It’s difficult to talk about my time on the Pain Management Programme without sounding like I’m fishing for sympathy or compliments. Nor is it possible to tell you about things without it seeming like I cannot shut up about my pain or not-very-impressive injury. Believe it or not, I’d rather not be the centre of attention (and yes, I do realise how stupid that sounds when its said on a Blog). I’d rather be – as Alice in Chains put it – ‘the child that sits [and cries] in the corner’. And if people are taking notice of me, I’d rather it be for my skills than my disability. I know there are those out there who love nothing more than to talk about their aches and pains (and trust me, after 16 days on the pain course, I really do know them) but I’m not one of their group. Notice me for my positives, not my limitations. However, I do feel it’s important I say something, just on the off-chance someone out there reads this and manages to get something from it
[I know. The idea of someone reading this is pretty outlandish, but you have to dream.]
So, to all those in pain – and I mean, constant CHRONIC pain (and if you’re not sure if you’re in constant chronic pain, then trust me, you’re not) – you have to ask your GP about the Pain Management Programme. I say GP for a specific reason. If yours is anything like mine, then you’re on to a good thing because he listens and tries to help without being patronising. However, if your GP is anything like some of the GPs talked about on the programme, and you mention PMP to them and they’ve never heard of it (much like my surgeons and their consultants) then I recommend you change your doctor and find one who does know about PMP (if possible...). You see, the programme is simply wonderful.
What does it teach you? Common sense. What does it give you? Well, you don’t have any extra medication so I guess a feeling of self-esteem and a purpose to life would be the best answer.
Allow me to elaborate: Over the last sixteen days (broken up by snow and Pagan celebrations) I have been taught physio exercises that stretch my muscles without making me want to puke and relaxation techniques that actually do chill me out and ease my temper. I have also discovered I have more than one chronic condition (turns out that as well as being a chronic depressive in chronic pain, I am a chronic insomniac – they do say these things come in threes). This helps to set my mind at rest (as such) because I’m no longer wondering why I can’t stay asleep (turns out insomnia isn’t just an inability to fall asleep but staying there once you’re under). I now know how to pace projects and have been taught the ability to ‘break before you ache ’ – my new mantra.
This basically means that if you know doing something for fifteen minutes will give you a painful flare up, then do it for ten, break, stretch, ready yourself and then go back to it. Admittedly, this doesn’t work perfectly with every activity – for example, driving is painful for me but that doesn’t mean I can pull up on the motorway every fifteen minutes to have a stretch and walk about before setting off again – and you need to have an understanding boss if you’re still working, but it is a practice that can be adapted to suit real world situations. Not all, but most. And if you can’t break before you ache, make sure you stretch, relax and ease up as soon as you can to reduce the amount of time you’re going to be in extreme pain. As I said, it’s all common sense.
As important as this – along with every other class I sat in – is, what is more important is the knowledge that I am not alone. Chronic pain creates a lonely existence, making you believe you are the only one who has to take the multiple painkillers, wakes every morning wondering how long you’re going to go without the agonies (if at all) or go to bed every night wondering how many hours of sleep the pain will let you have (again, if at all). Pain alienates you from your friends and family,. It disrupts your ability to think straight and robs you of your memory. You start wondering about extremes (for instance, I have often wondered if my failing memory is the onset of Alzheimer’s) and forgetting what matters. Your life is pain. Nothing else.
And all you can ask yourself is: why me and when is it ever going to stop?
Well, the answer to the second is easier than the first. If its constant chronic pain, then the answer is it will probably never leave you. Unless there’s a miracle cure around the corner, then you’ve got it for good. One amazing aspect of the course is helping you to accept that. As for the first part, well, I can’t answer it for you. Your life is your life and I cannot say what’s right or wrong with or in it. But if it helps, you’re not being punished for anything. It’s not fate and you’re not being castigated for something you’ve done in a previous life. The truth is, shit happens, and sometimes it happens to you.
But going back to my earlier point (sorry about the fragmented manner of this Blog but I’ve had a pill – somewhat appropriately), the course is brilliant because I now know I’m not alone. I’ve have been talking to people in pain (some more; some less) and been spoken to by people who know, understand and are experiencing everything I’m going through. For the first time in six years I’ve been able to communicate. I’ve not felt like a burden to those around me, nor have I felt the need to suppress myself. For the first time in a long time, I have been me. Admittedly, some might say that’s a bad thing, but what the hell...
So I want to thank everyone who worked with me on the programme for their guidance and knowledge, but most importantly, I want to thank all of those I have spoken to who are in pain. You’ve shown me how to deal with my chronic pain on a physical, mental and emotional level. Something I never thought I’d ever be able to do. I intend to stay in contact via phone, email and Facebook (for those who don’t know about it, type WALTON PMP into the Facebook search – a good man has set up a support page on there and it’s a case of the more the merrier). It’s a shame one guy told me he wouldn’t be able to stay in contact with me because he thought I was too crazy. He was scared of whatever actions I might take were he to give me advice that might turn sour on me (suicide was a daily topic), but being the depressive I am, I’m used to that kind of treatment. However, as for everyone else, good luck with your futures. We’re all going to meet people who won’t believe us, will challenge us and put us down, but it doesn’t matter. Because we know there is a support group for us:
We have each other.
(Christ, I sound like a bad Hollywood movie! ‘Independence Day’ comes to mind)