Chronic Pain, Spirituality, and the Ripple Effect

Chronic Pain, Spirituality, and the Ripple Effect

A nurse becomes a patient and finds spiritual renewal from an unexpected source.

It was Christmas Eve of 2011. After seeing my last patient, I got on the parkway. The next thing I remember is seeing two headlights in the rearview mirror racing toward me at an impossible speed, the sound of colliding metal, and losing control of the car.

Rear-ended by a hit-and-run drunk driver, I sustained multiple back, neck, and pelvic injuries. I was in constant and severe pain. Several weeks afterward I was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus. And several months after that, the lupus affected my cognitive functioning where forming logical sentences became an infrequent occurrence.

I found myself coming to terms with the fact that my daily life looked nothing like it used to. Professionally, I had been a registered maternal and child health nurse and lactation consultant who worked two jobs. I was also a postgraduate student. At home, I was a wife and mother of three. My life went from caring for patients to being the patient; from being a mother to needing mothering myself. In short, I lost my career and my identity as a working professional, mother, and wife.

Back to a Time of Wellness…for a Time

Rewind to winter of 2002. My youngest child was a newborn, and I was thrilled to finally be in a financial situation that would allow me to stay at home with her, (our two older children were cared for by my mother-in-law while I worked).

Although I was already a nurse, I was a different person back then. I meditated regularly, practiced energy healing, chose natural treatments over the pharmaceutical type, and had been embracing the virtues of spirituality since adolescence.

After failing to find books during my pregnancies about the profound spirituality of bringing new life into this world, I became inspired to write my own. The process awakened my spirituality even more; I had never felt more energetically aligned with my life’s purpose, and the book’s creation truly seemed a collaboration with sources of higher wisdom and consciousness.

It was a time when my life was completely in balance. However, about six months after the publication of my book, I had no choice but to return to full-time work since it was my employment that provided the health insurance for our family of five.

Losing Spiritual Center

My work helping young and impoverished families raise healthy children was incredibly important and rewarding. Some of my patients were victims of sexual crimes who desperately needed the advocacy my role provided them. My second job, which was teaching breastfeeding classes almost felt like a public health obligation—a global initiative that was bigger than just me.

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, as each day moved into the next, I lost more and more of the connection to my spiritual center. I no longer made meditation and prayer a priority. Aside from the dinner I cooked for my family, I didn’t take the time to eat nutritious meals; drive-thru meals were the norm. Over the next several years, anxiety crept into my life as well as a general feeling of malaise.

Then, in an instant, everything changed on that Christmas Eve ten years ago. Where once there was the chaos of a productively long workday there was now the chaos of doctor’s appointments and physical rehabilitation. Where once I was a productive member of society, I was now a disabled individual wracked with pain and illness.

I spiraled with questions: Why did I get so sick? Was I not energetically balanced? Why did I lose a career I worked so hard for? What was the spiritual significance of such a painful injury? Was it true that there are no coincidences?

An Unexpected Lift Back

For nine years I existed in this state of unhealth; my mind, body, and soul were hurting. Then one day in the spring of 2020, I got an email from my publisher saying that an admirer of my book, A Journey into Being: Knowing and Nurturing our Children as Spirit, had been urgently trying to find me on the Internet (after my accident I shut down my website). I was surprised because the book was 14 years old and no longer in print. I decided to reach out to her. The young woman described how my book had changed her life during her journey of motherhood.

I sat with the young woman’s words for weeks. I felt so removed from the person I once was and the spirituality I espoused in my book—so much so that I had forgotten most of what I’d written. So, one day I took it down from the dusty shelf. There, on the first page I opened to, were these lines:

“Grief, as with any pain, is a human experience, an experience not intended to be cruel but instead benevolent ... meant to bring about change which provokes your spirit to expand and progress. Yes, as difficult as it is to accept, there is healing, balancing, and even justice in events we see as tragic.”

I sat and stared at those words for what seemed like hours. How could I have not accessed the very words I wrote when I needed them most? I realized then just how spiritually lost I really was.

[Read: “Finding the Good in Grief.”]

Over the next several months I worked to regain my center and to relearn basic spiritual truths. An enriched soul, I realized, is tantamount to having a panic room when a tornado levels everything you built. I also understood that although I am not my body, I needed to accept and love this physical vehicle my soul was seated in, brokenness and all.

Once I did accept my broken body, I moved about in it more easily, as though somehow my resentment of it had formed unseen shackles that were lifted. My mind, freed from the tethers of self-pity, allowed space for inspiration once again. In May 2021 I published a second edition of my book, A Journey Into Being. Knowing and Nurturing our Children as Spirit, and joyously reconnected with a sense of spiritual alignment. Yes, I still have chronic physical pain, but that doesn’t mean I have to experience mental suffering or feel like an individual who no longer has anything to offer.

The Power of the Ripple

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I remembered that life is so much more than what we can perceive; no human has access to divine plans. Likewise, we are all connected. Like being in an ocean of water, the waves of electrons that exist in and around my body are the same that exist in and around everyone else’s.

Every interaction causes a ripple that will touch others in ways we can never foresee. The reader who contacted my publisher caused a ripple that grew when my publisher reached out to me. And while the ripple of the Christmas Eve driver hit me in ways I wouldn’t wish on anyone, I hope my telling of it, along with the events surrounding my reawakening, creates new ripples of connection and comfort to you.

Try this guided meditation to listen to the wisdom of chronic pain and determine what it’s trying to tell you.

Chronic pain, spirituality, and the ripple effect

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