The following is a sample exercise from The Pain Truth Workbook which aims to serve patients in their recovery from persistent pain.
At age 21, Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with “ALS” (or Lou Gehrig’s disease) that gradually paralysed him. At the time, doctors gave him a life expectancy of two years. Hawking rarely discussed his illness and physical challenges with anyone including his wife. By his late twenties he lost the use of his legs, then his arms, then his speech. Eventually he required a nurse 24/7.
Here is a strange question. Was Stephen Hawking disabled? The answer is no, he was not disabled. He had certain disabilities but he was not disabled. Disability is task specific. He had a disability if he wanted to play basketball, fly a plane or if he wanted to walk, but he was not disabled nor did he consider himself a disabled person.
He wanted to be a physicist and a cosmologist and he was in fact a bestselling author, a university professor and one of the greatest theoretical physicists in the world. As you can see, he was not disabled and he did not allow his various disabilities to define him.
The truth is that we all have certain physical “disabilities”. For instance, some of us cannot slam dunk a basketball or do handstands, some of us are unable to run more than two minutes, some of us are incapable of raising our arms over our head to reach a top shelf or bend enough to touch our toes.
Every one of us has certain physical disabilities but the key is not to allow our disabilities to define us. We must focus on the activities that we are still able to do.
List ten activities that you are still fully capable of doing. It may feel like a silly exercise, but one of the best ways of reducing your nervous system hypersensitivity is to acknowledge and appreciate what you are able to do today.
(E.g. cook and eat a meal, use stairs, read for one hour, go grocery shopping, drive a car, sing in the shower, golf 9 holes, do 10 push-ups, touch my toes, play the guitar, yoga sun salutation, garden 30 minutes, dress myself, wash my hair, sit on floor and get back up, etc.)
“However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.”- Stephen Hawking
Please take 2 minutes to actually write below 10 things that you can do …go ahead: grab a pen and do it!