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Category Archives: pediatric chronic pain

Chronic Pain lessons

img_5965My years with chronic pain gave me access to understanding the challenges it presents. As a means of processing what I learned, I wrote and published my memoir, “Silent Courage”.

I have just published my first children’s book, “Wheelie: the Wheelchair in Search of Adventure”.

It is joyous to use story as a means of sharing what I knew to be true about mobility challenged children, of which I count myself a member.

I invite you to take a look at  Wheelie and my new website, sailerseries.com. 

I would love to hear how you might be using your chronic pain experience to help make the journeying softer and gentler for those who follow.

Wheelie is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Changing Attitudes about Pain

EIGELSeptember is Pain Awareness month. In a article in the current issue of the Chronicle, the American Chronic Pain Association quarterly newsletter, I talk about how in my childhood, not talking about pain was an accepted means of pain management.

Our ability to effectively deal with pain has required changing our attitudes about it. My story, Silent Courage, is but one example of how we have moved forward and have better pain management options  beyond silence and needles, knives and narcotics.

Hoping if you are in pain or know someone who is, that you are reaching out and educating yourself about all the available options. I love that I have been able to navigate to a pain free place, in spite of physical challenges. It is possible.

Love to hear about your journey with and through pain. Be well.

 

Can You Miss Your Pain?

My forty-year journey with chronic pain ended with the total replacement of both of my hip joints. I was free from the shackles of physical pain. This should have been a good thing, right?

Wrong. I now faced the biggest contradiction of my life. I was filled with gratitude. My pain was gone. Why was I conflicted about its absence? I felt like someone was trying to lure me out of the protective confines of my self-imposed cave, but I had no way of knowing if it was a smart move.

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I had never known my body without pain. Pain and I had been in a long-term relationship. We conversed every day, all day. And when the surgeons physically removed my pain, I missed my pain.

How was this even possible?

How could I miss something that had been so brutal, so cruel and so endlessly tormenting? I don’t know why I missed my pain, but I did. No one warned me, nor did I anticipate, that the removal of my pain would cause such mental turmoil.

I was thrilled to be without it. It allowed me to imagine myself doing things that had previously been unimaginable, like touring major cities in Europe. I longed to begin this new chapter of my life. But in the quiet of my thoughts, I was confused.

Was my pain really gone, or was this just another one of the mental games we played? I felt like I had been violated and knew that my perpetrator still lived somewhere in my neighborhood. I wanted a guarantee that I was safe from harm.

This dilemma prompted me to write my memoir Silent Courage.

Telling my story means I no longer carry it. I travel lighter in this world. Taking time to write allowed me to process my experience and properly say “good riddance” to my pain.

An unanticipated gift the book has brought to me has been the opportunity to travel and help others mine the story their souls long to tell.

I would love to have you join me. Powerful truths and self revelations have been uncovered.

“I write but want to go deeper. I am leaving here with tools that I can continue to work with.”

“I am surprised at the images and thoughts that have surfaced for me. I am anxious to explore where they might lead.”

My next workshop will be March 14th in Chicago at Equilibrium . This link will take you to my website and future events.

Contact me if you would like to host a workshop. I’d love to help you mine the gold of your own story.

Artists Reaching beyond Limitations

I read this article in the September 21st issue of the news magazine, American Profile, in the Hometown Hero section, about a vision-impared artist, Jeff Hanson. He is helping the world one painting at a time. A childhood optic tumor damaged his vision but has not let it define what he can or cannot do. To date he has contributed $1 million dollars to charity.

My friend Mike Wasserman is doing the same thing, albeit on a smaller scale with his monthly Facebook auctions. 100% of the proceeds benefit a nonprofit of your choice working to enhance the quality of life for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. The Winner picks the nonprofit and pays direct to group selected. He includes FREE shipping! Here is one of his latest pieces up for auction entitled “La Jolla Flowers”.

La Jolla FlowersI am in awe of both of these gentlemen. They inspire and remind us we never need to let our limitations define us.  Their reaching out has made the world a more beautiful place. May you keep gifting us with your work and your charities with money. And may you serve to inspire us to consider how we, too, can reach out.

Happy Painting!

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!

Playing with Chronic Pain

I just got back from an amazing vacation in Mexico that centered around swimming with dolphins. They are truly amazing creatures. I felt drawn to want to be around their energy. Evolving over ten million years ago, they are considered one of the most intelligent animals. Play is an important part of their culture. This tells me they understand something significant.

