When we live with any kind of constant Bad Thing in our lives, be it chronic pain, or abuse, or disease we suffer losses and gains along our path. At Jefferson University’s Methodist Hospital Headache Clinic I had the opportunity to take part in a group session with one of the Chaplains from the hospital. There were only two “headache” patients plus the group leader, so it was an intimate and heart-wrenching session of talking about the way our lives have been affected by constant pain.
In the session, the Chaplain asked us a number of questions that fell under different categories: Mourning, Acceptance, Perservering, and Soul Searching (M.A.P.S.). Here is how she defined each category:
Mourning losses that resulted from your headaches.
Accepting where you are now in your journey.
Perservering in the midst of pain.
Soul Searching and asking yourself questions about who you are and what you believe.
The other patient and I were each given a piece of paper with those categories across the top, and the Chaplain asked us questions in each category. This is not the complete program, and I am not sharing all of my answers, but some I feel are important to place here because you might be going through a similar ordeal. The largest lesson that I learned from M.A.P.S. was that I am not alone. It is so very very dark when we feel alone with our pain dragons.
Mourning – “To grieve over a loss.”
When did your pain begin?
August 7th, 2013 around 6:30 PM my head started hurting again after days and days of pain. Earlier that day I felt so good. That was the last day I remember feeling good.
How has your life changed because of your headaches?
I’ve lost my career and my mother and my activities and my identity and my dreams.
Have you grieved these losses? Why? How?
I have been trying to grieve but I am so angry.
Acceptance – “To acknowledge life as it is now”
What are the major struggles in your life?
Just getting things done, paying bills, my relationship with my husband and my son.
What feelings do you have?
ANGER / SADNESS
When do you feel powerless?
I feel powerless when I can’t do anything and my family has to do it for me.
When do you feel powerful?
When I sing and play my ukulele, when I organize and write.
What are you proud of?
I am proud of my home and my son.
What gives you joy?
My family and my music and my words give me great joy.
How are your relationships with others? How is your relationship with yourself?
I don’t understand people, but I am learning to understand and like myself. My relationships with family are strained and tested by all of this.
Perservering – “To continue to work toward your goal in the midst of your struggles.”
What do you want for you life?
I want to be published, my Masters, my son to have everything he needs, my husband to feel happy.
What are the ways you cope with your pain?
I play my ukulele and write and bury it all inside and try not to spend the day crying, because it only makes things worse.
What encourages you?
What are your small victories?
Laundry, school, any chores, my son getting into camp under the wire.
Soul Searching – “To ask the often difficult questions of your life.”
What gives your life meaning?
My family and my writing give my life meaning. They are the most important things I do.
Who/what can you rely on?
I know I can rely on my husband and my son and the principle that all will be well and all will be well and all manner of things will be well.
What questions do you ask? Do you wonder why this is happening to you? Is there an answer for you?
I always wonder why an the answer is, “Things just happen.” Sometimes I feel like I’m being punished or like I did something to deserve this.
Is there anything you need to let go of?
I want to let go of anger and resentment and rely more on outer family.
What gives you peace? What gives you hope? What can you hold on to? What moves your forward?
I can hold on to my faith that things will be as they should and my goals move me forward. My drive moves me forward. Who I am moves me forward, when I remember who I am. My family gives me peace and hope, always. They are the rock I to which I cling.
What insights have you gained?
I have learned that I am different, and that that is okay, and that the world is a place I don’t have to suffer alone.
It may seem pretty straight-forward to read, but imagine being in that room and being asked, by a real human voice no less, those very questions. Imagine the welling up of pain and sorrow. Being in pain doesn’t allow us time to mourn properly. We can’t cry because maybe it makes us hurt more. We can’t stop eating because maybe that makes us hurt more. We can’t stay in bed or stay out of bed because we don’t know what the day will bring. And we can’t control the heaving ocean of emotions that is always so much closer to the surface because we hurt.
Or, at least, I can’t.
All program materials shared above are credited to Rev. Marcie Brozyna, Methodist Hospital, and should not be copied or duplicated in any way without permission.