Suffering Is Not Always A Choice
Last updated: November 2019
A while ago I was sitting at a table at a conference with a bunch of my friends. The speaker mentioned a quote along the lines of "pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional." I'm not sure it was worded exactly like that, but the idea of it is the same. Basically saying you can't avoid pain, but suffering is a choice. A bunch of people clapped and cheered agreeing with the speaker. I admit, I even nodded my head. It sounded good.
My friend Sara gave us a good reminder of why it wasn't technically true. My friend basically explained that a lot of us with IBD are in fact suffering. Not only true in the IBD community, but for many other conditions as well. Suffering is not always optional. We all want to be happy. We all want to live and thrive, but the unfortunate reality is that for many of us, that's just not possible.
Living with inflammatory bowel disease is a challenge every day. I say this even now, 4 years post colectomy. If suffering was truly a choice and happiness was only a radio dial away, I'm sure we'd all be much better off. If it were a choice, I'd surely made the decision EVERYDAY bright and early. If there was a sign-up form for a life without suffering I can guarantee you I'd wake up early to be first in line! No questions asked. Unfortunately, that's just not how it works. There is no magical potion to turn off our suffering.
But pain is inevitable
I do agree with at least a portion of the quote. You can't avoid pain. This is especially true with IBD. Whether it's physical or emotional pain we're talking about, we've all been through it. We all will continue to go through it.
So while suffering isn't a choice, what you decide to do with that suffering is. You can choose to allow your suffering to change you for the worst. Allow it to mold you into the worst version of yourself. Allow the experience to make you bitter and negative. Angry with everything and everyone. That's a choice.
On the other hand, taking that suffering, accepting it for what it is and allowing it to fuel your passion for life. Allowing you experiences to make you better. Using those experiences to empower and strengthen others, that is also a choice. Loving yourself and accepting your experiences for what they are is also a choice.
But it's your choice to make
You and only you should be the one to decide what to do with your suffering and how to use it, whether for better or worse. When you are suffering, don't think it's because of a choice you made. Don't think you brought it on yourself. You didn't. That's not how it works. Don't let anyone tell you that what you're experiencing could have been avoided. Very similar to pain, sometimes the suffering with IBD can be inevitable too.
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