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Pain! What Pain?

by annie

The other day, a friend of mine told me she had been in bed for the week with pneumonia. My initial thought was, ďYou stayed in bed with pneumonia?Ē My mind flashed back to several years ago when I had pneumonia for a couple of months. I was very frustrated with the doctor because he wasnít giving me the right medication to get over it. It never occurred to me that perhaps I was the reason I couldnít get over it. I certainly didnít go to bed, and I certainly didnít slow down.

After surgery on my ankle (an injury from the time I was doing two hours of aerobics a day), I proceeded to exercise my ankle, even starting aerobics again. I thought if I didnít it would stiffen up and Iíd always have problems with it. I thought, ďNo pain, no gain!Ē Guess what? I have problems with it. It swells and gets inflamed just like it did before surgery. I was surprised when the physical therapist told me I was supposed to gently exercise it and that if it hurt I was supposed to stop.

Iíve discovered this has been a life-long pattern (and also a symptom of abuse). Once I had Mono and didnít know it until I collapsed (while doing my second set of aerobics for the day) and couldnít do another thing. I now have degenerate joint disease, rheumatoid arthritis, digestive problems including painful colon spasms, severe headaches, neck and back pain from old and new injuries and degeneration in my spine, and a host of other physical ailments.

There are a few things I do to deal with pain. I am numb to some of it, not realizing it hurts until a doctor or therapists pokes and probes. The rest of the pain I ignore till it gets so bad I canít ignore it any longer. Then I take lots of Motrin and other medications to numb the pain, and when that doesnít work, I get angry at my body for being so weak. Then fear that Iíll be crippled for life takes over, which means I better get more active.

Itís only been recently that Iíve been able to begin looking at pain differently. Iím realizing that pain is not my enemy, it is a friend that warns me something is wrong. If I pay attention to it, sometimes I can relate it to something Iím doing (i.e., sitting too long or incorrectly, carrying a too-heavy purse, getting too stressed out and too tense (which is my normal state), not getting enough sleep, and of course, going to the extreme with aerobics). Iím also learning that the longer I let the pain continue, the worse it gets. I donít always wait till Iím climbing the walls now before taking my medication. I also treat myself to massage therapy which is helping my muscles and joints. Iím working on relaxing at night as well so I can sleep better.

I am working on overcoming the guilt that goes with not being able to do all I want to do, or feel I should do. Iíve had to make some changes in my life to try and relieve some of the stress on my body. I am also working on losing weight, which is a whole other issue.

I still have a lot of pain, but Iím learning to stop abusing my body by ignoring it. Iím hopeful that as I further heal emotionally, my body will also heal. Iíve heard that as I let myself feel the emotional pain, that, too, will help my physical pain. I may always have some physical symptoms because of the damage and the way Iíve abused and neglected my body, but I think Iím now getting it into perspective.

Iíve decided that Iím important enough to take care of myself from now on. It feels good to know that I can have some control over the pain, and certainly can have control over how I manage it and how I view it. And now, I think Iíll go take two aspirin and lie down for a few minutes.

  • © Copyright: Reprinted from "Survivors & Friends" 1993: Volume II: No.1: All Rights Reserved

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