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Tag Archives: hip replacement

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.

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!

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?

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.

Favorite Blogs

I was so humbled to accept an award from a fellow blogger, Wendy Burnett at Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired.  I  am just  getting around to fulfilling the requirements that go along with this honor by selecting my favorite blogs and doing a brief description of them.

* Accept the award and post it on your blog with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.

* Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you’ve newly discovered. (if possible)

* Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

Here are some of the blogs that have inspired, informed and uplifted me.

1 . Dancing with Pain, Loolwa Khazzoom is the founder and CEO of Dancing with Pain®, a health & wellness company that offers natural pain relief solutions and that has been featured in media outlets including ABC News and The New York Times.  Her approach and program are worth checking out.

2. How to Cope with Pain, a blog hosted by a Board Certified Psychiatrist in practice for 18 years in Pennsylvania who focuses on chronic  pain  patients. His blog is always insightful, provocative and educational. Sign up for his monthly Pain blog carnival.

3. Chronic Babe for those who are not defined by their pain, but want to help define pain. My only regret is that blogs  did not exist twenty years ago. This would have been a “home”. It is wonderful for networking, resourcing and just making each day more meaningful by being able to share with others on chronic pain journeys.

4. Addiction Free Pain Management, Dr Grinstead treats chronic pain patients and other co-existing disorders. His informed and heartfelt understanding of pain issues and broad based approach to treating them makes me wish I lived a whole lot closer to his center.

5. The Positive Mind, the Di Mele Center in NY is both blog and radio program focusing on helpful resources in dealing with life issues. And with chronic pain, I have found that the more tools I have in my tool bag to deal with stressors, the better I am at pain management.

6. Health.com always has interesting articles on everything from side effects of pain meds to improving your sex life when dealing with chronic pain.

7. Heroes of Healing Heroes of Healing is a non-judgmental, forum-based website for caregivers and those in pain to come together to share personal stories of struggle, perseverance and triumph. Very validating.

8. Life with Chronic Pain:A how-to guide Sue takes a glass-half-full approach to her disease and says she tries to do something useful every day.

9. Creaky Joints: Bringing Arthritis to its Knees . The name says it all. There are several great columnists all speaking from their personal and professional points of view on issues. Very uplifting.

10. Overcoming Pain by Mark Borigini discusses why people experience chronic pain, and the power they have to de-intensify it. Great topics, information and insight.

11. Rising Above, John has an incredible personal story and a very inspirational newsletter that you can get.

12. Graceful Agony a long time favorite. Jolene believes in living your best life in spite of pain and offers lots of reflective articles about her journey and resources.

13. Phylor’s blog I always enjoy her musings, creativity and alternative approaches and research.

14. HealthSkills a blog for health professionals working in pain management. I value her research and love to read what is being discussed. I believe that those of us in pain can help inform those who work with pain. And I value being informed.

15. Wordle.net this is not a blog but a great website for creating word clouds. I have used it to create lovely graphics for many presentations. Just upload one of your blog articles and see what it does with it. It  puts joy in my day when I see the words that I have used, their frequency and have them arranged artfully.

c. MaryByrneEigelFor me, being able to color, paint, sculpt or draw has been a means of escaping my chronic pain. Loading a paintbrush with a visually stimulating blend of colors and smearing it onto canvas or paper, savoring the ways the colors blend and interact with one another, transports me to another stratosphere, one that denies access to the physical pain echoing in my legs or hips.

Having had chronic pain since childhood, I learned at a young age that if I involved myself in something pleasurable I could alter my sensation of pain. Being able to work with color, whether it was planting flowers, designing with fabric or working with paint, paper or clay, I was able to engage my senses, brain and imagination and take pleasure in what I was creating and escape the confines of pain.

As a child I did not consciously know this but hindsight has shown me that there may have been several factors at work when I was engaged artistically.  Firstly the sheer sensory pleasure derived from working with materials. The earthy smell of clay, the visual vibrancy of bottles of paint, the rough-hewn texture of wood, and the sound of pieces of metal clinking together were all things that captivated me. Secondly, considering the possibilities of how I might do such things as bend colored wire into shapes or carve a solid surface were mentally challenging and required my full attention.  Thirdly, my imagination was sparked when I began to envision and see something taking shape.  It was like reading a good story, you weren’t sure where it was going to take you, but you knew you wanted to go along for the ride.

An additional benefit of art endeavors was that it gave me a sense of confidence that I could do things. Walking was often painful and it was isolating and hard to accept that something others did seemingly without effort was such a challenge for me.  But working creatively was what I could do effortlessly and it helped me regain confidence in myself that pain had stripped away.

Being able to enhance my surroundings with artwork helped to diminish the ugly environment of pain. Leaving that ‘place of pain’ let me feel that I could exercise some control in an otherwise uncontrollable situation. I may not feel beautiful but I could gaze on beautiful things and lift my mood.

I have been asked,  “Do you use your artwork to visually describe your pain?”  I have only done this occasionally and for personal work, not work that I intend others to view. Pain can be ugly and brutal, and it is what I wish to escape. I do believe there is great therapeutic value in being able to give pain a face and address it head on. But by focusing on other subjects of interest I can travel to other places and take my mind off of what I am feeling and replace negative feelings with positive.