Chronic Pain, PTSD and Trauma: Getting Started Is the Hardest Part (and 7 Things That Help)



When I first wake up, it’s like everything is screaming — my body from the chronic pain, my soul from the emotional agony, my mind from all the things that have happened or that need to get done. It’s when reality hits. Because in the morning, everything is fresh. Especially my wounds. My anger. My unrest.


Almost every day, I wake up from an intense dream. Sometimes it’s just a feeling I’m left with. Other times, there's details. I don’t have as many flashback nightmares as I used to, thankfully. Now it’s more anxiety dreams. Things that could go wrong. Things I could destroy.


Every part of my body is stiff. And in pain. And because most of my chronic pain stems from injuries related to my trauma, it only intensifies the anger I start my day with.


So I usually take an edible within minutes of opening my eyes. Considering my edible takes about a half hour to kick in, I do yoga to try to move through the discomfort as I wait for my mind and body to settle. As I wait for the anger to find a safe space within myself to dwell. So I can contain it.


But some mornings, I don’t want to move through the discomfort. Some mornings, like one morning earlier this week, I don’t want to move at all. I want to stay in the uncomfortable state I’m in. Because it feels like too much to try to move through it. To try to take on the day. And to try to feel okay.


To take on the tasks and the chores and the work. The feelings. The past that may have surfaced — whether I know it or not. The anger. The events that may occur. Sometimes the future and the past are so overwhelming that it feels like the only place left to be is stuck. Perhaps not even stuck in the past (depression) or in the future (anxiety). Just stuck. Like I’m in between the dream world and the present.


So I make myself move on my mat. And I pray and I breathe. Often, I cry. And I try to leave it all behind me.


After, I make myself some tea and take some time for my mind and body to connect further. By this time, my edible has usually kicked in, easing the physical pain that throbs throughout my body. Whether it’s the thoracic nerve that’s falling out of place again in my left shoulder. Or my right hip that still shifts ever so slightly out of place. Or my jaw which does the same thing — moving on its own. Or the sciatic nerve that sends sharp pain down the left side of my body. The pain in my shoulders. In my back. The tingling or sudden shock from the nerves not getting the oxygen they need in my arms and legs. The pain I feel from head to toe.


As I drink my tea, I sit with ice packs and heating pads. Then I take a bath to try to relax my muscles more. And to try to let go of all the pain the new day has brought me.


But then, as soon as I’m relaxed, the emotions hit again. Some days one is louder than the other. Other days they all scream together in unison. Most days all of them are present. And I fight to feel the peace I know I can feel. The peace within myself.


For when you don’t feel safe in your body, and when you weren’t taught it’s safe to share your feelings, the level of discomfort within you is so deep that sometimes living within yourself is too much to bear.


But not living within yourself can be dangerous. Trust me, I know.


I also know that there is another side to it. A side where, once the pain is acknowledged, it can be let go. If only for the day. If only for the moment. But it’s possible. Every day. It’s when we get to feel peace.


And it’s those small victories that remind me that it exists. That it is within my grasp every morning. All I have to do is reach for it. I have to stretch. I have to move my body. I have to breathe. I have to rest. I have to take care of myself. And I have to let everything else go. For what I’m learning is that living in the present is when I feel the most safe within myself. And when that happens, there’s no other place I’d rather be.


So if you struggle to get the day started like I do, here are some things that help me. I hope they help you feel safe within your body too:

  1. Set aside time for yourself first thing in the morning. I used to not do this. I’d wake up as late as possible and rush out the door. Barely having time for a thought to cross my mind. For the pain to catch up to me. Which only meant it waited until later to strike. No matter how busy your mornings are, you matter most. And you’ll be no good to others until you're good to yourself, anyway.

  2. Have a routine. Routines are what make me go from one thing to the next. Force me to move forward when all I want to do is go back to bed. And they keep me on a schedule. Which stops me from lingering in my pain. From wallowing in my sorrows.

  3. Do something for your mind. Each morning, I read and write. To be aware. To engage my critical thinking. And to help me connect and observe.

  4. Do something for your body. I take an edible. Then do yoga. Then use ice packs and heating pads. Then take a bath. It's also important to continue to move throughout the day.

  5. Do something for your soul. I pull tarot cards in the morning. I find they help prepare me for what the day may bring. Then I pray. And set an intention.

  6. Do something that brings you joy. I love reality TV. Like, I love it. It brings me joy. So I let myself watch 20 minutes in the morning while I’m eating breakfast. I figure, after everything it takes me to get to that point, I deserve it. My goal has been met and it is my reward.

  7. Let go. Even if you can’t do anything I’ve described above, focus on letting go. For five minutes, sit or lay or move and greet each thought and feeling. Each time one arrives, acknowledge it — don’t stay with it, don’t think about it — just let it know you see it. And then let it go.

May you all find joyful ways to start your days. And to find the safe space within yourself that allows you to move forward.



Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels