It's Working!

Updated: Oct 24

Post #3 in the series "Reprocessing Chronic Pain"

I'm almost afraid I could "jinx" it, but I am seeing real progress. For a week now I've had only mild discomfort in my back (between 0 and 2 on a pain scale of 1-10). Before this it would regularly go up to 5-7. And I have been able to do things that used to it exacerbate it, like sitting, driving, and shopping, without an increase in pain. Finally, I can notice it coming on, and use my mind to stop it from increasing. This is kind of amazing to me. There's no way I would have believed this without feeling it in my own body.

And then there's my right thumb. A few years ago it started to hurt when I moved it or used it. You have no idea how much you depend on your thumb until you try to stop using it (it's also quite evident if you live with dog, and contemplate all the things they cannot do for lack of thumbs). A hand therapist said it was arthritis and probably triggered by typing on my phone. The pain definitely increased when I used my phone, so that made sense. On and off I've worn a thumb brace. I've tried to get used to dictating to Siri rather than typing on my phone. I noticed that I had less grip strength in my right hand and began to use my other hand to open jars or work a can opener. I believed it was permanent and it would continue to degenerate. I am 56 after all. Then, yesterday I was typing on my phone and it occurred to me that there was no pain in my thumb. In fact, I had begun to forget about it. I'm wiggling and pressing with it right now trying to detect any sensation in it. There's none.

In my back - which has been in pain for decades longer - it's gonna be more of a process. I've begun to notice the first signs of pain as they appear - a sensation I'm calling "pre-pain." Before this work, I would have felt those sensations, identified them as pain, concluded that "I am in pain." I'd have felt apprehensive, irritated, frustrated, and discouraged. "Today is going to be a bad day," I'd think. I might have stopped what I was doing to take care of myself and calm the pain. That often brought on feelings of sadness, loss, or even shame ("Ugh," I'd think to myself, "I hate that I have to lie down in the middle of the day when all I want to do is finish this task. I'll never be a productive person.") Or I might have pushed through it to accomplish or finish something. That would always makes the pain stronger and harder to deal with afterward. I'd be down for several hours. Either way, pain would "set in" and take hold of me. And my mind would be dominated by negative thoughts and feelings.