BOOK REVIEW: The Pain Companion
I just finished reading a FANTASTIC BOOK called "The Pain Companion," By Sarah Anne Shockley. Sarah provides an honest view into dealing and living with pain in a way that many others don't. She is open and honest about what living with chronic, daily pain is like, even sharing how bad her quality of life got for awhile. When many people would only share that "perfect" viewpoint that makes living with pain look easy. Which anyone who lives with any kind of chronic pain knows is simply not the case. Throughout my reading I made so many notes of agreement or simply wrote YES in the margins, rather than highlighting a whole paragraph! Because what she said was so true and so valid. By reading this book, it made me stop and look at the way I deal with, and live with my chronic pain. I was able to take away so much at the end of the book and plan to put some of the meditation techniques she talks about (in section 3) into practice in my own life.As stated by Dr. Bernie S. Siegel in the foreword of the book, "Sarah Anne Shockley learned about pain that he hard way, by experiencing it and by being incapacitated by it. But she met the pain, and she worked with the pain, and she is offering you the benefit of her experience in this helpful, gentle book." Sarah divided her book into 4 sections: Part 1: The Pain Moves In. Part 2: The Emotional Life of Chronic Pain. Part 3: Meditative Approaches to Physical Pain, and the last section Part 4: When Pain is The Teacher.
In part 1 which she calls "The Pain Moves In," Sarah talks about how a person feels in those moments when they start living with chronic pain. She also openly discusses the source of her pain along with things she tried to combat it. That being said I think Sarah truly said it best when she stated "At first, I thought everything was about to get better, and I would simply rejoin my life where I'd left off. I had always healed before. Always!" I think that is how all of us who battle or have battled chronic pain felt when it started. Oh, this will just be like anything else, it too shall pass. You just want to think that maybe a few days off, a massage or maybe even some physical therapy will be all you need to get rid of your pain. Sadly, for many of us that's not the case. The pain we feel today will be the pain we deal with consistently for much of our future without some type of cure. When it sets in that this may not be a small injury like back when you were a teenager or were back in your twenties. That brings up a whole new set of emotions and feels that have to be dealt with when you have to face what may be in your future. Which Sarah talks about in the next section, part 2.
Part 2 is entitled, The Emotional Life of Chronic Pain, which to me couldn't be more fitting. Because living with chronic pain isn't just about the physical pain that we feel on a daily basis. There are so many other aspects that have to be dealt with. Other things that people who haven't fought chronic pain wouldn't ever begin to understand, or so we think. But sadly, these are the kinds of topics and feelings that most who suffer from any kind of chronic pain don't feel comfortable talking about. Mainly because of the way they think they will be judged. In the second portion of the book Sarah takes time to address the difficult emotions that come along with living in chronic pain and then provides suggestions on things that can be done to help relieve those feelings. One thing she discussed in this section of the book that really made me think about my own life was on page 36, she discusses how we need to stop making others feel better because they can't make us physically better. That really struck a chord with me because I am VERY guilty of doing that. And now that I am aware of the problem I can use some of the steps to try to fix that issue within myself. And truth be told, most of the issues that she talks about in this section I do, or have done at some point in the years I have been dealing with chronic pain. But really did not realize it until reading Sarah's work. At the end of each chapter in this section she provides you with a summary or take away, which I found to be so VERY Helpful.
Moving on to Part 3, which is called, Meditative Approaches to Physical Pain. As I skimmed through the book before actually sitting down to read it, I assumed that this would be the part that I would have the hardest time with. Because I've never really understood meditation. But truthfully that wasn't the case at all. Sarah doesn't jump right into meditation, instead she goes through a series of activities first. Like discovering your pains purpose, or finding a new approach, which takes your through and makes you see why the body has pain as well as taking a lot at the approach we are currently using to deal with pain. After that then she goes through several meditation activities that are really very clear and easy to understand and simple to do. I tried several of them as I was reading and I feel like they are things that I will be implementing into my daily life as I deal with my own chronic pain. One for instance was to focus on your breathing when you are really hurting. Trying to make sure that you are not always holding your breath. Which is common, that's the first thing most of us do when we start hurting. It's like we think if we don't breath we won't hurt as bad. But now that I did that exercise and I'm aware of my breathing patterns I can carry that forward to help deal with my pain daily!
In the last section of the book, Part 4: When Pain is The Teacher, Sarah is vert straight to the point. One thing I had underlined was this, "Pain is present in your body for a reason. Instead of trying to get rid of something that is currently an unpleasant part of your experience, it works better to acknowledge the fact that pain is part of your reality at the moment, and then to work to transform and transmute the experience." I couldn't have said it better myself. But it has taken me many years to get to a point where I can agree with what she says. But I agree resisting the pain is going to get you nowhere, you have to come to a point of acceptance so you are able to deal with it and move on.
I can't honestly say enough good things about this book and of course its author. I think what makes it so good and so easy to relate to is the fact that it was written by someone who has dealt with a lot of chronic pain in her own life. A person who has not ever lived through chronic pain will never be able to truly relate to someone who has. I will end on this, my favorite piece from the whole book Sarah says, "Having compassion for yourself means allowing yourself to feel the deep emotions that arise from living in pain and, once you have acknowledged and felt them fully, to let them go." I will be highly recommending this to all the people I know who deal with chronic pain, as well as anyone who lives with people who have chronic pain.
*You can Find The Pain Companion on Amazon for purchase.
I want to take a moment to thank Sarah Shockley, Kim Corbin & The Chronic Illness Bloggers for allowing me to review this book. Thank you All!