Learning to Live a Meaningful Life with Pain

After reading my last blog post, my mom said to me something that has stuck with me this entire week: that despite the hardships and unfairness of injury, I—like so many others around the world with chronic pain—have to learn to live a meaningful life with pain.

While the injury has caused a lot of emotional pain, I have begun to wonder if it’s also started to make me bitter and resentful. It’s been easy for me to understand my emotions surrounding it when I blame this whole thing on something else, on McGill or on the teacher I had in first year or on the pressures of music performance. And I do believe that this blame is valid, that all of those things contributed to the injury. But it doesn’t mean that I need to hold on to it.

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Decided to start drawing my own illustrations this week.

Last semester I took a seminar on “Understanding the Performing Body”, and I did my final research project on the psychology of pain and how it relates to musicians’ injuries (find the blog post here). I learned a lot about pain and how it’s actually more of a psychological experience than a physical one. This is why your mental health and career satisfaction, among many other things, can affect your sensation and experience of pain.

Discovering this gave me a lot of clarity. The injury was no longer ‘my fault’. I could remove the blame from my body and place it on other bodies, whether the body of the institution or the people in power.

It certainly helps, having something to be angry at, and it provoked me to seek change and challenge the bodies causing this pain. But it also perpetuates the anger, allowing negative emotions to manifest. And, it hasn’t truly allowed for acceptance or closure.

What does it mean to accept being an injured musician?

Maybe it means allowing the injury to be part of me, without allowing it to define me. Maybe it means knowing my limitations, playing within them, and knowing that although I could have been, or would have been, an excellent musician, that it simply wasn’t meant to be. Now I move on to something else, something just as fulfilling—although I have no idea what that something will be yet.

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Being injured is certainly not all that I am. I am still a writer, a swimmer, a creator, a reader—even though I can’t perform at the same level as I used to. Acceptance is knowing that although the injury may not be all that I am, it is still part of who I am, and I have to learn that that’s okay.

In a lot of ways, I know this acceptance will make me stronger. It will give me peace and allows me to practice self-compassion. I don’t know what it means to live a meaningful life with pain, but I know now that it’s definitely possible.

This is who I am. Now see what I can do with it.

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