Beliefnet
Good Days…Bad Days With Maureen Pratt

Maureen Pratt Author PicLoneliness is one of the hardest things to conquer for many people living with chronic pain. But sometimes, it is not so much the feeling of being alone as it is the feeling of not belonging – belonging to a group, family, church, or workplace team.

When we struggle with ongoing and often severe pain, we sometimes compartmentalize our thoughts and feelings, perhaps fearful that, if we fully realized all that the pain is, we might completely fall apart. So, we push the pain back, into the farthest corner or our minds. Or, we put on a “happy face,” and assure others around us that, “No, I’m fine, really,” when, in fact, we’re not.  This kind of thinking, over time can make us even more isolated, as if we’re being “false” to our situation and, thus, to others. And this, in turn, can distance us even more from those around us and from the very groups to which we do, indeed, belong. Of course, physical barriers to belonging can exist, too, as impediments to participation.

So, how can people with chronic pain feel more like they belong and, thus, be able to benefit from compassion and companionship – and contribute their own gifts, too?

It’s very important to communicate to people what your particular limitations are and, often, your fears about belonging with a group, familial or otherwise. If mobility is a problem, explain what accommodations can make your involvement easier. If timing is an issue (for example, travel over the holidays to join family members), get creative with other ways of participating or scheduling events.

I’ve found that, if I’m overwhelmed by a large group or a big, new “world,” I try to focus in on one instead of many. Meet one  new person, find out one new thing, make one, even small, contribution. If it’s a Web-based group, with multiple topics shooting back and forth among the members, focus on one topic instead of all, and try to have a meaningful interchange with that subject alone.

If my attempts to contribute and feel a sense of belonging and acceptance seem not to take root, well, I usually conclude that the group/activity/place is probably not my cup of tea. Yup, sometimes, you have to close one door to open another – and really walk into a welcome!

Everyone, to some extent, wishes to belong to something, whether it is a social group, a more formally organized group, or even a neighborhood or home-based structure. For those of us with chronic pain, creating that sense of belonging can be difficult, but by no means impossible – if we take the initiative, one step and one person at a time.

Blessings for the day,

Maureen

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