Pain(t) a Positive Picture

Everything can be taken from a man, but one thing: the last of human freedoms,

to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

Victor Frankl

My pain isn’t going to change physically. I can’t string myself along any longer. I have tried so many avenues without success and two pain clinics have told me I am at the end of the road: all they can offer me are more and stronger drugs – all of which carry a long-term risk of dementia.

So here I am and this is probably how I will be for the rest of my life. Hopefully, on a level and not sliding further down hill. If my pain level and restricted life are here for keeps, then I have to put myself in a frame of mind that can not only survive, but enjoy my life. Otherwise what is there?

Like my friends, I want to feel alive, happy, engaged and connected. Unlike them, I can’t get there from activities. I have to spin my positive states from within me. So how?

If I am my only resource, then it’s my choice how I will feel. It sounds tough when I say it to myself and it is tough when my sacrum throbs and my horizons hit me in the face. In some ways it is like being in prison.

This harsh winter is a good metaphor: skiing, skating, climbing over snow banks are out, but I can mall walk which brings me into contact with people. It is easy to be content by the stove, watching Downton. I want to be mentally stimulated and to feel intelligent. Theatre, movies, lectures and courses are out, but there’s always something interesting or funny on the radio. Bless CBC!

A friend said recently, “You always have such interesting things to talk about, Jane.” To which I replied, “I cut up a lot of carrots.” Whenever I am in the kitchen or ironing, I am listening, hoovering up ideas for later debate.

Which brings me to food. I can’t go out to restaurants easily, but now my stomach is finally recovering after 25 years of very limited diet, I can cook and enjoy taste again, provided no gluten or dairy.

My last wish is for connection. Thank goodness for email and the phone. The greatest gift has been finding out just how good and kind my friends are. They take trouble to accommodate me and our den is full of laughter, even if I have to lie down on heat for several hours before they come.

So what I have to say firmly to myself is that it is no good comparing myself with others, where they go or what they do. Yes, I would love to travel, particularly to see our far flung grandchildren, but this is what I have got and if I want to have any quality of life, the choice is mine. I have to put myself in the frame of mind that will give me that, not wait wistfully for things to make me happy.


This was also written 2 years ago, just after my failed epidural. I wanted to trace how came from despair to equilibrium – more than that: happiness. This was my first effort at reframing pain. I hope it helps someone.


About UntraveledRoads

Fascinated by life, looking for answers to chronic pain and finding unexpected gifts. Interested in people, ideas, healing and humour. I am very happily married with three children and a kitten. As English born immigrants to Canada, we have family spread overseas, a daughter in South Africa and one in England. We also run a charity in South Africa to educate black, rural South African Women. Our first girl from a rural township has just graduated as an accountant from Johannesburg University and got a good job in a bank.
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