I see a psychologist who specialises in pain management to help me with all that lack of pain management. It is all about relaxation techniques, meditation, biofeedback… blah, blah, blah. There is a fundamental flaw in all of this and that my failure to grasp the three steps outlined above.
Fundamentally along the way with chronic pain, we figure out to mask the pain and to push through the pain… all in the aim to function on some level. Often a crappy un-fun level, but what counts is that we do things. And doing things is what is important to people. Other people mostly. Other people who do not have a pain problem. You suck other people. Anyway, we get this mental line. We have Intolerable Pain and Tolerable Pain. Functional Pain and Non-Functional Pain.
That just seems like a chronic pain fact of life. The chronic pain lifestyle. Obviously, one that does not work well when the pain exceeds our coping but for the most part it just is the way it is.
So we have that learned behavior of masking pain plus trying to function through it. Then we have the compounding issue of every time the pain is intolerable or we are non-functional we can be plagued with guilt for not being able to do all those things that the ‘peoples’ want us to do. Guilt can be a rather large compounding factor, even if it is just so wrong that we plague ourselves with guilt over an illness that is not something we can control. The final compounding factor is that people tell us we should actually be able to control it and we really are to blame.
Well, what does any of that have to do with anything? It means for me that being ‘productive’ seems to have a lot of extra ‘meaning’ attached to it. It isn’t how much pain am I in today, it is how much was I able to do, even though I was in pain. How much of the day did I ‘lose‘ to pain. Such that even though I am told to do all these helpful techniques that might help manage my pain… it feels wasteful to me. So wasteful to meditate for a half-hour when I could be slowly doing some housecleaning which likely will trigger a migraine earlier, compound the one I have and definitely cause other pain… but productive. Then, oops, caused a massive migraine and there goes the rest of the day and I didn’t fit in that meditation or relaxation I was supposed to do. Damn it. I feel in some way that using the small gap of the day I have without a migraine doing non-productive things is wasteful and I should feel guilty about that. Yet other people are permitted downtime and relaxation free of guilt. I won’t even let myself do things that could improve my existence because I have conditioned myself to ‘get things done’ in pain and to feel bad about it when I don’t, so I need to fill all that low pain time with as much as I am capable of. So while we are conditioned to feel guilty about what we cannot do, we are at the same time told we should be able to control our illness to an amazing degree, but without actually spending any time on it apparently… because we have to be as functional as everybody else.
That is a conflicting message people. So. 1) Do stuff 2) Stop it 3) Lie down. Concise simple rules to relax. How you relax is up to you. The stuff you do is up to you. And maybe you prefer to sit rather than lie down. But every day give yourself the downtime to do these simple steps for you and your health. If you are anything like me stop this silly notion that you must fill every moment of every day, that would be the functioning moments, with ‘productive’ and ‘worthy’ activities. Just stop and absorb the silence for a moment (or if you are also like me and have tinnitus, you might want to stop and just listen to some mellow music. No one likes the sound of high pitched ringing. Not relaxing.) I don’t care if you give yourself 10 minutes or half an hour. But you deserve to give yourself a little peace each day. I know the studies on meditation are pretty awesome so it could be quite beneficial for us to give ourselves this time to engage in meditation, relaxation techniques of some sort or biofeedback.