3 Lessons I’ve Learned From Chronic Pain

When most people hear the words “chronic pain”, they may think of a variety of different things: maybe a middle-aged man with back problems, or one of those cheesy yet oddly depressing commercials with the father of three playing frisbee with his dog. But whatever first comes to mind, it certainly isn’t a teenager. While it may be surprising to many people, pain disorders can come in people of all shapes and sizes. Over the last few months, I’ve had an experience of my own with chronic pain. And while it has been overwhelmingly difficult at times, it has taught me some incredibly important lessons about how to stay afloat in our hectic world. Here are some of the things my pain has helped me understand; lessons I truly believe that everyone needs to learn:

Be kind to people

The number of people who knock into me in the hallways, who kick my crutches out from under me without apologizing and who look away when I need a seat on the subway still amazes me, even after all this time.

My chronic pain was taken away any innocent optimism I had for our world. It has forced me to see how our society denies basic human decency to the people who need it most. And that is not acceptable.

We are currently in a time in our history where we need each other, where we need to take care of the people around us and take a minute to empathize. And how can we do that without basic human kindness?

Everyone has their own problems. Every single person you see is dealing with their own troubles, just like you or the people you love are. But instead of judging them for their personal life, let’s start recognizing each other’s issues and build habits of gratitude and empathy in our culture. And the best part about being nice? It is so easy! You can start by smiling, or simply nodding at people you see on the street, And who knows? You may even make a new friend.

Everyone needs a step back from life every once and awhile

This. Is. So. Important. Everything and everyone needs a break sometimes, and it is incredibly unrealistic to think of yourself as the exception. If you cannot get out of bed in the morning, then don’t. If you need to take a day off to maintain your mental health, then do. Talk to a friend, loved one or mentor about your mental state. If there is something that is truly keeping you from being your best, most happy self, don’t feel obligated to do it. Just remember that everyone, yes everyone, sometimes needs to step back from their everyday lives and just love themselves.

Gratitude = Happiness

The world kind of sucks sometimes. I get it. Sometimes it feels like there is nothing to be grateful for; like the bad outweighs the good. But if we go through life acting like the world is ending, like the only goal of our day is to merely get through it, then the world is going to suck even more. In order to start loving life, we have to start looking for things to love. So yes. Enjoy the little moments in life. Thank your adoring family, your most loyal friends and most patient mentors for everything they do for you. They truly deserve it. Most importantly: be grateful for yourself. Instead of using your inner critic to scrutinize yourself after a poor grade or an awkward interaction, be as kind to yourself as you would to a grandparent, younger sibling or close friend. Find the perfect imperfections in your life and in yourself. I promise you, there are so many.

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Lucia Barnum
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Lucia is a 15-year-old from Berkeley, California. She has loved writing and reading newspapers ever since she was little, and finds it very fitting that her love of journalism has led her to where she is today. Find her on Instagram @lucybarnum or on Twitter @luciabarnum

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