Monthly Archives: March 2013

Silver Linings and Small Victories.

It’s been a while! I was having a hard time being grateful last week, and I decided not to force it, but I’m back and feeling better now, so here we go.

This week:

I am grateful for learning. The opportunity, the capacity, and the inclination.

I am grateful for my mum. She’s amazing. Even when she’s in worse shape than me (which is often – she has Complex Regional Pain Syndrome / Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy), she’s always worrying about me.

I am grateful for simple answers to complicated questions.

I am grateful for uncharacteristic nonchalance in the face of someone acting like I was an idiot.

I am grateful for surprisingly effortless interactions with someone who is often challenging to interact with.

I am grateful for help.

I am grateful for a secure home and a loving partner, and I am grateful for circumstances that remind me that things could be much more complicated.

I am grateful for cat cuddles, always.

I am grateful for delicious Paleo recipes (and, to be honest, ill-advised but delicious cheating in the form of Cadbury cream eggs).

I am grateful for eye-wateringly bright fuchsia, which I never wear but is my happy colour.

I am grateful for insomnia, because I awoke very early one morning, couldn’t get back to sleep, and spontaneously composed a full third of my literature review while laying in bed trying to get back to sleep. It’s not due for a month and that never happens to me.

I am disappointed that, in the State election that just passed, Labor (the party who was planning to make WA join in with the National Disability Insurance Scheme – we are currently the only Australian state not signed on and I am horrified) did not win. However, I am so, so grateful that I live in a democracy where I am able to vote, and my vote counts.

What are you grateful for?

Advertisements

The Patient.

While being fully aware of the beneficial effect of a positive and optimistic mindset on pain management, I am also a firm believer in the therapeutic value of validating experience. So in the interests of being honest and accepting about what I am feeling: I feel awful.

My 16-hour excursion just over a week ago (public transport, a lecture, errands, a meeting, a car trip, more public transport, and several hours at a crowded music festival alternating between standing and sitting on the ground) precipitated a massive system shutdown. Which I expected, but I didn’t think it would be this severe. I realise I probably deserve it for going so overboard, and I think it was worth it, and I realise when you can’t cure chronic pain you have to find ways to live your life anyway. But ugh. So awful.

I managed to avoid drinking at the festival, but ingested a lot of refined sugar and somehow inadvertently some gluten (don’t ask me how I know!), which potentially have made this worse. I also got sunburned at uni yesterday, so I’m headachey and extra-fatigued on top of already being bone-weary, nauseous, and brain-foggy.

I don’t have the energy to prepare meals, or to make myself eat them, so I’m eating one meal a day. I don’t have the energy for yoga so my stress and muscle tension are worse, and the gains I had been making in flexibility are diminishing. I’m behind in my reading because my brain won’t work and I’m exhausted, so by the time I get into bed I’m too stressed to sleep. Then I end up double-dosing my sleeping medication, waking up med-hungover and late, and wasting half the day gearing up enough to do basic tasks (don’t ask if I’ve showered today). I’ve had to go back up to my prescribed painkiller dose, which I had been reducing successfully, which makes me stupid while it’s working and exhausted once it’s over.

The cycle is frustrating and predictable, but feels unavoidable. I feel stuck.

There are things that are incredibly difficult for me and yet helpful, like being kind to myself and asking for help when I need it. Sometimes I get the vague suspicion that these things are what chronic pain is in my life to teach me. The lessons are hard. But in the interests of doing them, I’m asking.

What do you do at times like these, when you are at a loss and nothing is helping? How do you pick yourself up again?

I’ll start, and I will implement these tonight (or may the gods of internet accountability smite me!), even if it means getting further behind on chores and uni work, because if I am not well, none of those things get done anyway.

I will eat a healthy dinner even if I am tired, because my body needs fuel to function.

I will have a warm bath with Epsom salts, while watching an episode of something cheerful and trashy.

I will do 20 minutes of yoga (I like this one at the moment) and I won’t skip through the meditations because I’m too busy.

I will listen to this and remember to be patient and wait it out.

I will get into bed and have a cup of passionflower tea.

I will turn off the light by 10:30.

I will breathe deeply.

I will trust that this too shall pass.

Your turn. I would love to hear your suggestions.

Fun Facts.

