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How I Steer My Inner Pain Conversation to a Place Where I Can Sleep

conversation

Bad pain day. Trying to keep my mind distracted. Perhaps a good show is on television. Or maybe a movie. The “off” cycle will kick in within a few hours. Pain gets worse. Last medication before bed. Time to be quiet and contemplative, but the pain intrudes upon this space. It’s always murmuring, sometimes shouting, and ever-present. Finding sleep means I need to sit in the “pause between.” I repeat the following mantra to myself:

You can do this. Breathe in: 1, 2. Breathe out: 1, 2.

Let go and allow.

My mind will have nothing to do with this “pause between” nonsense. Waving the imagined finger, my brain’s neocortex, “Neo,” interrupts and says, “How’s that to-do list coming? You’re feeling like you didn’t get much done today. You’re trying to make up for that by working on a new to-do list, but having trouble focusing. This pain sure is annoying.”

Neo continually intrudes on my search for the pause between. He can be more annoying than the pain. I respond flatly, “Yeah, nothing new.” I shift in bed to try to relax as I search for the pause between.

You can do this. Breathe in: 1, 2, 3. Breathe out: 1, 2, 3.

Let go and allow.

Neo pokes a nerve cell. “Remember what the pain was like the other night? Whoo-ee, you were tossing and turning, it felt like we were on a roller coaster!”

My night often starts with thrashing in bed. As I switch positions to find comfort, the covers take on a life of their own, and soon I am entwined by the albino boa constrictor sheets. Waves of pain wash over me as I uncoil the bed linen. Neo didn’t offer any assistance. “Could be a terrible night, you know. It’s surely starting that way. Doesn’t seem to be much you can do about it, huh? You know that each time you try to quieten down to rest, the pain gets louder. I mean, I’m doing what I’m supposed to do, reminding you of the day’s events and whatnot. But it just feels like you’re not trying to fall asleep. You know that you are failing at it.”

The “you’re not good enough” button always hit a tender spot, triggering a surge of anger mixed with worthlessness. I take deep breaths and let out a long sigh of exasperation. Throughout my life this button has been pushed more times than our president has sent a tweet.

Neo pauses for a moment before offering the following, “Lots of memories of pain are connected to punishment, oppression, and self-worth issues. But this is an old familiar path, and you know what will happen if you take that fork in the journey.”

Moving along this well-trodden path, I know that I can tune out those “old voices.” They offer nothing more than the cackling of old hens.

You can do this. Breathe in: 1, 2, 3. Breathe out: 1, 2, 3.

Let go and allow.

Neo jumps in. “We’re not finished here. You have a few things about which to worry. You are trapped in a cycle of heightened emotions, increased pain, and poor sleep.” The logic of his interruption, illustrated with an emotional soundtrack, send me into a worry spin like a dog chasing its tail. The more I worry, the more I became stuck in it. If I keep spinning, I will cross over the “you will never get back to sleep” threshold. I need to return to the pause between.

You can do this. Breathe in: 1, 2, 3, 4. Breathe out: 1, 2, 3, 4.

Let go and allow.

As the first glimmers of change appear, my conversation partner, Neo, warns, “You know the pain is just going to get louder when you do this.”

Very firmly, without anger, I say, “I know that I can move into a pause between and then to a quiet place. I’ve done it before, and I can do it again.”

I can do this. Breathe in: 1, 2, 3, 4. Breathe out: 1, 2, 3, 4.

Let go and allow.

Neo senses the changes. The perceptions of pain and discomfort are slowly lowering. The cool night breezes tuck me into a bed that suddenly feels very embracing. I have no more need to talk about the pain.

Breathe in: 1, 2, 3, 4. Breathe out: 1, 2, 3, 4.

Let go and allow.

Breathe in: 1, 2, 3, 4. Breathe out: 1, 2, 3, 4.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Then, 15 minutes later, I am sound asleep.

***

Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

The post How I Steer My Inner Pain Conversation to a Place Where I Can Sleep appeared first on Parkinson’s News Today.

Managing Chronic Pain, Part 2: Applying a Shift in Perspective

chronic pain

Second in a series. Read part one

Pain attacks me every day, and I set aside much of my time to manage it. Chronic pain management is now a significant part of my wellness map. Pain management techniques are rooted in the conceptualization of total pain as suffering plus pain, and that some of that suffering is connected to dysregulated emotions. I know that I can make positive changes that will reduce my daily pain levels.

Recently, pain has become a daily experience and has since become the focus of my wellness map tweaks. My tweaking is a more concentrated look at the “pause between.” This is a mental, and often physical, pause that I take before I continue to think or act to decrease the occurrence of dysregulated emotions and their consequences. Putting this into practice decreases my suffering, reduces my frustrations, and thus lowers my perception of pain.

Pain often triggers the “fight or flight” response, which then activates emotion. Emotions generated by pain are followed by thought and often action — a feedback loop designed to keep us safe from danger. But the loop can spin almost out of control. To prevent it from doing so, it is possible to insert a pause in the loop between pain and emotion, emotion and thought, and thought and action.

The pause between is first brought into focus through recognizing its potential and directing attention to that possibility. This represents a shift in perspective that says, “I can practice the pause between, and it will lower my pain.” It is an adjustment in how the mind is used during the day. Wherever I decide to take my mind each day is the easier path to walk on the following one. The brain likes familiar roads.

Sitting with the pause between takes daily practice. Maybe I should be grateful for my chronic pain, which reminds me of the importance of such a practice. On some days, my Parkinson’s disease-related chronic pain is draining — at all levels. No matter what I do, I can’t sit in the pause between. But I firmly believe in neural plasticity. If I keep my brain practicing pain management, then it will become easier.

The construction of a wellness map enhances its success. The CHRONDI elements can serve this function. Techniques that help to quiet the mind and slow it down allow more opportunities to sit in the pause between. A mentor, something I have been for many students, can also help you to experience the pause between and arrive at a better understanding of your resistance to sitting there.

The pause is a suspended moment emptied of normal emotion, thought, or action. Judgment is halted, and focus is aimed at sitting in the pause between. It is very brief at first, but with practice, the pause between can become longer in duration and more easily accessible.

It is like a fork in the road. Choose which fork to take, initially using thought and action, and eventually emotion. The pause between helps to change patterns of thought and action, decreasing the frequency of those that contribute to suffering. If you decide to select the other fork, the pause gives us the time to walk down that new path, implementing new patterns of thought and action, thereby helping to reduce suffering and lessen pain.

From the place of sitting in the pause between one can apply any of a wide range of techniques. Following are a few of my suggestions:

  • Divert your attention to other tasks — for example, reading a book or playing a video game.
  • Engage in physical exercise; take a walk or a bicycle ride.
  • Get involved in a positive activity that brings meaning and purpose.
  • Meditate.
  • Talk to someone who can help.
  • Use T.O.O.T.S. — “time out on the spot.”
  • Calmly and rationally evaluate your choice of thoughts and/or actions, and choose wisely.

I use all of these techniques. They work better when I recognize and start first with the pause between and the goal of reducing personal suffering.

What techniques do you use to help to reduce your suffering? Please share your story in the comments below.

***

Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

The post Managing Chronic Pain, Part 2: Applying a Shift in Perspective appeared first on Parkinson’s News Today.