Saturday, March 28, 2015

That's The Thing About Pain: It Demands to be Felt

That's The Thing About Pain. It Demands To Be Felt (John Green The Fault In Our Starts)

Before I had chronic pain, even though I was a physician, I had this naive idea that, at some point, you could ignore pain. I thought that it would become kind of like an annoying sound that you could just put in the back of your mind and still go on with life. After all, I didn't have very many chronic pain patients. Most of them went to pain specialists and I thought that with appropriate meds that the pain just became part of the things you didn't "see" anymore, like the stains on the rug or the mismatched towels.

I was totally wrong. And I totally apologize to anyone to whom I was less sensitive than I should have been. (Although, even though I didn't understand chronic pain, I did try to be as sympathetic as possible.) You see, John Green had it right. "Pain demands to be felt." And that doesn't matter if it is acute pain or chronic pain. We tend to see acute pain, like a broken bone or acute abdominal pain, as being somehow "more painful" than chronic pain, but they are really just different kinds of pain. Acute pain tends to be easier to treat, and, therefore, a little easier for physicians to deal with. As an MD, I found acute migraines to be much easier to handle than chronic migraines. Most acute migraines will respond to one of a given set of treatments. When the patient would feel better, I would send them home, and life would be good.

Chronic pain is a different story. It's still pain, but it's a different quality than acute pain. It can be as intense, but is usually a dull or throbbing kind of pain. And just like acute pain, it demands to be heard. That's what constantly amazes me. There's no way to ignore it. I use some distraction techniques like knitting and reading, although reading can make things worse when the headache is bad. (I think that's specific to migraines and not with all chronic pain.) Sometimes that helps. The medical literature suggests that exercise provides "happy chemicals" in the brains of those with chronic pain, so I decide to walk on the treadmill or outside.  Except that walking often makes the headache worse.

It's frustrating. Pain demands to be felt. Yes, I feel the pain of my headache. So, what now? God, are you trying to tell me something? I've been listening for the last 8 years? I'm still listening. Is this just supposed to be making me stronger? I'm not much stronger physically. It's hard to exercise when I'm always in pain. And I can't sleep till the sleeping meds kick in when my head aches at night. So, God, I think I need you to write down whatever it is that I'm supposed to be learning or getting out of this headache experience on a notepad and put it on my bedside table. You can put it right on top of the CPAP machine and I'll be sure to get it. Because I've been feeling the pain. And I could be done with it really soon. Just an FYI.

No comments: