October 30, 2020

Life Satisfaction and Chronic Pain

Some would say I do not have much of a life. That it is small. Limited. I have fibromyalgia, chronic daily migraine with aura, and chronic dizziness and vertigo. Among the other random comorbids. It is true that I cannot function for much of the day. That my energy is limited severely. However, how I cope is to find a semblance of a life within my limitations that create meaning and purpose for me. 

My chronic pain story tale of woe is a hard one. How it had broken me. How it has taken my career. Sucked away my social life. Broken my self-worth and sense of self. And made me feel like a failure. Not how I recovered from that. It gives us a lot of resiliency for the adversity that we have a lot of experience with. However, we know suffering is universal as well.

Often we are told, like everyone, we should be on a Quest for Happiness. Get on that Happiness train and everything will be fine. And that means always being Positive.

Pursuit of happiness

Here is the thing. The more you think things make you happy the more you want. The more you want the more you need to be happy. And then you are never happy because you are always lacking... something. If only This… I’d be happy. If only THIS… I’d be happy.

And so on for infinity and that state of permanent happiness never happens. You're always striving for more and more and more and more. Happiness is never this thing you attain out there. To be gathered up and consumed like a yummy cookie. And once you have it... it doesn't ever go away. Happiness comes from within from the things we do and the people we interact with. 

Positivity

That is where we get this whole 'positivity' life philosophies. If you're just more Positive then you can basically make yourself happy. But we know this doesn't actually work. In fact, it tends to have the opposite effect. We try to be overtly positive and then feel like we fail to meet this unattainable standard. We feel ashamed, guilty, worthless. We feel worse. Why can't we just be positive? Happy? The fact is, realistic thoughts are far more likely to get you further in dealing and coping with life. And with negative emotions as well. We can deal with negative thoughts by replacing them with more realistic thoughts. Not some fluffy positive unrealistic floof that is just false. Chronic illness

Chronic illness knocks us right off the pursuit of happiness train everyone else is on. We may fight to stay on it but soon we realize it just doesn't quite work. It just doesn't actually make us happy... ever. It makes us feel worse because unlike others always striving for more and more... we can't. We have limitations and we have to pace and we can't. So then we feel like a piece of crap. Here is something I learned from depression and from having chronic pain that has caused me a great deal of suffering for the majority of my life:

  1. Contentment with life is valuable
  2. Being grateful for what you have is vital
  3. Overall well-being should never be underestimated
  4. Life will smack you down and it is how you respond that matters
  5. Seek that which brings you gleams of sunshine. Activities, hobbies, and people that bring you happiness in this life. More moments is the aim, not a 'state of being of happiness'
  6. Pain and suffering lead to learning, change, and motivates you. Sucks. But it is true. (just constant pain is sucky in a way that sort of skews this)
  7. Not everything is possible. We can be limited by many things. We have to find contentment and joys within our limitations.
  8. Contentment and acceptance don’t mean one does not strive for more. We always strive for more well-being. More time with friends and family. More things that Matter to us. Not more stuff.

Life is like a rainbow of emotional states and at the end of the rainbow isn’t emotional bliss. Maybe acceptance or contentment or emotional satisfaction.

Mood and Life Satisfaction

Being happy in the moment isn’t this ultimate happiness the happy train people seek. So what do we mean? What is this true happiness, anyway? Well, Mood is not Life Satisfaction. And life satisfaction is what they Mean, even if they seek it the wrong way. To mistake the two is how we end up on the Quest of Ultimate Happiness. Happiness is a mood in the moment, in your life. And we can encourage it to be welcome more often, yes. But it is not Life Satisfaction. Life satisfaction is about being happy About Your Life

LIFE SATISFACTION HAS TO DO WITH ARE WE:

  • Satisfied with who we are as a person? (self-esteem)
  • Do we have a good sense of self-identity and value who we are?
  • Do we feel like we contribute to society, or our family, or our personal lives in a way we value? (productive in a way that we value)
  • Do we feel like we contribute a positive experience to those around us- family, friends, co-workers? (positive social relationships)
  • Do we fear the future? Or look forward to it? Prepared for it? (sense of control)
  • How is our overall mental, physical, and mental wellbeing?
  • How is our quality of life?
  • Do you feel there is meaning or purpose to your life?

So what do we do to improve our life satisfaction?

  1. Socialization- having friends increases our life satisfaction
  2. Goals- We all have to have something we are aiming for and goals increase our life satisfaction.
  3. Our story- What Meaning we create from our own past story can affect our life satisfaction
  4. Growth- The factor I consider the most important is welcoming growth in our viewpoints, behaviours and perceptions as well as to be open to learning new things have greater life satisfaction levels

I, like everyone, want more life satisfaction being disabled. It’s difficult when I have become limited in my choices in this life. Having to have made sacrifices. Having to have made compromises. Having to give up my career. We feel the lack in our lives keenly. So we have to work a little more on life satisfaction but I think This, my friends, is a worthy goal for us to strive for.

Written by: Nikki Albert


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