“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which…. He simply pursues his vision of excellence in whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him, he is always doing both…” -Zen Buddhist teaching

With Chronic Pain, it is too easy to become serious about everything. Taking a lesson from the dolphins, that play is an essential activity, I am anxious to incorporate their wisdom. I can already guess that it will make some unbearable parts of my day more bearable. Hey, if we can redo the daily food pyramid, maybe it is time we rethink our priorities regarding daily activity needs.

Have you understood the wisdom of the dolphins and put play in each day? What works for you?

Transforming Pain

As a child, I remember my father doing a trick where he would hold a coin in his hand, make it disappear and then magically reappear behind one of my ears.I was amazed at how this happened.

This morning watching the Royal Wedding, it was equally magical for me thinking about how Kate was transformed from a commoner to a Princess with her wedding vows. She is no different a person than who she was yesterday, but now her life will have the capacity to expand in unimaginable ways.

Sometimes I think that as chronic pain sufferers, our pain has robbed us of our original identity. It has taken away from our self image and perceived value. What we need to do is give value back to ourselves. Believe that we are worthy of the best that life has to offer and never stop believing that tomorrow can be transformational, just like today was for Princess Kate.

Keep believing that transformations, large or small, are possible. Here are some magic coins for safekeeping.

Get Fascinated with Chronic pain

c. M. Byrne Eigel

This time of year, when I was a child,  I recall being swept into another world looking at all the colors and lights that appear this time of year. I just wanted to shrink myself and crawl into a world where I was surrounded by their magic.

I am sure there are compelling psychological reasons why this felt so good.

As an adult I try to find things that fascinate and take my breath away. These are the experiences that then become ‘special places’ I can mentally go when I need to brighten my day.

What  fascinates you? What magic places have you found that can mentally provide a haven of bliss for pain-filled days? I invite your thoughts.

Pain, the Motivator

My journey with pain has played a dramatic role in my life and led me places I may not have gone had I been pain free.  After each of my three hip surgeries and three knee surgeries I was highly motivated to move “through” the surgical pain and was able to envision a place without pain.

A friend, who was feeling fine, was recently diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo major surgery. She had not spent any real time in a “pain place”. Her surgery was successful, cancer was removed. But she is physically drained and feeling a bit blind-sided. Her cancer was invisible to her and had not caused her to make major alterations in her life.

Being with her I can see my own situation and realize that my pain strengthened me. My goal was to be as far away from it as possible. But anyone having a health issue that is not preceded by pain has a different perspective.

I would not wish my pain experience on my enemies.  But I see now that it gave me strength and courage to work as hard as I could and endure great discomfort. I am feeling compassion for those whose health issues do not include pain. It plays with my mind to wonder where your courage would come from to endure post surgical rehabilitation when you felt fine prior to surgery.

“Lightening Up” Pain Management

Exercise is a great pain management technique. But when you are in pain it can be your nemesis and most of time it can feel like work. It is usually something I do because it is a good thing to do, not because I want to do it or that it is enjoyable. My logical brain tells me that it is a way of maintaining flexibility and keeping pain at arm’s length. But I have noticed something recently that has happened in relation to exercise that I felt worth sharing.

I have only been on one team in my whole life, a college intramural basketball team. I had occasion to observe folks at our local “Y” playing water volleyball. They appeared to be having so much fun. I just happened to be in the pool when they were asking if anyone wanted to play. I thought “They are playing in  water, I love being in water. If I fall, I’m in water, how could that hurt?  If the ball drops, it does not fall to the ground where I cannot retrieve it, it’s on the water.” So I decided to give it a try.  Needless to say I am now  playing each week. I look forward to playing. I have never looked forward to exercising like I look forward to this.

There is a real sense of “joy” that comes from engaging in this activity.

It is joyful playing with others.

It is joyful being able to be on a team.

It is joyful being able to do something that is so beneficial and fun.

Being with others with various physical limitations, playing a sport that has very loose rules, laughing at silly mistakes and getting one heck of a workout makes this a perfect pain management tool. What keeps me valuing this  activity is not that it assists with pain management, but that it is “fun” and that I can do it, and that does wonders for my self image.

Do you have an activity that gives you joy that is also beneficial in terms of pain management? I would love to hear your answer.