Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What I've Learned So Far About Pain

On 12 April, I woke up and found I was unable to move without horrible pain. I'd done nothing physical. I didn't fall. For about six months up to that point, though,  I had a series of stressful events that kept piling up and compounding the stress level in my body. I first felt the pain in my left heel. That caused me to stop my morning aerobics. Then the pain moved to my right hip. I took a few ibuprofen each day and managed to get on. Then one day my husband said, "Do you realise you're walking crooked?" Then on 11 April, we rushed to Gaborone to find a place for my daughter to move and to shift her stuff  after she was given less than a week to be out of where she was. That seemed to be the straw that literally broke this camel's back. 12th  April my life changed.

At first, though I was scared by the severity of the pain, I was sure my body would sort itself out. It always had before.Though I could do little more than lay in bed, I was sure it was nothing serious. But then a week passed and then another and then a month. A bit by force I was taken to a chiropractor and then I had Xrays and an MRI and suddenly everyone had an opinion. A disc between my vertebra was herniated and pressing on my sciatic nerve so the pain starting in my lower back shot straight down my leg all the way to my foot. I was advised by one qualified medical  fellow that if I did not get surgery and very soon I would be paralysed.

I kept explaining that I felt the months of stress leading up to the day in Gaborone was the cause, but no one was interested. They saw that disc and it had to be cut out. But I wasn't going to do it. I just knew I would need to find another way.

So more months went by. I swallowed so many pills I was a walking science experiment. I stopped going to the hospital because their only option was more pills or surgery. One was not working and the other I knew would not improve things.

Eventually I found a physical therapist who also does acupuncture who has helped me a lot. After seeing him  only a few times, I could sit on a chair again. I could walk with minimal pain.

As of today, I still have pain in my leg, but nowhere near what it was before. I can do nearly everything. I go for physical therapy once a week. And I've begun to understand a bit about pain. If I'm having a bad day, the pain is more. If I lose hope of ever being pain free, the pain is more. When I just get on with things, the pain is less. When I get scared and think maybe that fellow was right and one day I will be paralyzed because of this, the pain surges.

I know for sure and certain, whatever my MRI shows, my pain started in my head and continues to be produced in my head. Yes, I'm feeling real pain, but it is my brain creating it. If those six months of crazy stress had not occurred, I doubt 12 April would have happened. If I would have paid a bit more attention to my heel pain and my hip pain, paid a bit more attention to how I was coping with the stress, I wouldn't have spent nearly six weeks scared to walk to the bathroom.

I've developed huge empathy for people who live with daily pain. I know what a dictator it can be. It leaves nothing left of your life, it takes it all. I don't know if one day I'll be completely pain free, I hope so. I don't know if I'll have another attack that throws me back in bed, I might. I'm trying to learn to be kinder to myself. I'm trying to let things slide a bit. I've seen what stress can do to me. It's been a tough year, but I'm trying my best to relearn how to live and that's not a bad thing I think.

9 comments:

Miss Footloose said...

Oh, Lauri, what a story (and I'm not being funny by rhyming here!) Stress can do amazing things. The subject of the mind-body connection is fascinating. I hope you'll find a way to deal with the mind-part to help the body-part. Affirmations and "practical" meditation can do wonders. All the best!

Lauri said...

Thanks Miss Footloose! I think as medicine progresses they will see more and more the connection of the mind and the body. On that day the medical person told me I might be paralyzed, in the morning I was feeling a bit better, I managed to get myself to the sitting room, a room I hadn't seen for weeks. After he gave me his diagnosis, I could hardly get back to bed. Words matter. Yes I do affirmations. What is practical meditation?

Joyful said...

I'm very sorry to hear you are in such pain. But yes stress really does play a role in pain so stress management is key to pain management. I've learned to live with pain that comes from arthritis and other things but stress can really make it worse. It's so great that you've found an acupuncturist and avoided surgery.

Joyful said...

I know there has been a lot of research into the body-mind connection. I've only read one book by a local author (When the Body Says No, Gabor Mate). I found it fascinating.

Sue Guiney said...

I'm sure you're right about the connection between your brain and pain. but I'm so sorry you've had to go through all this!

Lauri said...

Joyful, I'll look for the book, thanks. Thanks Sue.

avdrdr2 said...

Lauri: Sending (gentle) hugs and empathy your way. So understand the stress-pain connection. Glad you found an acupuncturist to help and equally glad you stood your ground against surgery. Good luck on the road to less stress and no pain.

avdrdr2 said...

[Lauri: FYI avdrdr2 is my google name, Ernestine]

rebecca lord said...

Make sure you take in the natural beauty around you, also. I have found that when I can be in the present moment and see beauty around me, the pain takes a back seat. You may want to check out the work of Maggie Phillips, Reversing Chronic Pain. Lots of good stuff there also.