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What Chronic Pain Taught Me About Therapy

It all happened at home, when I was laying on my yoga mat. I just did my yoga routine…at home. Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined that I would have enough self-motivation to do yoga alone at home, and not in some kind of class.

As I lay there, I was trying to figure out…how did I get here? Three years ago, I was basically spending all my money on physiotherapy, chiropractic, acupuncture, and massages. I could no longer ignore my body pains, and I needed to fix it.

But even then, I wasn’t truly being honest with myself. I knew I had pain. I knew I needed to take care of my body. Yet, despite all that, I didn’t make any changes to my day-to-day routine. Chiro prescribed exercises? I’ll get to it…eventually. Maybe. Or maybe I’ll just book a session with the doc and have them fix me.

I told myself that the pain will eventually go away. I just have to keep seeing all these specialists. Two years passed. My body was still in pain, and getting worse.

I remember sitting down to journal, in an attempt to finally be brutally honest with myself. I have chronic pain. I didn’t want to admit to it. It seems like this is something an older person would have, not me. But I had to be truly honest with myself. I have chronic pain. I have chronic pain. I HAVE CHRONIC PAIN! And the pain persists because I refused to change my lifestyle in ways that can allow me to live a healthy, painless life.

Therapy Requires a Blood Sacrifice

You think you know who you are. But you don’t. This is actually quite common for someone who is struggling with mental health. You’re actually way more powerful than what you believe. But somewhere along the way, you were told to hide and block your true powerful self.

Sometimes, life has beaten us down so thoroughly, we feel like things will never get better. That we will never feel better. We start believing that it is better to feel hopeless, than to have our hopes crushed yet again.

This learned helplessness mindset kept me from making the lifestyle change I needed to heal my chronic pain. A part of me really wanted to do the work to change my lifestyle. But there was a stronger part of me that is afraid of having my hopes crushed again. It preferred the less painful route of not engaging in hope.

To appease the part of me that wants to change my lifestyle, I half-assed my healing. I did the bare minimum of seeing health professionals, so I can tell myself that I tried, and it didn't work. Then, I can sink back into my feelings of helplessness, and the inevitability of pain.

To regain hope, a blood sacrifice needs to be made. We need to learn to give up the narrative that feeling hopeless is the safer option. But this is hard, because throughout your whole life, you’ve only ever had evidence that life is hopeless.

But it is possible. But there is a cost to it. You have to slowly overhaul your life. Because part of what contributes to our inability to change is our thought patterns and responses, and our daily routines.

But the good news is, we can start small. By taking small “risks” to change small things, you will slowly see small results. And these results will start compounding. As these changes happen, you’ll slowly rebuild your sense of hope. Like a muscle, your sense of hope will slowly get stronger, as you keep working on it.

Committing to Hope, Committing to Yoga

Six months ago, I made the metaphorical leap of faith…or leap of HOPE. I finally paid for a gym membership (I was willing to pay thousands to health professionals, but scrooge over a gym membership). I started doing yoga every Sunday at the gym. Then, I started doing it Sundays and Thursdays. I moved things around in my schedule to make this happen.

One month ago, my schedule changed that paused my Sunday yoga practice. So I started doing yoga at home to replace it.

I also started working out, to strengthen my body. And anyone who knows me, knows how much I loathe weight training. But as I started doing it, I started enjoying it. And I was seeing improvements. I was feeling less pain. My body felt stronger. And it also felt nice to flex my gains in the mirror.

My next step is to rekindle my love for sports. I want to get back into basketball, and back into badminton.

These changes were small, slow and gradual. As I kept at it, I started to believe that my body pain is something within my control. And I started feeling the hope that my pain would go away one day. (Or at least be episodic, rather than chronic. Cause our bodies aging is a reality we can’t change.)

So how about you? What would be the first thing you want to start doing or stop doing? How will you take back control, and grow your “hope muscle?”

As always, thanks for tuning in. If you found this helpful, share with your peeps. You can also get my free Asian Survival Guide.

Ready to change your life? Schedule a free consultation and let's get started!

Harry Au

Therapy for Asians

MSW, RSW | he/him

I help Asians go from feeling trapped to becoming self-liberated.

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