March 28, 2021

Lauren Galli

Galli Gripes: Life Lessons Learned From Chronic Pain

chronic pain

It is said that humans grow most during times of adversity. Since the official declaration of a global pandemic, life certainly brought us plenty of adversity, which some people have embraced as opportunities for growth and change.

Before COVID-19, I was no stranger to adversity; I have been struggling with injury-related chronic (sometimes excruciating) back pain for several years. In the last #Strella blog post, in which Rachel discusses a very personal challenge that her family is facing, I share about my journey. To say pain can change a person would be a gross understatement.

My back injury forced me to be a different person. Three herniated discs, also known as bulging discs, are no joke. When you add in an aggravated sciatic nerve, pain and loss of mobility become an everyday part of life. For many years, I lived with debilitating pain in my lower back and down my right leg and lost the ability to walk. Trust me when I say, you cannot go through something like that and come out on the other side as the same person.

You learn, you grow, and you change. There is no choice in the matter. Here is how I have adapted over the years.

Four Things Pain Has Taught Me About Life

1. Anger is Fleeting

I would love to tell you I am perfectly “Zen,” and nothing ruffles my feathers. But I must be honest; I am a hot-tempered Italian woman. So yes, you can still get a rise out of me. However, I have found that I no longer hold onto anger. I do not spend hours wallowing in self-pity or disdain. Life is far too short. You never know what is going to happen tomorrow. Anger is nothing more than baggage, and I have learned to let it go.

2. Explaining Pain is Impossible

As a writer, I have spent many an hour drawing up euphemisms for pain – both physical and emotional. “A thousand red hot pokers in my temple,” “like an icepick in my head,” and “someone smacking you repeatedly with a hammer” are ways I have used to describe migraine pain. You know what I have figured out? People still don’t get it. Pain is personal and only you know what that feeling is akin to. Do not expect the people around you to fully grasp what you are feeling. They never will, but that does not mean they cannot sympathize or assist you. Your loved ones do not have to feel your pain to help.

3. ASK for Help

I have always been terrible at asking for help, whether financially, professionally, or for anything else. I would rather spin twelve plates on my head than ask someone to help me carry them. What an injury and chronic pain does for this particular affliction is amazing.

You have two options:

  1. Adapt and start doing laundry with a set of 24-inch barbecue tongs, or
  2. Learn to set your self-pride aside

Up until my second back surgery, I was the person who chose option A every time. Yes, my boyfriend caught me scooping laundry from the basket into the washing machine with grill tongs.

When someone has your back and has demonstrated that they are there to help you through hard times, you must learn to trust them. When you are in severe pain and cannot perform your daily responsibilities in the same fashion, it is okay to ask for help. It doesn’t make you weak. It makes you intelligent.

4. Keep Fighting

I wish this was as simple as it sounds. Whether your pain is physical or emotional, you have to keep fighting the good fight. Do everything you can to keep your head above water, even when it feels like you can no longer do it. People do not become fighters by chance; adversity drives them. Consider what you will learn on the other side of your incredible battle.

Just. Keep. Fighting.

Your turn: Have you faced a seemingly insurmountable challenge and found that you’ve grown and improved as the result of that experience? What have you learned?

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