Drawing Lots of Lines But Writing Few Words

I’m still having difficulty writing. However, although I’ve been struggling with my writing, I’ve still been using other creative outlets to cope with the frustrations of my illness. I’m making index card art with more frequency. Instead of using my sketchbook, it’s easier to carry a small stack of white 6 inch x 4 inch cards (15.24 cm x 10.16 cm) and a few pens around with me to draw something, while attending my pain management programs and other medical appointments.

Line drawing and basic doodling have become easy ways to distract myself from thinking about my pain. I guess that makes writing the harder way I’ve chosen to cope with my pain, since the greater my pain the less able I am to focus and concentrate on putting words together on a page. I’m anxiously anticipating a break in the block because writing has always been part of my self-care.

In the meantime, I can I only hope my pain management program instructors understand that I can draw lines on index cards and still pay attention to the information they share…

 

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Pain Clinic #11: When A Treatment Complicates Chronic Illness

TRIGGER WARNING

Anyone who has survived a traumatic experience may be familiar with the feeling of separating from one’s body. This naturally occurring physiological process in the body helps a person withstand something terrifying or harmful. It also works to minimize potential psychological damage or outright losing one’s mind. I characterize it as the traveling of one’s mind, or what some might call the consciousness, into another space until it’s safe to return to the body. For someone who has never experienced this, it might sound hokey, but if you have lived through something traumatic, you know exactly what I’m describing.

It’s the moment when a person can see everything around them, but her/his body freezes making it impossible to interact with any of what’s happening. Whether it’s another car slamming into yours as it drives the wrong way down a one-way street, the moment a dog twice your weight pounces on you sinking its teeth into your body; or feeling another person physically overpower and violently assault you; you know the feeling to which I’m referring.

The medical name for this physiological process is dissociation. “In psychology, dissociation is any of a wide array of experiences from mild detachment from immediate surroundings to more severe detachment from physical and emotional experience. The major characteristic of all dissociative phenomena involves a detachment from reality, rather than a loss of reality as in psychosis.”

The medical definition further states that dissociation is usually measured on a continuum from mild to severe. In a mild, non-pathological case, it’s seen as a coping or defense mechanism in cases of extreme stress or conflict; and in its mildest state it’s more commonly called daydreaming. While in severe or pathological cases of dissociation, the experience(s) can include: “a sense that self or the world is unreal; a loss of memory (amnesia); forgetting identity or assuming a new self (fugue); and fragmentation of identity or self into separate streams of consciousness (dissociative identity disorder, formerly termed multiple personality disorder) and complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”

As I’ve already mentioned, dissociative disorders are sometimes triggered by trauma. Yet, in many cases, stress, whether unexpected or prolonged, is the trigger. The situation in which I found myself wasn’t unexpected, but it was stressful, and when I realized what I had experienced it scared me.

One of the recent treatments I’ve undergone – in yet another attempt to reduce and ultimately eliminate my chronic pain – deliberately puts the patient in a dissociative state. The idea is to use specific medication(s) to trick the nervous system into feeling (believing?) the pain no longer exists. I haven’t posted details about the treatment or my experience with it yet because I’m still in the midst of sorting through my feelings, researching and writing about all of it. The medication(s) used are meant to make the patient feel a definite separation between body and consciousness, which I strongly felt for about 20 minutes and had no way of stopping without ending the treatment and possibly losing all its potential benefits.

Since this treatment, the problem I’m having is whether I should undergo it for a second time considering the minimal relief it delivered vs. the major psychological effect(s) it’s still having on me. Effects I hadn’t connected with, or begun to understand, until I had a panic attack while thinking about the next scheduled treatment. I don’t know if I can withstand feeling separated from my body while watching – witnessing really – everything around me but feeling as though I’ve given up all conscious control.

Because the first treatment only delivered about five days of low pain levels, I’ve had to weigh whether the mindf@ck I have to withstand during the treatment and process after is worth a week of relief. Although, I’ve been told that an increased dose of the medication(s) could, possibly, last longer: anywhere from a few extra days to weeks or in the ultimate best-case scenario months. Is that enough to justify forcing my mind into a prolonged dissociative state?

