Chronic Pain & Attitude Gain

I have an incurable disease.  It causes me pain every single day, which totally sucks. When I was diagnosed with Interstitial Cystitis in 2006, the doctor looked across his desk at me and said, “The good news, Tracy, is that no one has ever died from this disease.”  Gee, thanks.  I’m told I have to live with chronic pain for the rest of my life. There are mornings I can barely get out of bed as a result of the poor night’s sleep this condition causes, and throughout the day I often feel like crap.  (This is where I apologize for using the words suck and crap, but it really can’t be avoided in this post.)

I have learned a valuable lesson over the last five years of living with this disease, and I hope you can apply it to your life.  I am not sharing this struggle because I want sympathy, nor is it my intention to make this about me.  It is something I rarely discuss and very few people in my life even know about it.  Like I said in my post The Reality of Death Should Change You, I want to live as though I have no problems, and instead live to help others with theirs.

As I go about my daily activities, I am in pain.  But the thing about it is that nobody else knows.  It’s not like I have a sign on my head that says, “I’m hurting even though you can’t tell by looking at me.”  Anyone who has experienced chronic pain knows that it’s exhausting.  It drains you of patience, basic coping skills, and sometimes you’re just plain bitchy (like I said, this subject requires certain words to be accurately painted).  But what I’ve realized is that people all around me are dealing with physical or emotional pain.  They have suffered a death in the family, been abused as a child, or lost a job.  They have lupus.  Miscarriages.  Their dog died. They failed a test.  Can’t pay their rent.  The list is endless. People are in pain and they don’t have a sign on their back to explain why.

My attitude and how I respond to others has changed as a result of this realization.  In my encounters with people I pretend I can see the sign that announces they are in some kind of pain.  When someone is rude for no apparent reason or unpleasant in general, I make every effort to be nice.  Instead of being mean in return, offer an encouraging word or smile. Whether it’s a friend or stranger you never know what kind of pain people are in. Give them the benefit of the doubt.  Be kind to others in all circumstances; even when they complain, yell, or flip you the bird in traffic.  Stop judging other people’s behavior and focus on your own.  They may not deserve it, but it’s the right thing to do. It’s harder to be nice unconditionally than it is to love unconditionally. However once you view the other person as someone in pain, it’s easier than you might think.

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About Time with Tracy

Busy mother of two, kickboxing addict, and clotheshorse. I play basketball and wear stilettos, not necessarily at the same time. I love coffee, red wine & a medium rare steak. My primary focus in life is to serve and encourage others. I'm a nerd with blonde hair and a southern accent. Nine out of ten people are shocked to learn I have a BS in Statistics and Industrial Management from Carnegie Mellon University. I started my career as an IT analyst with a ginormous consulting firm. After dabbling in strategy and business process reengineering, I changed careers to what might be considered insane: teaching teenagers. I taught at a private middle school in Houston, TX where I served as the Math Department Chair and Head Girls Basketball Coach. In 2004 my husband and I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area where I continued to teach until we started a family. During that time I served on the Board of Directors at the Valley Pregnancy Center, where I was passionate about helping women in crisis. Loving people unconditionally is a ridiculously big deal to me. Last year we were thrilled to move back to Texas. I currently work at home in Austin raising our children, sprinkled in with massive amounts of laundry. I'm also a yoga newbie and enjoy mentoring executives for non-profit organizations.
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8 Responses to Chronic Pain & Attitude Gain

  1. heather tucker says:

    love it… we have such similar hearts =)

  2. Heidi Brandow says:

    Great post, Tracy. It brings to mind one of my favorite sayings: Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle. Which comes from both James M. Barrie & Plato. I guess that puts you in some pretty good company; and, from where I sit, that seems just about right. Thanks for sharing; I needed this.

  3. Barbara Massa says:

    So much of this post resonated with me. I absolutely love the takeaways here…. Stop judging other people’s behavior and focus on your own. That’s pretty good one. Imagine if everyone actually did that?.. Powerful and so so so simple. When someone offers you negativity offer them a smile…. You never know what they are dealing with at that very point in time. Good stuff Trace!!

  4. Robert Taylor says:

    I like this post, and this philosophy. I think I do a pretty good job of approaching everyone with kindness, but I could use some work when they don’t return that kindness, and lash out (I tend to “defend” myself). I need to take some of this to heart, and realize that sometimes they are just reacting because of OTHER things that are going on in their lives, and not just the “situation at hand”.

    Thanks for the perspective (again), and I’m sorry to learn of your struggle. I hope that some sort of cure is found soon…

  5. Gilbert Valentine says:

    Amen.
    What a unique perspective.
    I noticed on your profile that you are a SF Giants fan. Well I’m a Cubs fan, as is my nine year old son and five year old daughter.
    We understand pain.

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