The following blog post was written for Dr. Veronica Anderson who reached out to me last week and asked if we would like to write a guest blog post discussing my journey with an illness, injury or traumatic life event and how this journey has shaped me and the way I practice!
Though this post will be posted on Dr. Veronica Anderson's website, I thought I would debut it for the Kairos Chronic Pain Coaching audience! If you're a regular on our website, some of the content may sound familiar ;)
I call them the, “Oh #@$&!, everything is about to change and nothing can ever be the same again” moments. You know the kind - a seismic shift that causes an impact so damaging that within a matter of minutes your circumstance, belief system and perspective all change. You suddenly and jarringly feel as though you’re living a stranger’s life and what’s worse…you have no idea how to get back to yours.
In 2008, I was enjoying a successful sales career, being a newlywed, exercising, spending time with friends and family, raising two new puppies and volunteering at my local animal shelter. Until, one September day when my life came to a screeching halt. An unexpected, constant, excruciating pain ensued giving way to the diagnosis of a rare form of a common reproductive disease among women- a recurring disease that the medical world has no known cure for, yet. Finding a solution to Deep Infiltrating Endometriosis and its byproduct, chronic pain, became my "new normal."
My marriage, family, friends, career, hobbies, and emotional health all suffered at the hand of a disease that's medical acronym is D.I.E. (seriously! Bizarre, and yet, strangely appropriate). After enduring 3 surgeries in 3 consecutive years I was bedridden, bitter and feeling immensely burdensome.
During the holidays of 2011, my father and best friend suffered a hemorrhagic stroke in our home eventually giving way to the discovery of a fast-growing, aggressive, malignant brain tumor – an incurable cancer that left my beloved father and best friend with a life expectancy of 15-months or less. Just 6 short months after his diagnosis, my Dad lost his courageous battle to glioblastoma multiforme brain cancer.
Gripping anxiety, breathtaking grief, and a deep, dark depression set in and paralyzed me. I became distant and comatose. I couldn't sleep, eat, concentrate or go an hour without bursting into an uncontrollable, guttural cry. My pain reached new heights. I decided to leave my career in an attempt to gather myself and undergo my 4th, of what would be, 7 total surgeries. The acronym for my disease never seemed more relevant. In 2013, after 8 years of marriage, it too unraveled... with the rest of me.
The physical pain of endometriosis, the mental torment of losing the life I once loved because of chronic pain and the emotional and spiritual agony of losing my marriage and Dad, almost simultaneously, made it indisputably... painful to breathe. The world may have continued on but mine had effectively stopped. Until one late February morning in 2013, when I finally faced the fact that I wasn't living...I was existing.
Here’s the thing I have learned about “oh #@$&!, everything is about to change and nothing can ever be the same again” moments – you have control over their outcome. It sounds so cliché, right? Before you write me off, allow me to explain.
Regardless of why we ended up in pain and/or grief, ultimately, we are not responsible for it, we didn't ask for it and we certainly didn't have a choice in the matter. However, I have learned (the hard way, I might add) that you have a choice in how you respond, and that choice is the deciding factor on your overall well-being, happiness and success.
Walter Anderson was once quoted as saying, "I am responsible. Although I may not be able to prevent the worst from happening, I am responsible for my attitude toward the inevitable misfortunes that darken life." Life happens. For every happy, triumphant, thrilling moment Life hands you, there is an equally messy, scary, ugly, tragic side that always has the potential to develop.
Nevertheless, deciding to take an honest look at your part in traumatic life events is not easy. It took me years to be able to admit that at some point, I began throwing a pity-party – albeit, epic and ironclad in evading liability, it was undoubtedly, prolonging my suffering.
A "victim mentality" is characterized by anger, resentment, blame, isolation, self-pity, (conscious or subconscious) manipulation, evading responsibility and/or accountability, selfishness, pessimism, depression and/or anxiety. Here’s the good news - a victim mentality is a learned behavior just as much as a victor mentality is - once you understand and accept this, life as you know it, will change. This is the foundational principle upon which I built my practice, Kairos Chronic Pain Coaching.
I labored over the name of my practice for months. I chose “kairos” (KYE-ross) not only to honor my Greek heritage but because of the meaning of the word. The Greeks have 2 words for time, which in and of itself demonstrates the importance of it. Chronos means watch time, clock time...what time is it? Kairos on the other hand literally translates to, "a time for when conditions are right for the accomplishment of a crucial action."
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German writer and statesman who famously said, “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.”
Chronic pain coaching (or pain management coaching) is about teaching my patients the coping skills needed to balance the mental, emotional and physical body systems. However, I determine my patient’s qualification for the program, if and only if, they have arrived at their "Kairos moment" - in other words, they need to have decided that now is the time, the opportune time for when conditions are right in their lives for the accomplishment of a crucial action. They need to have decided that the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of changing.
Let’s be honest, no one knows how to be sick. No one. Just like no one knows how to handle unbearable grief or tragedy, an unexpected life-threatening diagnosis, or even, coming home from war after serving our country. Words, no matter how hard I try to find them, will never articulate the broken, hopeless, helpless, scared, angry, guilt-ridden spirit I was 6 years ago but I was determined to turn that mess into my message.
The person I am today and the practice I run today are all because of the immense energy, effort and education I poured into creating a new life. I spent months implementing the coping and pain management skills I learned along the way- discovering what worked in my life and what didn't work - continually making small adjustments based on variables like, practicality and effectiveness. After a few years of trial and error, I felt confident that I had a successful formula – a formula that became the cornerstone of Kairos Chronic Pain Coaching’s ethos.
Christina Perri, a favorite artist of mine, wrote a song entitled, “I Believe” in which one of the lyrics are, “I believe darkness reminds us where light can be” – a belief of mine so strong, it’s tattooed on my body. In the midst of a storm, this can be an extremely difficult concept to grasp, but the truth of the matter is once you understand the notion that great adversity brings great triumph in the form of personal reliance, growth, understanding, confidence and courage, the paralyzing fear, anticipation and doubts associated with the darkness of life, aren’t intimidating after all, especially after you’ve learned shadows always disappear into the light.
Christina H Chororos founded Kairos Chronic Pain Coaching in the fall of 2017 after obtaining her Integrative Wellness Life Coaching certification from the Integrative Wellness Academy.
She is a decade-long deep infiltrating endometriosis sufferer, speaker and, suicide prevention + chronic pain patient advocate.
For more information, please visit kairoschronicpain.com