All the contemplation I’ve been doing tells me it’s not enough. The likelihood that more treatments with this method, even with higher doses of the medication(s), will be more successful than the first is slim. However, it’s a known fact that the dissociative side-effects will happen with each treatment and may even intensify. Therefore, my Pain Specialists’ search for a long-lasting treatment must continue; and until they find one, I have to keep finding ways to cope with this unceasing pain every minute of every day.

 

 

New Year & New Explorations

It seems so far away now: I rang in this New Year with bubbles in a glass that fizzed up my nose when I sipped them…

Now that the celebrations are over, I’m slowly – and painfully – settling into another new year. I could approach it with introspection, by summarizing all the things that happened or went unfulfilled for me in 2017, but if you’ve been reading my writing for the past few years you’ll know that my health did not improve and my doctors have yet to find the magic pill to heal me. What I’ll do instead is tell you about the things I’m looking forward to in the coming weeks and many months from now. However, I won’t go into details because, if I do, I won’t have much to write about as the year unfolds.

I’ve decided that 2018 will be a year of learning for me. That’s not to say I haven’t learned anything in past years, especially in the most recent years since the arrival of my illness when researching diagnoses and treatments to better understand all that’s happening to me; and when writing informative – and I hope educational – and coherent posts became necessary. When I started this blog a few years ago, the main goal was to share my experiences as a person with a chronic illness that involves severe chronic pain and to connect with anyone living with similar issues. Although, that scope unexpectedly broadened to include the creative things I do to cope, my illness and pain are still what drive the tales I tell; but I haven’t invested enough time to learn how what’s happening to me physiologically has impacted the body I inhabit or how it all might have started.

To that end, I got some new books over the holidays that should shed some light on things I’ve pushed to the back of my mind as I’ve battled through painful days and disappointing treatments while somewhat passively acknowledging the changes, obvious and subtle, happening within my body. I chose these books because of the whole-body perspective each author reportedly takes when discussing health and healing.

The books in my stack include

  • Gabor Maté, M.D., When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress: “provides answers to… important questions about the effect of the mind-body link on illness and health and the role that stress and one’s individual emotional makeup play in an array of common diseases”.
  • Katy Bowman, Diastasis Recti: The Whole Body Solution to Abdominal Weakness and Separation: “Diastasis recti, an unnatural separation of the abdominal muscles, in not just a “weak core.” It’s a symptom of a whole-body problem. Your abdominal muscles have many important jobs – they help you to do everything from twisting your spine to singing, accommodating pregnancy, and protecting your abdominal organs. They should not be splitting down the middle!”
  • Susan Hollister, Heal Yourself: Anti-Inflammatory Diet. The Top 100 Best Recipes for Chronic Inflammation: “Chronic inflammation has become an epidemic. Just look at your friends and family. How many of them have diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, fibromyalgia or chronic pain? These are caused by chronic inflammation. This book will help you manage and prevent chronic inflammation. In the chapters that follow you will find activities, supplements, medications, and other solutions that will help you reverse your inflammation and alleviate its pain. You will discover foods to avoid and you will also learn which foods help to reduce inflammation.”

As I’ve done – and will continue to do – with my treatments and my creative coping practice, I will share what I learn as I progress with the hope that it’s beneficial to others too.

Alas, by my count, there are still a number of things – mainly pain treatments –, which I did not post about last year because of the research required and the great emotional difficulty of processing the outcomes, while trying to write cohesive posts. Once I get around to finishing some editing, I’ll post them because I believe that learning about these treatments may be beneficial to others who struggle with chronic pain, regardless of my personal outcomes.

In the meantime, I’m back on the treatment and procedure(s) treadmill this week; and I’ll hopefully have some new and interesting – as well as successful – treatment information about which I’ll fill up the site. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, however, I do wish everyone (family, friends, and all those I connect with through this site) the best and hope that this year is already better than last…