responsibilities, to relationships with family and friends, down to our own independence.
So what is depression? Depression is a mental health condition that affects our mood in a negative way. Depression is a feeling of overwhelming sadness. Depression can manifest in the form of hopelessness, isolation, lack of motivation and physical and mental exhaustion, or a combination of the above.
When faced with chronic pain, people become particularly susceptible to depression. A life with chronic pain can often mean fundamental changes to the life you have become so accustomed to. Sudden changes, especially changes that are out of our control, can often trigger feelings of anxiety, sorrow, loneliness, hopelessness, guilt and anger.
Feeling misunderstood and alone are common feelings for those those who live with chronic pain. Many may feel as if their loved ones cannot relate to their pain. Other may feel as though their pain is not being validated.
Physical limitations related to the pain that did not previously exist, may now be playing a large role in the family home and family dynamics.
For those living with chronic pain, sudden changes in mood and becoming easily aggravated or frustrated is not uncommon, however this can leave loved one feeling confused and out of control over the situation.
Chronic pain is an illness of the body. Depression is an illness of the mind. The two however can feed off each other if the cycle is not broken. Long standing pain can trigger depression, and depression can worsen the severity of chronic pain and decrease our pain tolerance. Inevitably, when the pain sensation is amplified, the depressed feelings rise closer to the surface.
There may be no cure for chronic pain. The way to put an end to the cycle of pain and depression lies in the way the pain is perceived.
If you live with chronic pain, the pain may always play some role in your life. Coming to understand this possibility is the first step to acceptance. Know that while the pain may always be present, your life does not have to be defined by it. Remembering that life still has so much to offer and maintaining a positive outlook can help combat the hopelessness that chronic pain can sometimes trigger.
Life, even a life with pain, can be very fulfilling if you can train your mind to focus on the pockets of happiness that undoubtedly surround us every day. Chronic pain fights for your attention. It causes us to focus on the negative feelings. By taking that power away from the pain, and re-focusing on the joys in our lives, we train our minds to not only see the positive in life, but more importantly, to see past our pain.