Lessons I’m Learning While Turning Pain Into Purpose

By Brittany

The other day was the three year anniversary of my slip and fall accident that is the sole reason for my chronic migraine.  Many times over the past three years I’ve asked myself, “If everything happens for a reason, what is the reason for this happening to me?”  I don’t think I have the whole answer yet, but I have some theories based on lessons I’m learning.

Prior to my accident, I often bit off more than I could chew and frequently put my needs under the needs of others.  “No.” wasn’t a word I knew how to use well.

I believe the Universe was giving me subtle signs leading up to the accident to say no, to slow down, to look after myself, but I wasn’t listening.  In my experience, the Universe tends to get louder the longer you ignore it.  So what did the Universe do?  It knocked me flat on my ass.  

It’s been a waking up  and learning process, and some days are harder than others, but when I reflect on how far I’ve come in the last three years, I’d say I’ve definitely made some progress.  So here’s a little bit of what I’ve learned on this journey of chronic migraine.

The world doesn’t end if I say “No.”

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It’s always been hard for me to say “No.”  I’m a people pleaser and it makes me feel like a bad partner, friend, daughter and sister to say that two letter word.  I sometimes feel like by saying it I’m letting everyone down.  

However, what I’m learning is when I don’t say it, I’m letting myself down more than anything and not honouring my boundaries.  The more I practice saying “No,” the more empowered I feel.  And believe it or not, the world keeps on spinning!  

Letting go of expectations.

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I’ve always set expectations for myself very high.  This is something I’ve continued to do over the last few years, not respecting my limitations and boundaries.  And then, surprise! I’m disappointed when I can’t meet them, which sends me into a guilt and shame spiral.  

To avoid this, I now create to-do lists for most days on a dry erase whiteboard.  Crossing things off gives me great pleasure and a sense of accomplishment.  Sometimes the list is as simple as having a shower and making a meal.  If I set my expectations lower, and actually accomplish them, or even do more, that’s a win!  

Changing my perception around expectations has helped me stay more optimistic, feel more in control and allows me to feel like I’m winning on days when I’ve felt like the opposite in the past.  If I ever need a reminder, I just look at my right wrist.

Self care needs to be top priority.

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I’ve always loved my bubble baths, but they’ve become a ritual that can shift me from a negative state to a positive in a matter of minutes.  They’re my sense of peace, relaxation and a space to focus on meditation.  

Self care to me also looks like sitting in the dark on my couch in silence, watching the traffic and lights change on the street below.  It’s laughing when I need to laugh, crying when I need to cry and asking for support for something as simple as a glass of water.

Self care is putting on makeup so I don’t scoff at myself when I walk past a mirror.  It’s getting my nails done once a month, even when money is tight, because it’s something that makes me feel put together when everything else feels like it’s falling apart.  It’s spending a little more on shampoo and conditioner, on face cream and lotion so I feel like I have a mini spa in my own home.  

Self care is all about the little things that help me feel better on the outside, when I can’t do anything to control how I feel on the inside.

I’m more resilient than I ever imagined I would be.

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I’m often told I’m an inspiration.  That’s extremely humbling to hear, and sometimes I truly feel like I am an inspiration.  But other times I feel like I’m not.  I feel like someone has it worse and is doing better than me.  That if I was truly an inspiration, bad days wouldn’t affect me so bad, and the list goes on and on.  

But then I remind myself of my resilience, and I think that’s what people find inspiring, because it’s what I find most inspiring about others – when they can still get out of bed each morning with a smile on their face, despite what they’ve seen and been through.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned of all over the past three years is I can handle anything thrown at me, even in the depths of some of the worst physical pain of my life, and each experience makes me stronger than before.  I have a lot of anxiety, but when I’m placed in front of a real challenge, I somehow manage to handle it with a sense of strength, calm and ease that I never would have expected.

My pain has taught me that there’s strength in discomfort, beauty in the messy, and a sense of calm within all storms.  My pain has given me a voice that I never knew I had, or believed I was worthy of sharing with the world.  My pain has shown me how powerful vulnerability is, and that by allowing the world to see all my broken pieces, it’s safe for others to show theirs as well.

For years, I’ve asked myself “what is my purpose in this life?”  I still don’t fully know, but I know I’m meant to be creative.  My creativity comes out in my love for yoga, cooking and now writing.  I started sharing my story as a way to heal and release pent up thoughts, feelings and emotions.  Reading other people’s stories has been so helpful to me and makes me feel less alone when people in my life don’t fully understand what I’m going through.

I believe a big part of my purpose is to be in support of others, and although my pain requires me to ask for support more often than I’d like to, it also allows me to support others through their pain too.  

You’re not alone, no matter the experience you’re going through.  Reach out your hand, and you’ll be met with many hands waiting to hold yours.

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