To Ease My Suffering, I Had to Shift My Perspective, Not My Pain Levels

Jennifer (Jenn) Powell avatar

by Jennifer (Jenn) Powell |

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Many believe pain and suffering are interchangeable. While they can and often do coexist, one is not reliant on the other.

Pain can occur with or without suffering, and the inverse is true. Physiological, psychological, and psychosocial factors influence our experience with each. The meanings and relationships of these three factors in relation to one another are idiosyncratic.

From a young age, I had a ringside seat to chronic pain. Endometriosis, adenomyosis, and adhesions caused distress. The excision of endometrial tissue led to further adhesions. Subsequent surgeries to remove adhesions did not help.

This vicious cycle persisted into my mid-20s. The endometriosis worsened, as did my ability to cope. I suffered as a result. I looked to doctors to manage my pain. In doing so, I neglected to do just that. This mentality perpetuated my suffering.

I had to lose the mindset to gain perspective. Like looking through a new pair of glasses, I saw things differently. I grew from the decision to manage my health. I learned to embrace a multidisciplinary approach to managing chronic pain. I became empowered and confident by taking responsibility for my care. The shift was seismic. My pain levels remained the same as my suffering decreased.

That was 30 years ago. Now 52, I have secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. Fatigue and insomnia are unwelcome norms. But the pain will never become my norm.

Daily chronic pain affects my mood, sleep, relationships, and overall quality of life. And some days are insufferable. But I am not suffering. I work very hard at managing my multidimensional relationship with pain.

While I take pain medications, they are not a panacea. Medications afford me the ability to try other modalities. Meditation, guided imagery, cognitive therapy, heating pads, ice packs, and yoga are collaborative tools. No two days are alike. The tools I use vary with my need.

In the absence of suffering, I still cry. I still break down and lose my composure. I still struggle and yearn for better days. I feel sad, down, anxious, angry, and fearful. But these transient moments do not quantify my being. They purely illustrate my humanity.

I once read that pain is what happens to us, while suffering is what we do with that pain. While a bit simplistic, I can identify with the overall essence of that statement. I have experienced intense pain. I have suffered as a result of doing nothing. I accepted the unacceptable. I granted permission through omission. It was only through a shift in perception that I shifted myself.


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Jen avatar


Another awesome column, sweet Jenn. While reading, my heart ached for you. My chronic pain albeit different than yours, I relate.

I love your approach with pain and suffering. I've read this statement several times and previously had something similar saved in my photos as a reminder.

“ I once read that pain is what happens to us, while suffering is what we do with that pain. ”

You, my friend, are a walking, crawling, or chillin’ version of this. I am honored to call you my friend and WWWW. You inspire me in more ways than you'll ever know.


Jennifer (Jenn) Powell avatar

Jennifer (Jenn) Powell

Ah, Jen thank you so much for your kindness and generosity. I am blessed to be surrounded by such amazing light I cannot help but thrive. One day at a time, sometimes one moment. Much gratitude to you.


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