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Tag Archives: chronic pain

The Path of Pain

As a new school semester begins, I find myself reflecting on my college years. I chose to attend Quincy College, which was hours from my home in Chicago. This new landscape presented endless opportunities and the ability to reinvent myself. But there was some baggage that I did not pack but still that followed me to college–my chronic pain. I had wished it would stay behind. But in this new place I consciously realized that no one had to know whether I packed the chronic pain with me or not. I was free to deny its existence and pretend to be pain free. Who would it hurt?

I paid a stiff price for my silence. I mindlessly volunteered for events like, “Walk to End Hunger” that inflicted excruciating pain. I will never forget peeling off my shoes from my blood-blistered feet. I never envisioned anything beneficial coming from the experience.

But as the current students return to my alma mater and walk into Brenner Library, they will be greeted by a featured book. My dear roommate, Nancy Knoche Crow, arranged a display with the book I just authored, Silent Courage. The hunger walk is one of the stories that I share in the book reflecting on suffering because I refused to own my pain. Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 11.47.36 AM

Nancy and I and our husbands got together recently to catch up on the paths our lives have taken since our years at Quincy:

The college is now a University.

Nancy is now their Associate Librarian.

My book is now part of the Library collection.

And I am offering workshops to teach others the healing benefits of connecting with a personal story.

Breaking my silence has made all the difference for me. It is scary to consider what I would be missing and the gifts I would have denied myself if I had continued to deny my pain. I challenge you to name and claim what you fear because denying that part closes you off from the wisdom it may have to offer.

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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.

Communicating vs. Complaining

I was asked to speak at a local retirement complex last week regarding Pain Management and issues related to my new book, Silent Courage. One of the topics that encouraged our group discussion was the need to express our needs. One of the participants asked, “But isn’t that complaining?”

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I said no. “It’s a good thing to communicate.”

Then she asked, “Why do we feel it is a bad thing?”

What a great question.

It seems that we confuse complaining with communicating. And the only difference between the two may be our attitude. Communicating is relaying information. Complaining implies that we moan or groan as we speak.

When we communicate that we have particular needs we are asking the world to stop, look, and listen. Then simply say, “What may work for you does not work for me. I need [state what you need].”

By sharing that we require something like a handicapped parking spot because walking long distances is difficult we are raising awareness that distance matters. If we travel through this world only thinking of ourselves, it is easy to remain selfish. If folks who were in wheelchairs, who could not climb stairs, never expressed their challenges, we may not have elevators that benefit us all in buildings today.

It is our attitude when we express our feelings that categorizes what we say.

My husband’s roommate in college was blind. When you would enter his space I remember asking him if it was okay if I turned a light on. His reply was, “Sure, I forgot you have that problem.”

Never be afraid to claim the space you  need for your journey. Others may benefit, too.

Chronic Pain Conversation

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Recently, our local YMCA branch asked me to speak at a community luncheon about Chronic Pain. They know I have a book coming out on the subject and thought chronic pain management would be of interest to their clients.

I agreed. A date was set. Then I began to worry.

Who really wants to hear about chronic pain? Folks who are in chronic pain often want to deny that they are there. Doctors get frustrated when their patients don’t follow their medical reasoning and advice about it.

The next question I had for myself was – who will attend? The Y is doing the advertising. Members will see the posters. But these people already come for wellness/exercise programs. Won’t this be like preaching to the choir?

Friday came, and I arrived early. The staff was setting up tables and food. People began to stream in from exercise classes and the parking lot. The audience ranged in age from 40ish to 80ish, filling almost 40 chairs.

An older lady who sat in the front commented, “You can just look in someone’s eyes and know they are in pain.” I told her that was only half true. Those of us who know what the experience is like can read the subtle signs. But if someone has never been in long-term pain how can they be expected to understand?

It was special to be together, engaged in a group and validating that pain is real.  That pain is often an uninvited guest requiring special accommodations. That only those who have shared a painful experience can really understand. And that using every available resource to be the best version of yourself requires access to information and opportunities.

I shared my experiences, current research findings and both Internet and local resources. Our sharing was beneficial. Being able to intelligently converse, not just complain about pain, gave people permission to find their voice and speak their truth. I may have been preaching to the choir but it allowed me to see that even they enjoyed adding to their repertoire.

Chronic Pain Conversations

EIGEL_oneWAYBut Why?

I remember hearing this question from each of my daughters when they were young, resisting what they were asked to do. The question is both innocent and wise.

I am nearing the completion of writing a book that chronicles my lifelong journey and triumph over chronic pain. There were many mornings I could have hung it all up because I did not have a definitive answer as to “why” I was taking all this time to write. Is it going to be of value? Will it lead to another career path? All I had was an intuitive hunch that folks did not understand some things I shared regarding the mind, body and spirit aspects of pain and maybe that was reason enough to want to put pen to paper.

It was not until now, when I am in a position to get feedback from friends and professionals I respect, that I realize the journey was worth taking. That it was of value to allow myself to be vulnerable and put my story out there.

I am thankful that I was innocent enough to keep going and not demand an answer.

And now I look forward to the publication of my book in the near future with the hope it can expand the conversation about the experience of pain and successfully dealing managing it.

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!

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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Turn Resistance to Chronic Pain Issues into Assistance

I have found myself in places I would rather not be. Being in pain is one of them. I have spent a lot of time and energy “trying not to be there.” I have denied my pain by refusing to recognize the importance of daily exercise, and suffered for it. I have challenged my pain by doing things I knew I should not do, and suffered for it. I have refused to accommodate my pain by doing things like wearing sensible shoes, and suffered for it.

A speaker I heard last week, Jaison, spoke about how we can change “resistance to assistance”  by altering our beliefs. Accepting that “You are in your rightful place” allows the energy you might spend denying a situation to be spent assisting with the situation.

Several years ago I was told that my blood sugar levels were high and I needed to see someone about controlling it. Expecting that this meant nothing more getting a lecture and another brochure, I willingly made the appointment. When I arrived the specialist took out a glucose meter and said “I want you to start taking your blood sugar levels every day.” I could have bolted at that moment. It took a lot of energy  not to flee.

I am not sure how much of what she said I actually heard.  Simultaneously echoing inside my head was,  “I don’t belong here, she is mistaken. My blood sugars aren’t that bad. I am a good person, I should not be hearing this.”

This was several years ago. I have accepted this diagnosis, but also realize that I still have resistance. I still need assistance with my resistance. When I realize that, like Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “The lady doth protest too much,” it is a red flag to me that my resistance is strong and I am going to need a lot of assistance.  It is my choice whether to spend energy resisting or assisting.

Do you have a chronic pain related issue that you struggle to accept? What types of assistance have you had to use?

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?