“Do you suffer from Ehlers Danlos Syndrome?”
Another coach asked me this question and I laughed. I’m not kidding, I did! But it’s such a serious question, about a serious topic. Why the heck would I LAUGH???
Because her question already told me what she expected me to say. Because the two things – illness and suffering – are assumed to go hand in hand. Because laughter helps to shift us out of stress (also known as “fight-flight-freeze” mode) and encourages the body to produce chemicals that help our tissues heal.
And because I love to turn assumptions and expectations upside down. To answer questions like that in a way that helps people look at things in a completely different way.
“Well, I HAVE Ehlers Danlos Syndrome…but I don’t really suffer from it anymore!”
No, I haven’t cured myself. I still have constant pain.
But PAIN and SUFFERING are two very different things.
Pain is something that we experience in our bodies, a physical sensation. Suffering exists ONLY in our minds.
It’s what we tell ourselves about our experiences. It’s based on a value judgment.
I’ve had severe chronic pain my whole life, in fact I don’t even know what it would be like to NOT be in pain – it’s just a normal part of life for me.
I’ve learned to experience it like an ocean wave, ebbing and flowing. At its strongest, it can be overwhelming.
But I know it will not remain at that level forever.
So, I just notice as the wave builds, peaks, and then recedes. I give it attention in the moment and notice if there is a message for me in it.
Chronic pain means there often IS no message, it just is, but I listen to it, just in case there is a message – like I’m overdoing it, or that there’s a symptom pattern that deserves medical attention.
When it calms down, I don’t dwell on it or assign any meaning other than that message.
So, what if you consciously chose to NOT assign meaning or value to your pain, just for today, or one hour, or one moment?
What would that be like for you, and how would that change your experience of it? I’d love to know!