One thing about chronic pain and chronic illness is that you have to keep on top of the thinking about it. Because it is an emotional experience. It is something we react to. It is not just a physical experience. This can be in the form of comorbid mental illness like depression and anxiety, but it can also just be in the form of beliefs and thinking that do not help us at all.
Here is an article I wrote on chronic pain and cognitive therapy to give you a general idea of some of the things that we do.
Here is one I do often: “Overgeneralizing: Just because a situation went down badly once, does not mean it will always go down the same way. While this seems self-explanatory think of all the times you say ‘this is always the case’. Sometimes we believe after trying many treatments that we never will find a treatment. Or if we are in a bad work situation we feel it must always be this way that we must suffer this way forever.”
The fact is I am guilty of a lot of these and it is because chronic illness and chronic pain run us down and they are emotional experiences. The thing we have to remember is that we Have to keep on top of this. Negative self-talk and minimizing the positive are not good things to be doing for your mental and emotional well-being.
I have to remind myself constantly of this fact. You see, when I was younger and going to university as a freshmen I had some problem dealing with pain and being on my own for the first time in my life. The pain and the lack of a support system was difficult and I got depressed. What helped me immensely was a chapter in a book on depression and that chapter was all about cognitive therapy. Because it helped so very well in helping me cope with my chronic pain and I thought that was it. Done. Good job. But no, this is something we have to attend to constantly.
You have to learn to pay attention to these thoughts. Then think about them. What is wrong with that though? Well, it is negative. Or generalized. Or whatever. Then think of a more reasonable thought to replace it.
‘I will never get treatment that works’ or
‘I have to try because there are many treatments to try and one might be for me.’
‘My pain will never end’ or
‘I will have pain but maybe I can reduce my suffering, cope better and have more quality of life.’
You can even practice this. You can have a journal where you write down the thoughts that occur to you and then write the more realistic version.
The point is we need to counter them in our minds. Actively say the other phrase to counter the other thought. The brain learns and is like a broken record it will keep playing the tune it was taught. To teach it a new tune you have to beat it into it.
I must say when I am stressed out in life these sorts of thoughts plague me more. It is hard enough to manage them just due to illness but stress and illness do not play well together. It is just an added element that makes everything that much harder to deal with.