Over the past 14 years, since I had 6 lots of neurosurgery in 8 days in March 2000, I have at times felt immense frustration with my body. Especially with the continual headaches I live with and the fact that I seem to have so little control over the chronic pain that I have everywhere.
However, one of the things that has helped me so greatly over the years has been changing my focus. It would be so very easy for me to fall into self-pity mode if I focused on what others have that I don’t have. And especially if I focused on the lives of my friends who were at University with me and what they have gone on to achieve. However it would be utterly futile and actually destructive to focus on these things.
When things have been extremely intense with my pain, and my spirits sink, my mother and father are quick to remind me how fortunate I am to even be alive. When things are trying it is just so easy for me to forget the number of times that I nearly haven’t made it through my (13 lots of) neurosurgery, and forget how long it was that I couldn’t even see clearly (due to changes in my tumour), and forget how I couldn’t walk unaided, how I had TENS electrodes stuck to every limb with wires sticking out of them that everyone noticed. I forget that I was 55kg heavier than I now am (due to gaining 40kg in 10 months on steroids) and didn’t even recognise myself. It is just too easy to forget how incredibly hard things have been for me at times over these past 14 years and how vastly better my life is now compared to what it was.
Being reminded of these times serves as a much needed wake up call, a slap on the face you could say, to remind me of the freedoms I now experience that I haven’t always had during these past 14 years.
I think that a great way for anyone to sink their view of their own life, regardless of their circumstances, is to focus on what they don’t have rather than what they do. Worse yet is to focus on what others have that you don’t. When we have this frame of mind we are so blind to the blessings in our own lives. And in doing so we are undoubtedly starting ourselves down the slippery slope that leads to the destructive mental state of self-pity.
In the 4th chapter of the book of Philippians in the Bible, Paul sums this up brilliantly. “……I have learned how to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need. I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
I have found that the only way that I have reached contentment about my physical situation and my circumstances is to try to focus on the blessings in my life. I try to remind myself about what I now have that I haven’t always had, and also remind myself of the freedom I now walk in. In focusing on these things, and on the fact that God will give me the strength to do anything I need to do in life, I have indeed become truly content.
Like the old saying says, “keep your eye on the donut, not the hole”.