Why We Carry On: Living with Pain and Illness

So, the title of this is pretty bleak and to be honest the content isn’t too much brighter. However, the purpose of this is to be able to look at a serious issue that claims the life of so many and to determine the reasons why we carry on.

When I first became ill I was ready to kill myself. I planned how I would do it and the worrying thing is that I had no strong emotions towards the idea of it. At the age of 17 I had been driven crazy beyond the burden of physical illness due to doctors, specialists and people who were in positions of trust and power leading me to believe that there was nothing wrong. I was ill. Physically and mentally. However, I was too ill to leave the house. Too high on painkillers to really understand what was going on. That is why I am still here.

My personal situation at that time had left me with very few friends who knew or understood my situation and even less who cared. My mum experienced all of it, the same as, if not worse than, what I was going through. It was apparent that to her, the only thing worse than me being in that state was me not being there at all.

Since I first became ill, I have had operations, counselling, pain management, good days, bad days, mental illness and physical illness yet the suicidal thoughts I once had now no longer cross my mind. Self-realisation, the people around me, and everything that has happened in my life has led me to this.

I am currently the most ill I have been in a very long time. I have suffered with chronic pain for over three and a half years and the episode leading up to its induction took place almost continually for the 3 years prior to it. As a 23-year-old, I work it out to be approximately one fifth of my life I have lived in near-constant pain and at the age of 20 I was told that there is a good chance this pain will be permanent. That’s pretty intense and you can imagine the effects that has on me. Yet, like I say, any thoughts of suicide are now gone.

I experience some days and moments where I cannot get out of bed through crippling pain accompanied by anxiety. I go to work and can feel lonely despite being surrounded by people because they don’t understand my problems. I cancel plans with friends and am judged because I’m too exhausted from an entire day of pretending that I am okay. These can be dark moments. Sometimes it’s hard to see past a moment, into the future when everything will be okay again. But it will be.


I have looked a lot into positive mindsets and mindfulness and this has helped me massively. I have seen mindfulness workshops and programmes which may be fantastic but can also try and force the ideas upon you. Positive mindset is really something that you need to explore yourself, in your own ways and at your own time.

While some find meditation and breathing techniques beneficial others may have just as good an experience by listening to relaxing music such as Hammock or Bonobo (personal favourites), others may find that peaceful walking or exercise work; explore these options that are able to calm yourself and your thoughts and redirect your attention back to yourself and the present as well as the positives in your life.

For me, to realise that it is only my foot that is truly hurting and that the rest of my body is pain-free helps me to calm down and take control of my emotions. This particular technique is called a body scan. When dealing with stress from work and exams on top of pain, I found exercise to be the best medicine for controlling my mind.

You may be different so it is worth exploring all options before giving up on trying to give yourself a positive mindset. I personally thought the whole meditation and mindfulness area was a load of hippie-bullshit before I tried it but it has actually helped my condition the most.

Positive people

The people in my life now are there for a reason. Counselling helped me to open up and this has been one of the biggest steps in preventing any suicidal thoughts. There are now people in my life who I know care for me greatly and likewise I care for them. A lot of the actions in my life are to benefit the people I love, this makes me happy. Seeing my own effects on people makes a massive difference in the way I see the world.

Find someone to love and to love you, someone you can talk to about your fears and pain and sometimes just getting these out there in the open can help. As someone in a supporting role, you do not need to offer advice, just offer support, let them know you are there and able to help them if they would like. People in my life who understand that keep me going every single day. They are superheroes and a lot of the time they do not even know it.

I keep up with the news without reading too much into it as it is filled with negativity where the worst people receive the most screen time. People such as the Dalai Lama preach positivity and talk of how to make the world a better place. Listen to them and carry out their suggestions and you will find yourself a happier person. I find my own life much more fulfilling by carrying out little acts of random kindness.

Positive actions

When you are well, do things you are proud of and things you want to do. Take advantage of feeling well and reflect on these when you are not, it can be powerful to reflect on your potential and for myself it makes me determined to get back to this state. I am understanding that it will take time to get back there but thinking about some of the things I have achieved adds a willingness to return to that mindset.

I have run cross-country marathons, I teach self-defence, I am also a school teacher. The mindset required to do those things does not generally cater for illness. I’m a ninja. I’m an athlete. I’m a role model. I am not ill when I’m doing those things.

If you enjoy doing something make the most of it. It may sound silly but, especially as someone who is ill, don’t do recreational activities that you don’t enjoy! If you don’t like going to nightclubs or the gym, don’t go. Forget about other peoples’ expectations and opinions and focus on what you enjoy. Be open to trying new things because you may surprise yourself but do what makes you happy.

Remember to enjoy the little things: chocolate, pets, cuddles…whatever that may be.

Further support

Finally, and most importantly is get help. I could never have got through my difficult times and the issues I am currently going through by myself. For a long time, I have tried to deal with my issues on my own and have failed miserably. There are organisations such as The Good Samaritans, professionals such as doctors and GPs, counsellors, and online forums that can help you or anyone you are worried about. Don’t suffer in silence.

Talking to people has been my saviour and there is always someone willing to listen. It is difficult to talk about any illness you have but there are a lot of people that will be supportive: friends, family, professionals or strangers. You are never alone if you know where to look.

If anyone would like to talk to me personally about this or offer their own suggestions please do.


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