[I want to preface this by saying that I am not currently mentally prepared to engage in a discussion regarding the ethics of inducing pain in animals to advance scientific knowledge. However, given this study has already been done, I think sharing and learning from its findings are a way of making animals’ suffering not be for nothing. As with all things, you are free to respectfully disagree.]

So, we know social factors influence pain experience. And you guys, I just found out mice with pain who are allowed to hang out with their sibling mice experience greater pain relief from narcotics. Adorable. Go hug a mouse. Or your family. (If you have a mouse as a family member, you win at pain relief!)

And if you don’t trust mice, women given electric shocks while holding their spouse’s hand found the pain less unpleasant (as compared to women holding a stranger’s hand, or no hand), as it reduced the perceived threat of the pain. Takeaway lesson for the day: if you can have your family or a loved one present during a painful treatment or intervention, do it!

References:

Coan, J. A., Schaefer, H. S., & Davidson, R. J. (2006). Lending a hand: Social regulation of the neural response to threat. Psychological Science, 17(12), 1032-1039. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2006.01832.x

D’Amato, F. R. (1998). Kin interaction enhances morphine analgesia in male mice. Behavioural Pharmacology, 9(4), 369-373. doi:10.1097/00008877-199807000-00009

Pain Management as a Human Right.

I just came across a quote that resonated so strongly with me that I wanted to share it. For anyone else who has ever been junkie-shamed (as I call it; humiliated and belittled for use of or desire for prescription narcotic pain medication), as I have, or believes, as I do (and as an emerging body of research supports), that adequate pain management is a right of all individuals, regardless of the potential for opiate addiction.

The quote is from Margaret Somerville, a medical ethicist.

“To leave a person in avoidable pain and suffering should be regarded as a serious breach of fundamental human rights [and] can be regarded not only as unethical, but also as negligence … It also should be treated as unprofessional conduct; that is, it should constitute a basis for disciplinary action by the relevant professional licensing body.”

The article citing the quote, for anyone interested in reading further, is: MacDonald, J. E. (2008). Anti-oppressive practices with chronic pain sufferers. Social Work in Health Care, 47(2), 135-156. doi:10.1080/00981380801970285

I hope your pain is adequately managed today.

Silver Linings and Small Victories.

Belated to include the long weekend this week. Yesterday was the first day back at uni, and between class, a supervisor meeting, travel, and a music festival, I was out of the house for 16 hours. I feel like lukewarm death today, and probably will be paying for it for a week, but I’m counting it as a victory (a big one!) because I did it and I didn’t die 😀 Also, A PERFECT CIRCLE WERE AWESOME!

In other good things, this week:

I am grateful for good days; although I’ve had fatigue and have been feeling low-grade-ill this week, my pain has been negligible (at least prior to yesterday), and that’s vastly preferable to dealing with everything at once.

I am grateful for my body’s muscle memory; my anxiety-relieving yoga routine is becoming habit and I’m becoming more able to relax my jaw, neck, and shoulders quickly when I get stressed, which seems to head off my more severe occipital neuralgia flares.

I am grateful for fleeting moments of confidence in my capacity to meet the challenges in my life (and would like to foster more).

I am grateful for miracle-find natural beauty products.

I am grateful to be able to move my body in ways that feel good to me.

I am grateful that I am developing the ability to be grateful to my body, and to love it now and then, instead of constantly berating it for not meeting a social ideal in appearance or function.

I am grateful for the (technical) end of summer (even though I know it will be another month or two until it actually cools down).

I am grateful for a winter holiday booked, and something delightful to look forward to.

I am grateful that my state is stunningly beautiful and affords so many and varied destinations that it doesn’t matter too much if getting on a plane is currently out of my reach.

I am grateful for hidden reserves.

I am grateful for positive feedback when I need reinforcement.

Thought for the Day.

Had an illness-is-hilarious moment I wanted to share.

I was at the letterbox checking the mail when I got a massive, excruciating cramp. I get cramps in my left calf and foot since my back has been bad. Seconds later, I realised there were baby spiders all over the letter I had pulled out of the letterbox.

Cue me shrieking, waving my arms around frantically trying to dislodge the baby spiders, and hobbling, howling, up my driveway doing a weird I-have-a-cramp-and-there-are-spiders dance all the way to the front door.

I’m sure the neighbours were entertained, at least!

Hope you’re AWAP (as well as possible) today.