This is what I do on a bad pain day. These steps are now automatic and I switch into them at times when my eyes are swollen with pain and I can’t think clearly. They really work and could be adapted to other situations.
Quick Step through Pain (not a waltz, but better than a dead march.)
- Bracket the pain. Say,”It is just today.”
- Take steps to ease the pain: meds, heat, cold, rest.
- Reassess the day. What can I change or do another day?
- Ask: what CAN I do? And do it, trying to appreciate what is pleasant about doing it.
- If possible find something I can do for someone else – this makes me feel a contributing member of society and builds confidence.
First, bracket the pain. That is, treat it as a one off, although of course it isn’t and will be a recurring pattern in my life. But don’t link it back to past pain or drearily forward for years to come. Don’t argue with it or Pollyanna it. Just accept it is today – not every day.
Having contained it, do what I can to ease it? Hot pad, ice block, meds?
Prioritze the day. What must I do? What can be postponed? How can I rearrange the day? Note: I mustn’t get frustrated with myself, berate myself, tell myself a pity story about how I am failing or missing out. Today is bracketed – it is just today.
Then ask, what I CAN do – at this very moment or later today. On Tuesday, when it was bad, what I could do was peel vegetables, not work on the computer as I had planned. But I could make that enjoyable by listening to the radio, where I heard a fascinating program on the Titanic’s band.
It really helps also to do something, however small or some one else. That has helped me more than almost anything. It weakens the victim role; it strengthens my feeling of use, something that is easily eroded when handicapped. It gives me a place in the world and a feeling of worth. Life becomes reciprocal again, not an endless song of gratitude.
Today, my mind was more puddled, and my book too heavy, my concentration zilch, but I could play patience on my iTouch – and play it with a willing heart. It is very stabilizing – I can always play patience, however bad the pain. And, would you know it – every game came out, including the ones that almost never do. (I use a great app called CardShark.). Reinforced my morale by telling myself what I AM managing to do and what is pleasant about it. Usually, even if in great pain, as long as I am not having self-talk about it and am not thinking the pain is permanent and am not telling myself what I am missing, I am actually not unhappy. Not jumping with joy, but not bottomed out in misery.
What is good is that I can automatically switch to the protocol. Instead of being side-swiped by pain and drawn into a vortex, whirling ever downwards to its drumming, I can say, “I know what to do” and do it – because it works.