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.

 

 

Gratitude and Creativity: Thank You Card

These days it’s so rare that we receive anything but bills and junk advertising in our mailboxes. However, today there was a lovely surprise waiting when I opened my mailbox. I received a thank-you card in my mail. Receiving it made me smile from ear to ear.

Someone who will always be special to me sent me the card: my nephew. He wrote me a personal message of thanks. I’m so glad to know that he’s cultivating his own practice of expressing gratitude while he’s so young.

I have a bit of a thing for thank-you cards. I always have a bunch on hand at home to send notes to people when they do something nice for me. Sometimes I send a card or note for no reason at all except to let someone know how much they mean to me.

I’m sharing this because I feel so happy and proud of my nephew; and I want to encourage everyone to send a card or note to someone to let them know you care. If you don’t have cards think of another way to express gratitude for having her/him in your life.

Thank you S for your thoughtfulness