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Tag Archives: pain management

Role Reversal: More Lessons from the Boot

Yesterday, I had a follow up visit with my foot doctor, Dr. Julia. We share great conversations about pain and pain management. I told her the pain from my foot is one issue but the mental pain from not being able to “Do” and just “Be” while I rest is a bigger problem. I asked her if she did psychiatric counseling.

“Psychiatric Podiatrist, interesting concept, Mary,” she chuckled.

She thought I was kidding. I was dead straight.

Being limited physically, allowing others to wait on you hand and foot, rubs up against our freedom and independence. Relying on others and canceling commitments makes me a person I do not want to be. I am the doer, the caretaker, the supporter, the one who has been there for others. But now I am having to reverse roles. Now, I am the receiver, the one who needs support, the one who needs others to be here.

Tough lesson, boot.

A younger version of myself might have used food or wine to navigate these waters. Lots of it. But I know better. That only compounds suffering.

I am trying to spend time with the thoughts that are arising. How do I see myself? Do I have to “Do” to “Be”? Why is it so hard to just “Be”?

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The boot seems to be telling me my ego is feeling very threatened by not “Do-ing”.  My ever present little pug, Trey, allows me to see there is beauty in just “Be-ing”.

I will keep taking centering breaths, not engage the negative thoughts my ego keeps trying to present, and attempt to absorb what Trey knows. It is his peace I desire.

And what I have learned is that if I take pen to paper I might be able to mine some gems from this experience.

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Digesting “Cake” the movie

The movie “Cake” starring Jennifer Aniston allows us to journey into the life of a chronic pain patient. I anticipated the movie providing the transformational energy of a watershed moment. I anticipated hundreds of people commenting on relevant articles about the movie. I anticipated people and conversations would stir with insight.

The Pain community is doing a great job of getting the word out through media sources. But I am left wondering “Why is “Cake” not stirring more conversation?”

Statistics cite over 100 million Americans have been diagnosed with chronic pain. We all know someone or have been that someone who is included in these numbers. I spent over 40 years with this unwelcome bedfellow.

Maybe I should not be so surprised. Pain has its own unique set of dynamics.

Pain patients are often their own worst enemy. Many of us go years denying what we are experiencing, fearing it may require lengthy, expensive and inconvenient measures to correct. Or we spend years frustratingly going from doctor to doctor, procedure to procedure, medication to medication searching for relief or proper diagnosis. In both cases, we struggle to find the words to truly explain how we feel.

“Cake” exposes some raw truths that perhaps we would rather not know. It is disturbing to think that a friend or loved one might be undergoing the same tortured life as Claire, the main character.

It is unpleasant to be on a plane with a crying baby. It makes us uncomfortable. We need the baby to be soothed. It disturbs our comfort when we are aware of someone who is unconsolable.

Does the movie “Cake” touch on something deep within us that is too difficult to consider? We live in a world where we have the tools to fix a lot of medical problems. Does the fact that chronic pain is no easy fix seem incomprehensible? Is it to costly to imagine that there are many Claire’s in this world trying to make it through each day?

The movie provides an opportunity to engage in conversation. I pray it increases awareness and moves us closer to identifying causes, cures and resources. I pray it broadens understanding of the multi-faceted complexity of pain. I pray it minimizes the gap between patients and those who love and care for them.

 

Reflections of Pain

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The other day as I was driving into St. Louis, I observed a man stalled along the highway. His image haunted me. Something about his dilemma reminded me of myself.

He had gone too far on limited resources. His car could go no further. Carrying a gas can, he had a choice to make. He could stand and wait for assistance, but that would require admitting he had made a mistake. And if someone offered to drive him to the next exit and a gas station, he would then need a ride back in the opposite direction to his car–additional help. Instead, he walked against traffic to single handedly find a gas station, avoiding asking for help.

Why is asking for help so difficult?

It requires giving up our need to control events. It requires facing our fears of feeling shame or being judged for actions that may have created a need-based situation.

When I saw him, I reflected on the times that I opted to not ask for help and emotionally and physically suffered because of it.

What this (now) better version of myself has learned to ask is, “If this were happening to a friend, and not me, what would I want my friend to do?”

The answer is always, “Ask for help.”

It can be an occasion for grace to enter our own hearts and remind us that we all have needs and we all have gifts to offer. Maybe the person we ask for help may be in need of a bit of lifting up themselves. And we may end up assisting each other in a way that was unanticipated.

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.