Mindfulness for Pain?

“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. 

Out of a fear of the unknown,

they prefer suffering that is familiar.”

-Thich Nhat Hanh

The above quote couldn’t be any more true based on my experiences with pain and suffering. Our bodies have this amazing ability to tell us something is wrong, before our minds do. There have been studies recently proving this to be true. I have personally witnessed this as a truth in my life, however, it took me some time and quite a lot of suffering before realizing this. A lot had happened in my life that took an emotional toll on me. My nervous system didn’t know how to handle everything so my mind had to switch to auto pilot. I managed to get by day to day, suffering in pain, yet I wasn’t even aware of it. I didn’t become aware of my pain until it was too unimaginable to bear. I writhed in pain. I had tried every trick in the book to treat my pain, seen every Doctor, had them run every test imaginable. Nothing worked. It wasn’t until recently when I saw an allergist for lung pain, (that is after I saw a pulmonologist who told me my lungs were perfect). It’s just a running joke with myself now…there is nothing wrong with me. My body was trying to warn me. Things needed to change.

I’m bringing this up tonight because I was reminded, yet again, how much my pain relates to my stress levels. I was taking a final at school (actually the 2nd one of the day…two more to go…woooh!)  and I had a mint in my mouth. I noticed about half way through the exam, that I was chewing on this mint, so I stopped. After about 15 minutes or so, I started to notice that my face was killing me. It hurt so bad I was nauseous. Somehow during the exam, my mind had switched back to auto pilot, which appears to be my coping mechanism for stress, and I just chomped on this breath mint for 30 or 40 minutes. Fortunately I was able to catch on to it in time and I don’t expect it to go into a full-blown migraine. When I left the exam I couldn’t help but laugh at the situation. “Grin and bear it” used to be my motto…but that’s not me anymore. I’m re-learning how to deal with everything now, particularly stress. Acceptance is the answer here. Accept every situation just as it is, as how it is supposed to be. As I walked back to my car, I took the time to appreciate everything around me. I am probably the only person walking around campus with a big smile on my face who is only half way done with their finals. I got home, kissed my family, and just breathed a sigh of relief. Life is good.

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