How I learned to deal with my chronic pain.
If pain is a permanent condition, you need strategies for dealing with it. A chronic pain patient reports how she does this.
According to the German Pain Society, 17% of Germans are affected by chronic pain. These can be of varying intensity, but everyone affected has to live with them. One of them tells us how she found her way not to be discouraged.
Rare diseases: If the doctor doesn’t know what to do
It all started about four years ago with jogging. Knee pain, nothing surprising in a joint-straining sport. So at first I didn’t think anything of it and only when things just didn’t get any better and I couldn’t even walk without pain did I go to the doctor.
The doctor did not notice any abnormalities in the knee and sent me to physiotherapy to strengthen the muscles and ligaments. The physiotherapist pressed his knee, which of course hurt. Not surprisingly. And then at some point he pressed on my thigh and I thought: Oops. And then he pressed on my hip and I wanted to scream. Alamiert began to palpate other body regions and quickly realized: “It doesn’t matter where he presses, it hurts like hell everywhere.
With a first guess he sent me to internal medicine, they sent me to rheumatology and finally three years ago I got my diagnosis: fibromyalgia. Also: muscle-fiber pain, a chronic, incurable disease.
Nobody can say exactly how and why this disease develops.
Actually, you can’t diagnose it either, because apart from the pain and the side effects, there are no physically detectable symptoms.
A psychological trigger? Probably. Undo? Unfortunately not.
The Symptoms Of Fibromyalgia
There’s a whole catalog of symptoms that can occur in fibromyalgia. I have experienced the following:
Sudden pain, completely random somewhere in the body. Foot, shoulder, back, chest, when breathing, when occurring, in the abdomen. Suddenly he is there and suddenly he is gone again.
Panic attacks. Especially in the beginning, when the pain is in the chest, breathing is harder and you just hope: not the heart. I am much too young for the heart!
Sleep disorders. My brain is under continuous current. This will probably be the same for many other pain patients. The brain can hardly switch off, if it always gets the info: Hey, something hurts!
Tiredness and lack of concentration. To be attentive has always been easy for me. Neither at school nor at university did I ever have to learn much. When my illness broke out, I hardly managed the 90 minutes at university without falling asleep.
Increased pain sensation. You shouldn’t press me around, because things hurt me that others don’t even notice. And everything that hurts others, I notice especially violently.
Abdominal complaints. At first it was suspected of being appendicitis and that’s how it felt. However, inflammations were not to be determined.
Quite honestly. In the beginning I was almost desperate. It is depressing to know that you will probably never get rid of this pain. Very much. I had to stop jogging, slept worse, was always tired and had to spend a semester studying. Once a panic attack was so bad that I had to have my parents pick me up at night.
I felt sorry for myself and could hardly think or talk about anything else. But then I realized: I don’t want to live like this! I do not want my life to be controlled by this disease! It’s MY life and I don’t just give it away!
These strategies help me in my everyday life with chronic pain.
Move. A lot of it. Even if nobody knows exactly where the disease actually comes from, it is known that gentle endurance sports such as walking, cycling or swimming alleviate the symptoms. That’s true. My pain attacks are now rarer.
Breathe. Sometimes I am attacked by an attack of pain. You can usually tell by the fact that I stop talking in the middle of a sentence, or when I’m walking along something, I just stop. I bring my body into complete silence, do not move a muscle for a few seconds and concentrate only on breathing in and out. Most of my friends already know this and know it: Okay, pain. You just have to wait and see. But please don’t try it on a busy road.
Take a shower. If panic and worry get the upper hand in my head, if the pain is too bad and I wonder if they will ever stop or what should happen if I have a heart attack and don’t notice it, then I take a shower. Why does this help? I have no idea, I am not a psychologist. Maybe it’s the symbolic cleansing. In any case, I am glad that it helps.
Accept. This is a very, very important step. The pain is a part of me that I cannot discuss away, as much as I wish it would be. Whining does not get me any further. When I accepted that this would not change, it became easier. Because then you can go on.
Take a break. If the brain constantly receives pain signals, it is exhausting. It makes you tired and unfocused and makes you sleep worse. That is why the body needs pauses in which it simply does nothing. These breaks don’t have to be long, it can be enough to lie on the sofa for 15 minutes after work and do nothing. Simply nothing. Or to take a little walk during lunch break instead of spending it in front of the computer. That’s important.
Try it out. Nobody can tell you what your body can or can’t do. Nobody can tell you what will do you good and what will harm you. There are so many sports and techniques, one of them is always the right one. Music helps me the best, it was like that before. It helps me to switch off and to come down again.
Looking for alternatives. I’m not allowed to jog anymore, but I can go cycling or hiking. I can’t listen to a professor for 3 hours at a time, but I can change my classes so that I have breaks in between. It takes me longer to fall asleep, so I plan more time from the start. This may not be my ideal, but it makes me feel less restricted. I may not and cannot do everything. But I may and can do something else. Being active, for example, is much easier for me than listening to a lecture. So that’s what I do.
Change my diet. My body has a permanent strain. It is only logical that I try to relieve it in other places. For example, by eating a healthier diet. I try to eat more raw food and less sugar. But not because I want to lose weight, but because I feel better with it. Admittedly, losing weight is a desirable side effect. Because in the time of my diagnosis I have gained a lot, a lot of weight.
Going forward. Looking back doesn’t help. Yes, I used to be able to do this and that and now I can’t do it anymore. But now I can do other things. For example, I have become more sensitive towards other people who have problems or complaints. I have also become more sensitive towards myself, because not only my body demands attention. I have learned a lot about myself that will make my future easier. This is what I want to focus on, because it takes me further.
Of course, all this is not always easy. Sometimes there are moments when I think very bad words, which I don’t want to repeat here, and when I would like to hit my illness with one. And then I think: Oh, what the hell. Nothing would change except that my hand would probably hurt.