Story by: Pala Margret Gunnarsdottir, Mar. 26, 2019
I heard somewhere that "pain is weakness leaving the body,"
At first it sounds brutal, so brutal.
To me it is true. It is true because I have experienced it. Experienced it in my muscles, in my bones, in my skin – and most importantly, in my mind.
I spent about quarter of my life in pain.
For many years, I suffered the pain of fibromyalgia.
And yes, I truly suffered.
The pain changed me. It started when I was a teen as pain in my legs and slowly began to overtake my whole body. Because of the pain, I had to stop swimming. And slowly, it also became painful when I stayed still. I could not sit comfortably. I could not relax when going to sleep at night. I could not party with my friends, because going to bed late would cause a wave of pain for the next couple of weeks. I could not live fully. I could not enjoy my life.
My life was dictated by pain.
Beyond the purely physical discomfort, it also had horrible psychological effects, as it was undiagnosed, unmeasurable and for years called “growth pain”. A few years in, it was diagnosed as fibromyalgia. However, in my case it was a diagnosis for something that could neither be described nor measured. It was a little relieving though, simply getting a term I could say to other people instead of telling my whole story every time.
And I, being a positive and optimistic person, was slowly immersed in pain that stopped me from doing so much. And still, wanting to stay strong, I kept saying that everything was okay.
Everything was NOT okay!
I tried to battle my pain and my body. By pretending everything was alright. By putting on a play. By resisting the pain. By trying to manipulate my pain. By exercising to feel better. The day after a crazy exercise I would get a moment of relief, where the soreness from my muscles would cover up the other pain. The most important thing though was that the pain from the sore muscles was a clear consequence from my exercise (a.k.a. diagnosable!). It was describable (something that most people had experienced as well) and it was treatable. It was everything that the other pain wasn't.
But no matter what I tried, the pain kept getting worse. I was stuck in a downward spiral.
After reaching my absolute lowest dark and desperate point I finally got the help I needed from a wonderful healer. She had herself had battled cancer and possessed so much strength, joy and beauty.
The first time we met, she made it clear that there would be no help in either of us feeling sorry for my situation. Pity would get us nowhere.
And even though it was said with so much kindness, it felt like a slap in a face.
However, it was a slap I needed to wake up from this nightmare.
For years, people had felt sorry for me and for the pain that I had endured. Most of all I felt sorry for myself.
She did not give me that pleasure and it was the greatest gift she could have given me.
After that meeting I went home with a newfound hope. A feeling that I hadn't felt in so long, a feeling that my downward spiral was indeed starting to slowly spiral upwards.
She told me that the only way she got over her cancer was deciding that the cancer was her responsibility, that she had indeed decided to get cancer to be able to learn and grow.
Even though I thought this sounded bizarre, I liked the idea.
Still, a few years passed before I could learn to accept this as my own truth. That is, that I had invited the pain in, because it would teach me so much.
By making it my own decision, I also received the responsibility and the opportunity to change it. I was in charge now. And just like that, my self-pity was gone.
I am the person I am today because of the pain. Without it, I would have kept treating my body badly, eating whatever my taste buds wanted and moving little to nothing.
Without the pain, it would have been so simple to keep being the person I was.
It would have been so much easier.
Because no matter what, change is extremely hard! And without the pain, there would have been no reason to change.
With the experience of the pain, I am the new me. The one I love so much.
With the pain, I turned to yoga.
With the pain, I experimented until I found the diet and routine that would heal me.
With the pain, I found the need to move away, let go of all the rules, and love my life for just a few months.
And I continued doing yoga, slowly without the pain.
Without the pain, I went to my yoga teacher training.
Without the pain, I completed the most difficult and transforming month of my life.
And by that, after finally making friends with my body, I proved that by cooperating, my body and I are capable together of everything we set our mind to.
The pain shaped me. The years I lived with it had an immense effect on me.
What shaped me the most though, were the years when I took control over my life and transformed it.
The years when I started living beside the pain.
And then, the year I started living without the pain.
With the pain, I let go of my weakness, my fears, my doubts and my perfectionism.
And it created space for joy, gratitude and love.
With the pain, I learned how to love. I learned that with enough love, healing was possible.
And once I saw that, I learned that love was the only way to live.