Lessons Learned in Life
by Erica Sobel, LCSW
(Nyack, NY, USA)
The valuable lessons I've learned from pain
The lessons I have learned... from pain...
"I've learned more from pain than I could've ever learned from pleasure."
This statement couldn't be more true. I wish I could say that all the lessons I've learned have been painless (no pun intended!), but that would be a lie. Regardless, most lessons we learn in our lives comes from our greatest struggles. Here are some of the things I have learned along the way while I have struggled with migraines and physical pain:
The people who were by my side at my best were usually the ones who dropped out quickly from my life at my worst.
Those who I partied and laughed with do not include me in outings anymore for what I believe is fear that I will "bring them down" or remind them that no one is immune to life-changing conditions.
At my worst, I have gained friendships and support from those I never knew before or knew in a very different part of my life, such as old acquaintances from high school and college or online support groups with individuals I would never have encountered in my old, healthy life. These individuals have been my saviors in every way and I hope to meet all of them one day to say thank you.
I used to get very irritated by those who would call, text, or write me on social media making suggestions on how to make my chronic pain dissipate. Even though at times the suggestions still bother me, mostly because they have already been tried, I realize that these individuals actually cared enough to want to help. This is much better than being ignored or shunned altogether. So I welcome remarks from others for that is far better than no remarks at all.
Pain has taught me to stay in the moment, rather than always running toward the next challenge or achievement, rather than trying to "Keep up with the Joneses" like I see many of my friends trying to do. When you are knocked down with pain, you have no other choice but to stop everything you are doing and just be. Although I wish to someday have the ability to stay in the moment when I feel good, pain has shown me how to "stop and smell the roses", so to speak.
Pain has shown me a very big lesson about what is important in life... in my pre-migraine life, the things that appeared important were monetarily driven: working toward having nice "things" and spending money to go to nice "places". Now, I have learned that no amount of money can buy what is really essential: love, friendship, family, health, compassion.
Pain has taught me that without your health, you have nothing else... nothing. Until you lose this yourself, you will never learn this lesson.
I have learned that it can always be better, but it most certainly could always be worse. I hear people on a daily basis complain about what I call "first world problems"... what color to dye their hair, stress around what furniture to buy for their new house, anxiety around planning a wedding. As a therapist, I am a strong believer in "any stress, whether positive or negative, is stress nonetheless", but I have become sensitive to the fact that if a "first world problem" is not resolved, your life isn't over!
Pain has taught me a valuable lesson in my interpersonal relationships: before I believed that trust was something to give away freely to anyone (the old innocent until proven guilty scenario), and it was only to be taken away if I was hurt in some way. Now, trust needs to be earned, and you have to participate in a relationship to maintain... not just "be". Life is a reciprocal journey.
Although this one will probably be a work in progress for the rest of my life, pain has taught me that you have to put yourself FIRST before anyone else. Pain screams at you in the face, pain reminds you of its presence with every move you make, pain is constantly there to say "hey, while I'm around, you can't do anything else". Pain is there to tell you that until you take care of you, no one else will be helped in the way you want to help them.
And finally, the greatest lesson I have learned from pain:
"Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we'll ever do". Brene Brown