Can Pain Make You a Better Person?

I was texting with my Dad’s fiance the other day and she mentioned my “accepting, easy way”. I had to re-read the text, and wondered for a just a moment if she thought she was texting someone else. Then I started laughing. She’s only known me AP (after pain). My entire life is divided quite clearly by the massive herniated cervical disc I suffered in January 2009. The before pain (BP) Angie is evidently a lot different from the AP Angie. And, oddly, I think the AP Angie is probably more easy-going, more accepting of others, and generally a nicer person to be around. Weird, huh?

I’m in constant pain, I can’t live anything close to what I used to consider a normal life, and my future, physically and financially, is completely unknown. But I’ve had to learn to slow down, to prioritize, and to appreciate the people in my life who care about me. I am unable to multi-task, so every task and every conversation has my full attention. I have been humbled in so many ways, so I never take what I have for granted. I still get frustrated, and I still try to push myself harder than I should (and then pay the price for days), but no longer do I run around like a crazy woman, doing ten (mostly unnecessary) things at once and making snap decisions about important matters. And although there are still people who annoy me, I try my best to be respectful of them, because I don’t know what hidden battles they might be fighting.  Only those closest to me can tell if my pain is worse than usual, or that I’m in pain at all.

Losing my job a little over a year ago was such an unexpected and crushing blow to my self-esteem, and I think that has made me more sensitive to the sadness of those around me.  I was always a “push through it” sort of person until I hit a wall I simply couldn’t push through, and in my own suffering I found a compassion for others that may have been lacking before.  I’m sure there’s a quote or scripture somewhere about good things coming from bad experiences, but I’m too tired to search for it right now.  And you know what?  That’s okay.  If I wake up tomorrow pain-free I’ll hunt for it, and then start my job search.  If I wake up in pain (as usual), at least I’ll know what I’ve been through has changed me, and not all the changes are bad.

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12 thoughts on “Can Pain Make You a Better Person?”

    1. Everyone underestimates the effect stress has on our bodies, but it’s profound. I’m so sorry for your loss – try to make time to appreciate yourself, to love yourself the way your dad and sister would if they were still with you. You are in my prayers.

  1. I think this is brave and incredibly insightful. There’s no great loss without some small gain, I’ve always heard. I cannot imagine what this has been like for you, and I cannot begin to imagine your struggles, but I respect and admire how you’ve handled it – which is with grace and humor.

  2. I’m on my 2nd round of losing my job due to budgets or whatever the “Excuses” might be and I feel also that its made me more aware and sensitive to others. I had a friend who’s husband was in the same boat I am, and he got a job, and now its like my situation doesn’t even register anymore because that’s not them anymore. Shouldn’t matter, you should always be there and aware all the time.

    Stopping by from Shell’s PYHO 🙂

    1. So true! I try to never forget the tough times in my life – the starving student years, the working full time with a baby who won’t sleep years, and all that I’ve gone through during the past few years. If you forget the bad times then you can’t be a true friend when someone else is suffering because you lose your empathy.

  3. I found your blog through PYHO and so glad I did! I live with chronic pain and chronic illness as well. I know all to well how pain and sickness can change you and you are absolutely right that not all of the changes are bad! I now know not to take any day of life for granted and to relish the little things that in the end mean the most!

  4. Beautifully written, Angie. You are in my thoughts so much of the time and I have not done a good job of letting you know that. I will try to stop by the blog more often, but if I don’t make it, please know you having caring thoughts and prayers from Wisconsin.

  5. It is all about prioritization. In situations like yours you learn what is worth stressing about and what it not. It is sad that it takes on starving to learn the value of food but often it does. I do not know why humans are like that but we are.

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