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Category Archives: hip replacement

Narrative Therapy & The Message of My Pain

On a recent visit to California I had the pleasure of meeting one of my heroes, Dr. Steve Grinstead. In my mind I had imagined him larger than life. He had been a treasure-of-a-find five years ago when I began blogging. As a psychotherapist, he understood that pain was more than just a physical phenomena. He was one of the first healers I found in all my Internet searching who was treating the “whole” person when it came to pain management. He “got it” like no other professional I had encountered. He understood that pain worked its way into your psyche and spirit and needed to be treated on those levels. Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 9.39.17 AM

I should have guessed that the reason he had so much compassion was because he experienced his own physical pain. He had to step away from careers as both a master electrician and martial artist because of a game- changing injury. But the message he received drove him to become  a seasoned psychotherapist and the Director of Grinstead Treatment, Training & Coaching Services,  http://www.freedomfromsufferingnow.com.

My chronic pain gave me a reason to consider what I could do besides teach art, which required standing for long hours. It allowed me to open my own art studio and flourish as an artist.

With the release of Silent Courage, I now find myself traveling in another new direction. When Steve read my book, he told me that what I had done was “narrative therapy.” I did not even know what the term meant, but I did know that internal debris I had been carrying all my life was gone. Mental self-defeating chatter that had burdened my thoughts for years was now silent.

I am loving the fact that through my workshops I can connect with others who are interested in mining what their souls know. It is the new message my pain has delivered. A new journey has begun, and I have my pain to thank for this.

Facing our Fears: Chronic Pain Management

Anxiously driving to my doctor’s office yesterday, to have a small skin cancer removed, I heard this program on our local NPR station. The focus was on a group of compromised veterans who were challenging themselves to climb Halfdome in  Yosemite Park. I was gathering courage to face a small knife and here they were mustering courage to trust their prosthetic limbs on the face of a mountain.

As they passed the microphone around, they spoke of the importance of challenging yourself and building your confidence and trust.

What a marvelous way to think about dealing with chronic pain management. Finding those things that can reinforce our mental and emotional ability to deal is as important as our physical strength.

Check it out. They inspired me!

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I am happy to report the book project, which is currently consuming my time, is nearing completion. It has taken a team to get to this point. And I look forward to sharing my story with you and your loved ones. I have a new website, thanks to my daughter, Katie Eigel, who kept this blog alive as a page within the site.

I have taken a break from teaching to focus on advancing the conversation about pain, which is a big goal of my book. Recently I was given the good fortune of being interviewed by Erin Hart for an article in the September issue of the American Chronic Pain Chronicle magazine entitled, “An Artistic Approach to Pain Management.”

The publication of the article came on the heels of me printing and reviewing my full-book manuscript for the first time. This was all great news. But I found myself feeling anxious and unsure, and then feeling guilty about what I was feeling.

I was reminded of a similar experience prior to my total hip replacement surgeries. Another highly anticipated moment. The day before surgery, alone with my own thoughts, I began to second-guess what I was about to do. Every fearful thought and worst-case scenario proudly paraded itself inside my mind. Is this really what I should be doing?

Had I been forewarned that these irrational fears might arise, that last pre-surgery day may have been more productive and less stressful. But no one had alerted me that my mind would want to play these tricks. It would have been so helpful to have had a “heads-up” about my pre-surgery jitters.

I am working through these new feelings and know that just like my surgeries, I will ultimately be in a better place when my book is complete and I see our understanding and conversations about pain increasing.

Measuring Chronic Pain Progress

It feels so great to be back posting. I have missed my blog friends but knew the only way a book gets written is to minimize distractions. I am nearing a conclusion, feeling good about it and look forward to sharing more about it soon!!

It dawned on me the other day that I might be using the wrong ruler to chart my progress. If I use one that has big spaces between numbers it feels like I make little progress. But if I scale down to a level that progress is actually measurable, like ounces on a digital scale, I have reason to rejoice.

Have you checked the type of ruler you are using lately?

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Take some time off — you deserve it! — brought to you by GHLF

Take some time off — you deserve it! — brought to you by GHLF.

Working with Chronic Pain Obstacles

  The obstacle is the path.    

         Zen Proverb

I just saw this great quote on Beth Havey’s blog. She is a boomer licensed nurse/writer blogging about keeping our lives on track in the midst of all  that life presents to us each day. When I read or hear about  all the demands that are placed on us, many that we lovingly absorb, I am reminded how much tougher this makes a day for someone navigating around chronic pain. I encourage you to check out her site. In addition to pain management, life management skills, on which she offers some great ideas, are an essential part of the equation.

Reflecting on the quote, I was hearing something I did not want to hear. If the obstacle is the path, then meeting it head on is what we should be doing. This takes courage. It is always much easier to skirt what is in our way rather than confront it. Running and hiding, in a comfortable place where we cannot even see the obstacle, is another viable option. The quote suggests the contrary, we should identify our challenge and work with it to discover our life path.

It takes a lot of centeredness to approach life with this perspective. If we choose to acknowledge what lies in our path it is a means of staying centered. It is a giant post-it note reminding us that we cannot forget ourselves and the nourishment we need, before we decide how much we have to give to others.

What strategies or “post-it notes” reminders do you use to ensure you don’t give all your energy away to others, ignoring what you need for yourself?

First Aid for Chronic Pain

This past weekend I was hit with a virus. It took me back to my pain days, when I was spending more time in bed than on my feet. I am guessing that most folks have had at least one encounter with a major virus, and can remember the anger, frustration and lack of energy that are part of this experience. Imagine how it would be if you were constantly trapped in this situation.

If you come across someone you love who battles chronic pain and you see them engaging in what might seem like a leisurely activity, like laying down and reading, don’t rush to judgement. They may appear to be lounging, but in reality, they are engaging in a healthy dose of “First Aid.” They are seeking a diversion from their situation. They are choosing to take control of their life and engage in something  manageable and meaningful. They are attempting to avoid suffering. This is good medicine. Encourage them and their efforts to stay engaged.

To see someone in pain, not engaging in a healthy activity, that is when you should worry. These folks are feeling a loss of control and trapped in their pain. Depression is sure to follow.

First Aid can consist of simple measures, but can also be life saving. Do you have certain “First Aid” measures that you employ to ward of suffering? What gives you a sense of being able to escape the ugly pit of chronic pain? Have you found yourself misjudged as being lazy when in fact you are doing the best that you can at a given point in time?