Post written by ChronicBabe Amy Graves
In the Beginning…
I’ve dealt with different types of chronic pain for as long as I can remember. I was diagnosed with migraines and seizures at the age of three; this meant that at an early age I had to learn how to manage pain. I trained myself to go to bed as soon as I felt a migraine coming. I learned what my triggers were for seizures and attempted to avoid them.
I was lucky in that I still had a mostly normal childhood. Then, in 2004, I injured my left arm. As a result of that injury I was diagnosed in 2007 with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). Through three years and 13 doctors, I kept telling myself someone will figure this out. The pain will be cured and I will go back to normal. But the diagnosis brought with it the realization I would have to live in pain every day for the rest of my life.
The Realization that Sparked a Change
My diagnosis left me depressed. How could I live with constant burning pain? My pain levels started increasing and the feeling of hopelessness was completely consuming. Then one day I was on the phone with my mom. I realized I had become a negative person – like her. I looked at her life, and I didn’t want to go down the same path. So I made a deliberate decision to reform my attitude. I altered my focus so finding the positive became a daily practice.
This change in thought was not easy. It took at least a year before I was able to see the positive without having to stop and ask myself what is the silver lining? This does not mean I was – or am – happy all the time. When I lost the ability to work 20 hours a week I had to focus on the positive outcomes. I trained myself to look at the positives rather than focusing on the negatives, like losing money.
The key to me maintaining my happy is allowing myself to have bad days. I have days where I cry or get mad at the world. At the end of the day, I know it won’t solve my problems, but I feel better.
You will exhaust yourself trying to be positive all the time. No one else can expect you to be happy all the time, either. When I have to deal with a problem, I let myself feel the necessary emotions, whether it be anger, sadness, or even fear. Once I am done, I sit back and analyze the situation. I focus on what I can do to make it better.
The ability to maintain your happy is not only about finding the silver lining. It is also about finding ways to handle the day-to-day stressors of life.
You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile
Today, almost 10 years after beginning this journey, finding the silver lining has become natural. My friends call me “Giggles.” This nickname is two-fold. Besides having a distinctive laugh, I have shown my friends I will always find the positive in any situation.
I was told recently “you could out-Pollyanna Pollyanna.” Which of course made me laugh because Pollyanna is one of my favorite movies. If you haven’t seen it you should – it’s a classic.
People who meet me today are amazed at how positive I am despite how much life has thrown at me. I deal with multiple chronic, rare, and orphan diseases. I have multiple food sensitivities which have left me eating only about eight safe foods. A year and a half ago, I started using forearm crutches for mobility. Each time I found the positive and kept moving forward. Here’s the thing: I am not happy all the time. I do, however, keep giggling and smiling my way through every obstacle that comes my way.
**This is the first of many in a guest contributor series. If you would like to be considered as a guest writer for ChronicBabe, visit this link.**