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Living a Fulfilling Life with Chronic Pain: My Four-Step Journey


Gideon Franck

Chronic pain is an uninvited guest that can disrupt even the most well-planned lives. It doesn't discriminate – it can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or background. For many, the question is not whether they'll have to face it, but how they'll manage it. This is my story – a story of how I've managed to not only survive but thrive despite chronic pain, for over two decades. I'm Gideon from Pain.Pause.Live., a licensed psychotherapist in Germany and pain coach, and I'm here to share my journey, my four-step process, and the insights I've gained along the way.

Introduction: The Uninvited Guest

Yes, I've experienced pain every day for over 20 years by now. People often ask me, "Gideon, how can you be so positive after all these surgeries, complications, and the relentless pain?" The truth is, maintaining a positive outlook is a continuous challenge, especially when you're living with chronic pain. But I've discovered a path that has made it possible, and I want to share it with you.


My Chronic Pain Journey: A Harrowing Beginning

My journey with chronic pain began after a life-altering car accident in 1998. I was fortunate to survive, but the accident left me with more than just scars – it left me with chronic pain, which became an unwelcome companion throughout my life.

The years that followed were filled with pain, complications, and numerous surgeries. I experienced many ups and downs, similar to what many others who suffer from chronic pain have to endure. My journey included various pharmacological treatments, some numbing the pain while others provided no relief. I also developed frequent migraines, adding to the physical and emotional burden.

Despite these challenges, I refused to let my condition define my life. I held fast to my values and dreams, creating a family, a fulfilling career, and a clear sense of what truly matters in life. I didn't let pain dictate my future, and I'm here to show you the four steps I took to make that a reality.

Step 1: Pushing Pause and Noticing

Pause

The first step in my journey was learning to pause and truly notice what was happening inside me. This is an essential starting point, as we often move through life on autopilot, especially when pain is a constant companion. Our natural instinct is to avoid the present moment when it's painful, but it's exactly this avoidance that keeps us stuck.

Learning to press the inner pause button and become fully aware of our internal world is crucial. We often do things automatically and miss the present moment because we don't want to be present when it hurts. But to create change, we must press pause and understand what's happening. This is the first step.

Think of it as turning off autopilot. Without this awareness, you'll never find the doorway to change.

Step 2: Acceptance - The Tough Pill to Swallow

Acceptance was a challenging step for me. Initially, I didn't understand how to practice it, and many well-meaning people told me to run from the pain. This approach was counterproductive, leading to a cycle of medication and suffering.

But true acceptance isn't about giving up; it's about acknowledging the situation as it is. It's not because it's pleasant or good, but because it's the reality you face right now. If you want to change direction, you have to know where you're starting from.

Acceptance is easier said than done. It only clicked for me when I pondered the alternative. The fight against pain had brought me more pain and suffering in the long run. So, I had to embrace a different perspective. It was like putting my hand on my heart, standing up for myself, and saying, "Okay, this is how it is right now. How do I move forward from here?" It wasn't easy; new challenges often emerged, and it sometimes felt like taking two steps back after one forward.

My mind constantly reminded me of what I couldn't do anymore, ignoring the possibilities I still had. By pushing the pause button, noticing, and accepting my painful situation, I found the inner freedom to explore new life directions.

Step 3: Life Directions - Finding My Way Back to Activity

Being active was non-negotiable for me. Despite the skepticism of many doctors, I couldn't accept the idea of not being active again. Before the accident, I was into running, dancing, and doing martial arts. After the accident nobody believed, I would ever walk again. I’d have given everything to regain my mobility, even if it meant altering my activities.

With the guidance of supportive physiotherapists, I discovered that active physiotherapy was more effective in managing chronic pain than passive treatments. I found new ways to express my vitality – taking up biking, yoga, and even attempting tennis (although I can only play for short periods).

Dancing was still fun, even though I lost some of my elegance. 😂 Movement had always been essential to me – it was a sign of vitality and life. So, to this day, after over two decades, I visit a physiotherapist about every year to keep moving forward.

In parallel to my physical endeavors, I was in the final semesters of university. My plan was to graduate and start working, no matter what. I'd already been working with children who had migraines and tension-type headaches at university, and my own journey led me deeper into the field of pain therapy.

Meditation

My meditation practice played a vital role in my healing journey. Since it didn't require strenuous physical effort, I picked it up early after the accident. It became a fundamental tool, helping me to move forward. Science now supports the idea that meditation is effective in managing chronic pain, and you can find many of these exercises in the Pain.Pause.Live. program.


Step 4: Being Friends with Your Body - The Ultimate Acceptance

This step is closely related to acceptance. As we journey through life, we become accustomed to how our bodies function. We're often puzzled when our bodies suddenly stop working as they should. The same held true for me – I was used to my body as a well-oiled machine, and suddenly, I couldn't take a step without pain.

I vividly remember a moment in the hospital when I was confined to my bed, one leg in an external fixation and the other in a cast. I was hopeful, asking, "When can I get back to training?" There was a moment of awkward silence in the room, and one doctor asked, "Chess, Mr. Franck?"

They didn't believe I would ever walk again, but their disbelief fueled my determination. I was determined to prove them wrong, even if it meant fighting against pain. However, this fight against my own body wasn't healthy. I started viewing my body as unreliable and broken, a stark contrast to my previous perspective. I was unknowingly fighting myself, and I had to learn this the hard way.


Pain isn't an external enemy – it's a survival mechanism our bodies employ in dangerous situations. We can successfully fight external adversaries, but what happens when there's no clear enemy? I had to understand this concept. It took time to realize that my body wasn't against me; it was working diligently to heal and maintain balance. Instead of fighting my body or numbing it, I had to treat it with compassion and respect. I had to embrace it as a friend.


My journey to befriending my body wasn't easy. I started with small exercises, like gently caressing my leg for a few minutes every day. It was awkward at first, but my body responded positively. It started to relax, and the pain became less intense. I realized that my body was communicating with me, showing me what it needed. It was like making my body a good friend again. Even today, I sometimes neglect it, but it always lets me know when I'm pushing too hard.


Learning the Importance of Being Friends with Your Body:

Being friends with your body doesn't mean you'll always love what's happening. It's about acknowledging it, respecting it, and understanding its needs. Remember that a mean body doesn't make sense on a biological level – it's not striving to destroy itself. Chronic pain is a mechanism that doesn't require your consent to function.

Conclusion: Living Life Despite the Pain

My journey has been filled with challenges, but every step was worth taking, despite the setbacks and failures. Even though not everything turned out the way I envisioned, I wouldn't change a thing. I learned that sometimes, the less you want something, the more likely you are to achieve it.

The way out is to come closer to your body and its sensations. By doing this, you'll be able to move in a direction in your life that you truly value. It's all about living your life to the fullest, even when chronic pain is a constant companion.

If you found this blog post helpful and insightful, consider subscribing for more content and leave a comment to share your experiences or thoughts. We're all on this journey together, and together, we can live fulfilling lives despite the challenges we face.


Living a fulfilling life with chronic pain is an ongoing journey filled with challenges and triumphs. It's about embracing each moment, finding acceptance, forging a supportive partnership with your body, and continuously moving forward. My story is just one of countless stories of resilience and hope in the face of chronic pain. I hope that my journey and the four steps I've shared can serve as a source of inspiration and guidance for others navigating this difficult path.


Yours,

Gideon

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