What to do with my brain on a bad pain day?
Sounds weird, but one of the greatest problems is thinking during a bad bout. It is established that pain is not only processed in the affected area of the brain, but under duress takes over adjacent neural real estate. Which is why, on bad days I can't process an emotional undertone. Straight facts, yes, but meeting another's emotional need with empathy is much harder. It's as if a large slice of my operating brain is already bespoke and I am running inefficiently on what's left.
Either/or decisions are almost impossible on bad days. Studies show that ambiguity is very stressful for our brains, particularly when added to existing chaos. And surely the turmoil of pain counts as chaos. We then try to rebalance ourselves by making order. Which may be why a decision is overload and why patience or sudoku are so calming.
So what helps? Basd on neuroplasticity research, I try and get in first and engage the nearby areas before pain hijacks them. I look at things, listen, try to be aware, not dumbed down to sub-intelligence.
And also choose how I occupy myself. I will be lying down on heat, which narrows activity. Sudoku or patience work to dull the pain, just engaging my mind enough to stop me dwelling on the throb that threatens to take over my awareness.
It is vital not to verbalize how bad it is. Tempting, but a downward spiral.
There's always a book, but because reading is a passive activity, it is difficult to remain engaged. It's better to make my brain work. There's a difference between the receptive mode as I read and the active thrust of writing, whether taking notes from the same book or roughing a blog post. My brain seems more engaged as if pushing back hard against encroaching pain, giving me the impression I am compos mentis. It is absorbed with concrete work, not having to factor in another's emotions or make a quick decision. I still have to lie on a hot pad, writing on a mini iPad over my head, but I feel more in control and my life seems less diluted by my limitations.
Finally, as the heat and extra meds kick in and pain recedes, I try to do something for someone else, perhaps phone a lonely friend. This takes me out of victim role, brings balance to my life and allows me to go forward with not fear but generosity.
Healing the Brain's Pain Using the Power of Neuroplasticity – link