My Clinical Psychologist introduced me to a powerful tool to add to my arsenal. It is called “mindfulness”:
“A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”
She walked me through a breathing exercise…complete focus on the breath itself…feeling the cooled air entering my nose…feeling it hit the back of the throat…feeling the rise in my chest as the air enters the lungs…feeling a second, subtle rise of the chest before exhaling…feeling the warmth of the air as it leaves the body.
I was then read a short story about washing dishes, from “The Miracle of Mindfulness”….I will share just one paragraph that sums up the idea of mindfulness very well…
“…If while washing dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not ‘washing the dishes to wash the dishes.’ What’s more, we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes. In fact we are completely incapable of realizing the miracle of life while standing at the sink. If we can’t wash the dishes, the chances are we won’t be able to drink our tea either. While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands. Thus we are sucked away into the future — and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life.”
I applied this during my walk outside this morning. I took the time to not just see the sun…but to, really, “see” it! I felt its warmth…the rays touching my skin…the brightness shining…the reflection on the leaves. I felt the slight breeze…ever so gently twisting and turning the leaves in the trees…the slight movement of my shirt being pressed against my skin…the movement of the hairs on my arms…
It was truly amazing!! My focus was dramatically shifted…momentarily transported into the present time…fully embracing and experiencing what was happening around and to me.
At my first follow up appointment on Thursday, it was very difficult to know how much (percentage wise) the pain pump was working vs the pain medication vs the complete rest. I could tell that there was a change in my symptoms…for example, the intense stabbing in my upper back was gone replaced by dull ache.
Our conditions are hard to articulate…the fact that our symptoms (read this as types of pain being experienced — stabbing, dull, throbbing, ice pick, aching) are not the same from day to day! Just as soon as you being to expect the intense stabbing in your feet, your feet will ache instead and the stabbing has moved to your chest…not to mention all the other pain sensations all over your body.
By Friday night it was clear that the slight reduction in oral medication and the slightly more than conservative increase of the medication from the pain pump was not enough!
I have an appointment set for this coming Thursday morning…however, I will be calling my pain specialist Monday morning to let him know that we need to turn the pump up…much more aggressively!
This is to be expected! It is going to take time to get the pain pump dialed in to fully be able to do its job. I do NOT expect to be pain free…I am just hoping we can get my pain level to a 6 or 7!
I am glad that I will be able to provide my doctor with more specific information in regards to how I am doing at the current levels…and, most importantly, I know that this is temporary! We will work through this!
When I got home and was able to enjoy my first shower since my pain pump surgery, I had a few things come to mind.
If you are lucky like me, you have a walk-in, handicap shower (complete with the extra support bars…inside and out…as well as a seat or bench and floor mat). If you do not, or have not purchased some safety items (like a seat and added handrails)….do so before attempting a shower! Otherwise, you will need to have someone there to assist you.
Plan to take your time…there is no need to rush any step! And set a simple goal, like washing your hair or shaving your underarms (if applicable). Just the feel of the water is a huge boost for having only sponge baths for two or so weeks!!
Have your comfy clothes laid out to put on…and rest afterwards. A lot of energy is used in the shower…not to mention all the energy used going to the doctor appointment earlier in the day.
Don’t worry about any “finishing touches” (like lotion)…the only item I suggest is deodorant to complete the endeavor. For many of us, the dry skin can be driving you crazy! Just remember…there will be time after a nap to put some lotion on your arms!
What a huge accomplishment for the day… now sit back and relax!
I awake in the early hours
To the throbbing and stabbing
Coursing through my body
I take leave to crawl into a hot bath
As we watch a favorite program
Sleep overtakes me
Unable to keep eyes open
I have no strength to fight
Plans are made
To spend time with friends
Nap taken and extra rest
Do not prevent a flare
No need for self doubt
There will be other chances
Our family and friends understand
Hidden conditions are in control
Our bodies dictate actions
We are forced to be patient
To live within the invisible boundaries
There are times we cry
We battle with frustration
We struggle with isolation
We wrestle with guilt
We cry out to God
For His peace and comfort
We hold tightly onto our Faith
Knowing our path is fraught with boulders
We deal with thick brain fog
With vision that can blur
Often unable to remember
Or use incorrect words
The side of chronic pain that is difficult to talk about…to me it is also the hardest to admit! It is the darkness that is lurking at the corner of my mind…forever watching and waiting for the chance to pounce…to take over.
It wants to rob us of our relationships…our confidence…our strength…our faith…
This dark shadow that we sometimes view in the mirror looking back at us can have many names…depression, despair, failure, guilt.
It is that dark negativity that threatens to suck the very life out of us…to disrupt any hope of regaining a sense of normalcy…to destroy our relationships.
It happens to each of us…whether we want to admit it or not. It will attack over and over…always at a time that we are mentally weak. Those times when we are in the midst of a flare…when we have not been sleeping…when brain fog is at its thickest…when are finances are stretched to the limit…when our closest relationships are tested, tried and hanging by a thread…
Inevitably it will overwhelm us…it will muddle our thinking…it will suck us down into the darkest depths…it will overtake who we are…
Do NOT allow these times to dictate who you are! We are human…we are going to spend time in the dark…however, this is only temporary. It will NOT last! It does not mean that we have lost our faith…that we have given up the fight…that our closest relationships are forever broken…
It is at this time that we hit bottom…we cry out in the depths of our despair…begging God to help…to have mercy…to forgive us…to strengthen us…
We then rise to the surface from the depths of the darkness…to once again find our inner strength…to embrace those close relationships…to acknowledge and accept our new selves…
At my appointment last week with my Pain Specialist, I found out that all had been approved…ready for the next step…the actual pain pump surgery! So I have been anxiously awaiting for the scheduler to call me.
This evening I got the call! I am to go in for some labs (no fasting required)…and am scheduled for next Wednesday! The time and further details to come via the nurse who will follow up with me between now and Tuesday.
Since today was a busy day, I will rest tomorrow and go in for labs on Thursday morning. That will give plenty of time for the labs to be reviewed and to make sure that there is absolutely no reason to delay the surgery.
I do know that this will be an outpatient procedure…should be 4-5 hours…then able to come home.
Will post more once I speak with the nurse…and of course will discuss my experience with the actual procedure and the process to dial in the medication!
For now? I am just in awe…amazed at how fast all is now moving!!!!