What Does it Mean to be in Pain?

What does it mean to be in pain?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. In the past, I’ve equated pain with the physical body almost exclusively. But my definition of it has been expanding lately to include emotional, mental, and spiritual pain as well.

Including emotional, mental, and spiritual pain started as I began studying to become a Certified Transformational Nutrition Coach. As I came to understand the importance of looking at the body and health and wellness from the perspective of mind, body, and spirit, I couldn’t help but start to wonder how my definition of pain needed to shift.

And almost as if God/Goddess/Source/Universe (whatever you want to call it) knew I was ready for a major life lesson, a heaping, mounding, huge explosion of emotional, mental, and spiritual pain landed right in my lap.

My mom died last fall. The emotional, mental, and spiritual pain that came along with her dying process and her death were not something I could have ever prepared for. It’s crushing and most certainly affected my overall health and wellness. I didn’t sleep well. I ate like crap. I gained weight. I wasn’t really working out. My self-care went down the drain. My ability to take care for my physical body and my physical pain was completely overwhelmed by the emotional, mental, and spiritual pain (anguish, even) I experienced.

Then there was more.

Five weeks after my mom passed, my little brother Logan had a terrible skydiving accident and badly broke his back. He was in Arizona at the time (he lives in Virginia) and so several of us hopped on a plane that very same day to fly to Arizona to be with him. His accident was in mid-November. I didn’t return home until the first week of January.

Again, the emotional, mental, and spiritual pain of the situation was all-consuming. Logan is extremely lucky his accident wasn’t worse and that he’s doing so incredibly well now eight months out. The fact that he survived the accident at all is miraculous. The fact that he made it through multiple life-threatening complications, three major surgeries, and nine days intubated and heavily sedated is, again, miraculous. The fact that he’s 100% independent and learning how to walk again (he’s a paraplegic) is most certainly miraculous.

And you guessed it - during those months in Arizona my physical health and wellness took a major hit as did my emotional, mental, and spiritual health and wellness.

In some ways, I’m still reeling from these two major life events - still grieving the death of my mother (which I know I’ll always be doing to some extent) and still trying to wrap my mind around all that’s changed in Logan’s life (and all of ours as those who love and support him).

I say all of this to make this point - pain comes in many forms and all of them are completely valid and need help and support. All of them require that we do our best to look at ourselves as holistically as possible and to care for ourselves in a multi-faceted way. It’s not enough just to eat well, or to exercise, or to meditate, or to seek counseling. We have to think about incorporating all sorts of tactics for our overall health and wellness. Tactics that nurture us mind, body, and spirit. I really believe that learning how to do this, how to find a balance in life when it comes to caring for all parts of ourselves, is our mission as human beings. No part can be overlooked. Seems a bit overwhelming, but I’m up to the task. For me and for my clients!

Annie Svensen