Accepting that chronic pain is part of my life now and for the foreseeable future is something that took an aweful lot of inner strife. You see, for five years I have been battling to maintain some semblance of a normal life, I refused to see myself as broken and believed if I just kept trying at some point everything would work out. Attending the chronic pain program made it so I couldn’t ignore the reality of my situation any longer.
I am 28 years old and have been dealing with chronic pain for five years. Likely, it will continue for the rest of my life.
That’s a big pill to swallow.
The other two participants in the orientation week for the program had been dealing with pain longer, both were in their fifties and relatively out of shape. At first it was hard to find common ground, but as the week went on I realized that with all our differences, we really did share something rather huge. Pain. Accepting pain as part of my life has been a huge change from the way I thought before.
Before the program I was likely to push until my body gave out and refused to cooperate, and I did this regularly. I would push myself physically so far that my pain level would skyrocket and usually I would vomit. I struggled with the idea that I had to do this, I still struggle with feelings of uselessness and inadequacy based on my tolerance levels. You see, if I pace and keep my pain level from rising, it generally means I have about three to four productive hours a day. By productive I mean that I can do active-ish work around the house, go see a friend, ect. Basically anything that I can’t lie down for. This three hours has to be broken up as well if I don’t want a spike. So I will do thirty minutes of house work, then lie down for an hour, go visit a friend for an hour, then lie down, ect.
Surprisingly, this method actually works to control my pain, along with meds of course. If I don’t push, and if I stay within my tolerance levels and time limits, I can go a whole day without cursing my pain. That is a huge improvement from before.
I am actually pleased at how I can handle my pain level now, and kinda proud that I got to the point where I can actually say I am able to participate in life again, albeit at my own pace and in my own way.
However, I haven’t gone back to work since finishing the program at the end of October. My surgeon gave me a note taking me off work for another three months, but workman’s comp said there is no medical changes to support being off work longer. That was in the middle of November. They were waiting for the official report to make a decision on my return to work. I have no idea if they got it, but they haven’t contacted me and are still covering my benifits so I figure I’ll leave it until they make a move. Waiting is it’s own kind of torture though. It scares me that they can say I have to go back to work and if I don’t the will wean me off benifits over eight weeks.
My main issue with working lies in my inability to effectively manage the pain in the work place. When I was working at the beginning of October, I was driving from where I live into the city, normally a forty-five minute drive stretched to an hour and a half with rest breaks, working three hours, and driving the hour and a half home. Because I was driving I couldn’t take breakthrough meds until I got home and usually by that point I would be vomitting. As I said, I have a maximum of four productive hours a day before I get a spike in pain so the six hour ordeal to work a three hour shift pushed me to, and passed, my limit.
Learning to work within my tolerance has been a long road, one I am not nearly at the end of. And pacing and tolerance were only one part of the chronic pain program. Relaxation, fitness, acceptence and social activities are other areas of the program that will be discussed in my next post.
As always, if anything I have said particularly speaks to you or you would like more information please don’t hesitate to contact me by leaving a comment, or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org)
As always, thanks for reading! – S.