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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Taking Stock In Attempt To Change

For the last 18 months, and probably longer, my pain has been in control of my life not the other way around. When my pain got worse a few years ago I adapted and still managed to function. When it got worse in April 2011, I could not figure out ways to adapt as nothing seemed to work. As time went on, depression increased, mobility decreased and pain took control. My old methods for dealing with and living despite my pain are no longer effective with this new level of pain and symptoms (no standing/walking more than 5 minutes). So I decided to try and get some help. I can't locate a behavioral therapist who deals with chronic pain in my area, so I ordered some books.

I am currently working through "The Chronic Pain Care Workbook" by Michael J. Lewandowski, PH.D. I already knew that my coping mechanisms are not good and in the case that I've been using dissociation to deal with my pain, they have degenerated into very unhealthy mechanisms. I bought the books back in early February I believe. Since then I've read a few pages in each one (I bought 4), then did what has always worked for me. I allowed my mind to analyze and think about the ideas these books represented.

It is very hard for me to admit that my actions and thoughts are contributing to my pain. It is difficult to admit that I lost some of my ability to manage my pain effectively a while ago, and lost the rest of it in the last 18 months or so. It is hard to admit that I gave up. I wanted so much to believe that I was doing everything I could. That I was trying to function with the pain, but the truth is I gave up. The pain got so much worse, with new symptoms and the inability to stand for more than 5 minutes, no real help from my doctor, and I gave up. Now I am sitting here crying because this is the first time that I have faced head on and admitted clearly that I gave up. Instead of saying something like "yeah I've given in BUT <insert any but here>", the truth is I was kidding myself, there has been no actual "but" for a long time. I do occasionally fight back and try to do things like some laundry or housework or cooking, which increase my pain and when that happens, I give up again for a while before trying again. But those attempts are few and far between.

Why am I sharing something that to me is emotionally painful, humiliating, terrifying, and so intensely personal? I'm not really sure what all my reasons are, but the one that comes to mind immediately upon asking myself that question is that I want others who may be in my position to see they are not alone. In addition I am hoping that by sharing the truth about my own mental, emotional, and physical ability to fight/live with my pain, that those who are in the same boat as me, can see that there is still hope. I have reached a point where I am sick of this. I want my life back. The only way to achieve that is to work at it and learn new ways of coping, since obviously my old ways aren't working. Sitting around waiting for something outside of myself to give me back my life obviously doesn't work. So I guess it's time to get off my ass again.

In the book I mentioned above there are lots of exercises. These are designed to help you see where you are now in dealing with your pain. What is working well, what is not working at all, and what could use some improvement to work better. The beginning of the book, like any other self-help book or even therapy with a therapist, starts out with taking stock of where you are right now. Identifying what works, what doesn't etc. Also identifying your readiness to change, your motivations. I understand all of this having gone through it before with and without a therapist when I was dealing with healing after abuse. I've done these things in conjunction with a therapist in order to help my daughter heal from abuse. Many of these first steps are the same.

What surprised me was the fear reaction. Having the fear of facing old abuses in your past, acknowledging the damage it has done and the negative effects it has on your present all made sense to me. Who wants to face such painful memories, accept them, work through them and all that. The fear made sense.

But now, accepting this fear of dealing with my own pain means accepting that I have failed. For some reason I am finding it much harder to accept that I am afraid of trying anything. My biggest fear is increased pain and decreased mobility, followed by fear of failure. For some reason this isn't making sense to me. I keep asking myself "Why am I afraid of my own pain?, heck I've lived with it for 30 years (varying over that time from mild, to bad to worse to now [horrible]). I know I will live with pain the rest of my life. Why am I afraid? Is it really that simple as fear of change?". It isn't making sense to me why I am so scared.

And with so very little for me to look at as things I can do well (in the sense of a job or productive activities), the idea of having failed in dealing with my chronic pain in my daily life is terrifying and painful. I am feeling very vulnerable and very sacred to look at all these things, to see exactly where I have failed. What if admitting all this makes people around me decide I'm no good? What if it makes me decide I'm no good (seeing myself as no good is worse to me than others having that opinion)? What if I fail at trying to change? Heck since I've already failed, what are the chances I can succeed now? I've tried to fight over the past 18 months, but failed time and time again.

But I don't have a choice, I have to try. So I will take my anger and fear and try to harness it as a motivation to get the changes I want. To get my life back.

One of the exercises was to draw a pie chart that represents how I view the way my pain problems affect my life. Included are the pain issues themselves, then social issues and psychological issues. Here is a picture of the pie chart I drew. It clearly shows that the pain issues have overtaken everything else in my own mind; I have allowed the pain issues to overshadow everything, to take over. This ticked me off and scared me and I want to change it. So here's hoping I can do that. I will try simply because I want a life, my life, back.

The book then goes over the Stages Of Change and I am in the "Open to thinking about change, but...". I know Doc's can't fix me. I know that I will have pain for the rest of my life. I know that what I've been doing isn't working. I know my fear of trying to change and failing, isn't going to help. I want to change this pie chart, I want my life back. So now comes working through the fear and getting rid of it so I can take the steps necessary to manage my pain better.

Knowing how I tend to work, when it comes to having to fix things mentally/emotionally/behaviorally, I will probably revisit these topics a few times. Hopefully on this blog so my journey can help others, but it is possible that not all of it will show up here, depending on how personal it is or if the thoughts etc affect someone else, not just me. So most likely I will have to revisit this topic of my fears until I understand them well enough that I can counteract them with more reality based thinking.

Here's hoping that I can get my life back.

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Thank you for taking the time to read and/or comment on my blog. For people who are chronically ill and/or in constant pain, it can be difficult to socialize as frequently as we would like to do so. Talking with others online is a way for us to socialize, chat with others, make new friends, reach out to others in similar circumstances and many more positive effects.

Knowing that someone has read my posts and commented on it, helps in many ways. The biggest two being that it helps ease the feeling of being "alone" and that no one could possibly understand. Secondly, it reminds us that others truly do care and that just feels wonderful!!

Thank you very much for taking the time to read and/or comment on my blog, it really does mean a great deal to me and is helpful too!