Dreaming Big When You Have Chronic Pain


I want to dream big, but dreaming feels like a dangerous, reckless, perhaps even ridiculous thing to do when life is consumed by unpredictable and, at times, debilitating chronic pain.

I want to dream big, but dreaming big feels like a privilege I no longer get to grab hold of now that chronic pain has taken over my life.

Dreaming big is rarely on my mind when I am in the midst of a flare. In those moments, the only things I can dream of are my bed, an ice pack, and that someone might prescribe me heavy pain killers. When I am flaring, dreaming big not only feels impossible, but doesn’t even feel desirable because all I want to do is curl up in a ball and sleep my life away.

It is those moments, days, and weeks when the flare has leveled out and I have enough energy to do more than survive that I start thinking about dreaming big.

Sometimes not flaring is dangerous, because it makes me want to dream and dream big.

Stabilized pain levels make me dream about adding more hours to my work day, starting new projects, and cooking meals that are delicious and not just necessary. I start to get too used to the feeling of controlled pain, because in the back of my mind, I start to hope against hope that perhaps this time will be different. But something always derails my hope. Flares always come back, and my dreams of one day being without pain are probably just dreams.

I still want to dream big, but I need dreams that can’t be derailed by flares. I need dreams that ebb and flow alongside the ups and downs of my pain, dreams that naturally coexist with unpredictability.

I am not of the opinion that we can achieve anything we set our mind to. I am of the belief that many people encounter real and unsurmountable obstacles that block certain paths in life and make certain past dreams and plans for life impossible. Maybe once I wanted to be a marathon runner, but that will not be happening. I just don’t buy into the believe that I can do anything I want to do.

But, this doesn’t mean I can’t dream. I am also of the belief that even if you have chronic pain, you get to dream, even if it means a change in the dreams that you once had. And so, I am letting myself dream new dreams. And these dreams are not lesser, simply different and unexpected.

When you have chronic pain, I believe the best dreams are dreams that do not have deadlines.

The best dreams are those that are not forced to follow rigid deadlines or strict orders that must be accomplished in a given time period. Sometimes our dreams take longer to accomplish, but that does not make them any lesser in their completion.

When you have chronic pain, big dreams often need to be dreams that can be left alone for long periods of time. They have to be dreams that can wait for you while you slog through the flares and bad pain days. They have to be dreams that will still be there when you come out of the haze, ready to continue right where you left off.

When you have chronic pain, I believe that, often times, you only get one dream at a time because so much of your energy and who you are goes to simply surviving and managing the pain. But, I also think this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Because we only get a limited number of dreams, we get to focus all that is left of us on that one dream. We don’t have the confusion of seeking to accomplish twenty things in life. We are focused on that one thing. That one dream. That one thing we wish to accomplish.

Although I do believe the limitations of chronic pain are real, I also think we can accomplish much more than we believe. Although I do not believe we can do anything we set our mind on, I also think we can accomplish huge dreams, if we set dreams that have no deadline and can be accomplished in small steps over a long period of time.

My one dream right now is to publish my book, a different dream than if chronic pain had not come to stay, but a worthy and big dream nonetheless. I am realizing how much we can achieve when we set our minds on something and don’t stop, persevering over time. Small steps over time lead to big results and accomplishing great dreams.

What is your dream?


  1. I love how you write about that even though we have chronic and at times debillitating pain, we do not have to give up all our dreams. Our dreams just have to be more flexible. You worded it so well. When I was working on my manuscript, I set goals, but not in stone. If a pain flare came up, I learned to deal with it and tell myself I will go back to the writing when the flare eases. In the beginning and even sometimes these days, I get so frustrated. I have to really concentrate to remind myself, that I am not giving up, nor giving in–I am being in the moment dealing with what I need to. That can be an internal struggle for me. Your post will be a reminder to me that I can keep my big dreams, I just have go with the ebb and flow of living with chronic pain. Thank you 🙂

    1. Yes so true! I am doing the same thing with my manuscript – setting broad yet flexible goals. I think the hardest thing for me is having to change my big dreams to be different than what I originally imagined for my life. But, at the same time, chronic pain is bringing me to places I never would have gone without it.

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