You’ve heard of resting bitch face, right? Well, I’m launching an awareness campaign for Resting Pain Face™ (RPF) because September is Pain Awareness Month.
One of the truly suck-ass things about having fibromyalgia and other chronic-pain-causing illnesses is that they increase your risk of unwittingly displaying pinched facial expressions. I catch myself doing this all the time.
I’ll lie down at night and realize that instead of letting my eyelids gently fall, I’m squinting with my eyes already forced shut — that’s like double squinting.
Anyway, it’s bad because I’m giving myself headaches or exacerbating existing headaches on top of whatever pain I’m feeling in the rest of my body.
One of the most effective tools I have for combating RPF is meditation. But if you’ve ever tried meditating (even while healthy) you know it sounds a whole lot easier in theory than it is to actually practice.
A key concept of using meditation for pain management is leaning in or accepting or welcoming pain. I know. It sounds insane, but the idea is that when we fight or react to our chronic pain, we actually intensify the pain sensations. I 100% and wholeheartedly subscribe to this theory.
But let my give the pain-free folks out there a little analogy, lest someone start saying nonchalantly to The Pained “Have you tried meditating?”
Imagine that you’re experiencing pain because you burned your finger on the inside of a 450-degree oven door. The laws of meditation for pain relief state that in order to free your finger from the pain, you need to lean in, accept, or welcome the pain. It’s a bit like holding your finger to the oven door instead of pulling away. It’s next to impossible to do because it’s not fucking natural.
You see, the body instinctively winces, pinches, and fights to pull away from all kinds of pain. And when those reflexes become chronic because the pain is chronic, plenty of muscles tense and flex. And then the muscles just fucking stay that way because the pain is internal and there’s nothing to jerk away from, causing more pain and extreme fatigue. (Don’t believe me? Try flexing your bicep for two years without a break and let me know how things go for you. Next try flexing every muscle in your body for two years.)
I’m not trying to be Debbie Downer about the whole thing though. As I said, meditation is one of the most effective tools I can currently access for pain relief. If you’re a fellow sufferer, I recommend guided meditation. Someone gently whispering in your ear to exhale, relax your toes, or sink into your bed makes for a pleasant distraction that kind of tricks you into becoming more accepting of the primary source of your pain. The more you meditate, the better.
I recommend the Calm app, and nobody paid me to say so. You can also try Calm in your browser.