Heart Helps - The Secret to Dealing With Chronic Pain and Related Depression - Part 3
By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady
The Shíma: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27 NIV
ďListen to your heart,Ē a well-meaning person encouraged. When you hurt, there is no shortage of advice.
I tried listening to my heart and things got worse. Iíd had a series of health problems that left me feeling broken. I was only 26 but felt 80. I hurt most of the time. My relationships were struggling. I envied my husbandís life and youthful body. That resentment drained my already floundering emotions, which added to my misery. The misery led to depression which sent me to bed. Staying in bed insured that my damaged body never got the exercise and blood flow it needed to heal. In short, I was stuck in a slimly pit of pain, self-pity, and inactivity. The problem with listening to my heart was that it lied. It whispered nasty things like:
- Eating chips will make you feel better.
- You need to stay in bed.
- Nobody loves you.
- There is no reason to try.
- You will never be happy.
- You will feel bad forever.
- That the pain means you cannot live your life.
These nasty indictments started a chain reaction that seemed impossible to break. Sound familiar? Iíve seen a similar pattern in countless people Iíve met in my missionary journeys across America.
So what can you do? The answer is simple. You stomp your foot at your lying heart and decide that your heartís only job is to love God completely. You combat negative emotions with the word of God.
Heart Help #1
Combat Negative Emotions With Scripture
You can replace every nefarious heart whisper with truth from the word of God. For example, thoughts about eating chips can morph into ďMy body is the temple of the Holy Ghost and doesnít need junk food.Ē Your need to stay in bed can become ďI can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.Ē Feeling unloved evaporates when you read what the Bible says about Godís love for you. When pain threatens to stop you from living, you remind yourself that Jesusí did His greatest work as the world beat him and drove nails into His hands and feet. Read Godís word aloud to every wayward emotion.
Heart Help #2
Abraham Lincoln said that most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. I am still astounded at the power of that statement. When I was sick, hurting, and miserable, I had no idea I could choose happiness. When a mentor suggested it, I grew angry. He issued a two week positive thinking challenge. He instructed that I take two weeks and only allow positive thoughts in my head. He said that negative thoughts would sneak in but that I needed to immediately kick them out. It they lingered for more than five seconds, my two-week challenge was to start over.
Since I had nothing to lose, I tried it. My first attempted didnít last five minutes. I was astounded at how my unruly thoughts controlled my emotions and caused unhappiness.
For example, I noticed the newspaper lying on the floor. My thoughts went like this. How many times had I asked Bob to put the newspaper away when he finished reading it. He didnít even try to do what I wanted. If he loved me, heíd do what I asked. He must not love me.
My feelings boiled their way to rage that caused me to lash out at my husband. When I tried to think positive, I discovered that anger at the scattered newspaper was a secondary emotion to grief about feeling unloved. That feeling was a lie. My husband loved me. Unfortunately, cleaning up newspapers was not one of his ways of showing it. When I focused on positive things about my husband, I started noticing all the other loving things he did. I felt better so I acted better. When I acted better, he grew more loving. Eventually, he even started putting the newspaper away.
The same thing happened about pain. Thoughts of pain flooded my brain. Being female with a tendency to think in absolutes, my heart whispered words like, you hurt everywhere. Go to bed. You canít do anything anyway. Those discouraging whispers were lies that doomed me to unhappiness. I didnít really hurt everywhere Ė it just seemed like it. There was plenty of things I could still do. When I began focusing on possibilities, I began to accomplish more. My heart was encouraged by those accomplishments and I began to feel better about myself. It became easy to choose happiness.
It took six months before I reached 2 weeks of positive thinking but my life improved every day during the process. Today, I know that if I am to love God with my entire heart, I must choose happiness no matter what else is going on.
Heart Help #3
Fire Self Pity
One of my favorite prayers is the Serenity Prayer. It begins with accepting the things I cannot change. Health problems had broken my heart and I was drowning in self pity. Accepting what I could not change meant firing self pity. I was shocked to discover that I almost enjoyed my feeling sorry for myself. After all, Iíd earned it.
An emergency hysterectomy at age twenty-five meant Iíd never birth another child. Iíd only had one baby and longed for more. No amount of time or positive thinking was going to change the fact that my body would not produce another child. I checked into adoption but my health problems made me a poor candidate. To get better emotionally, I had to accept the bitter fact that I was done making babies. Once I accepted it, my heart began to heal. Heart healing led to physical healing. When my body healed, adoption became a possibility.
Today, Iím grateful for that hysterectomy because it lead to our adopting Kelley. Being around Kelley Touchton Pekarek is like having your own personal antidepressant machine. She brightens lives everywhere she goes. Self pity is a luxury that people living with chronic pain cannot allow. It may be the single biggest reason people stay stuck in their pain.
Wallowing in negative emotions will keep you on the merry-go-round of pain that leads to depression that leads to more pain. The only way to stop it is to step off the merry-go-round completely. The next 3 articles will discuss pain and how we can reduce it by loving God with our souls and strengths, and loving our neighbors as ourselves. Until then, help your heart:
- Chase away negative thoughts with the Word of God.
- Decide to be happy.
- Take the 2 week positive thinking challenge.
- Fire self-pity.
Cheryle M. Touchton is the Director of Pocket Full of Change Ministries. For more information, to schedule a speaker for an event, or to make a donation, go to the website or call Gail Golden at 904 316-5462.
Copyright: Pocket Full of Change Ministries