Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Ten Tips for Living With Pain

Mountains Walking
I am thinking about pain tonight for a couple of reasons.  One is that I just cut short my meditation because my shoulder and back hurt too much, so I got up and took a pain pill.  It's started working.  Last night I skipped the pain pill, and my heating-pad time (it helps my back, too) and awoke this morning with aches and pains.  Later Tom told me that I was restless and talked a lot in my sleep.  Fortunately, he wasn't really listening.  (No comment.)

There is no bonus for pain (or for that matter, for not having pain when ordinary people would).  However, all pain medications have side effects; it seems that the better they work, the worse the job they do on your GI tract.  So it's a matter of balance.  That takes me to my first tip.
  1. Use pain medication when you should (and not when you shouldn't). We can be ridiculous about that.  A friend told me her mother wouldn't take pain medicine when she was in hospice care, because she worried about addiction.  Her refusal increased the suffering of her children and husband, too.  The doctor who diagnosed your condition can prescribe for you.  If it doesn't work for some reason, keep going back till they get it right. If you haven't got a diagnosis yet, keep trying. 
  2. Put your attention elsewhere. You can think of this as seeking distraction.  It can be that, a movie on Netflix, a novel.  Or you can get into something that captivates you.  I love to write, make collages, take photographs, though I sometimes generate more pain in forgetting altogether about my back, and I am not alone in this. As I said, seeking balance is an everyday task.
  3. Whine with discretion, or people will tune you out. 
  4. But do level with friends and family, especially if they ask.  Otherwise, they won't know; pain is invisible. This sometimes lead someone to try to fix you or buck you up; you have to learn who you can talk to about it, and who you just shouldn't.
  5. Find fellow sufferers.  Things are much easier now that we have the internet and e-lists.  And there are support groups for many conditions. 
  6. Start a gratitude journal; research shows it increases our feeling of personal control over our lives.  If you just can't muster a feeling of gratitude, count your blessings, or good luck.  If you can read this, you do have a couple of blessings to count right there.
  7. Work on your perspective by looking around you and listening.  Everybody's dealing with something hard.  They may not have chronic pain (yet), and may be able-bodied (for now) but there are other  problems in life that are emotionally very painful.  Remember being 15?
  8. Try various ways to work with pain.  I've benefited from acupuncture, yoga, ayurveda oil massage, chi gong, physical therapy, and exercise, and that's just a start.  Doing something for yourself diminishes that feeling of helplessness and depression which, in my experience, makes pain worse.
  9. Find the way you can continue to give, to be useful.  Generosity is its own reward.
  10. There must be a tenth tip here somewhere.  I know.  Go to this link and read Toni Bernhard's tips on how to ask for help. There are more good people around you than you may realize, and their support can be so comforting.  Give them a chance to give.
And good luck.

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