Pain, Practice, Permission

I recently started working with a second therapist in order to bring my body into my emotional healing. C. works in the same building as E. but works quite differently. She has a counseling license and a massage license and training in yoga, EMDR, meditation, all of which she incorporates into her therapy. So far we have no concrete plan but have worked on breathing and mediation and used some massage and acupressure when I was so stressed out (and depressed) from proposal writing at the end of March.

Yesterday I had another appointment. I walked in, slowly, feeling pain in my pelvis: some from the abdominal incisions, quite a bit from the vaginal incisions, and some in my low back. I said I’d like us to work on the pain and also to help me manage pain when I wasn’t there. I’ve been taking a combination of high dose ibuprofen with periodic doses of oxycodone, but I’m not really comfortable doing that for very long, for a string of reasons that probably deserve their own post one day.

So we worked on the mat. C. put her hands very lightly on my abdomen and had me breathe deeply, slowly. She said to notice (i.e. be mindful of) the pain. But don’t run away from it. Instead of gripping tightly, fearing the next wave of pain, she asked me to breathe into the pain and stay with it. Create some openness, she told me.

Later she slid her hands under my back and put pressure on some of the sore spots. I continued to breathe slowly and felt some of the tightness release.

Afterwards, we sat and talked about the breathing and the mindfulness, how much practice it requires before it is an easily accessible strategy. We agreed that practicing now with the post-surgical physical pain was a good way to prepare to use it through emotional pain and trauma processing. It almost seems easier to start with the physical pain, because it’s more concrete and specific. (I should also note that though unpleasant, my pain is not overwhelming, so this may not be at all true for people experiencing more pain than I am. With emotional pain or intense anxiety, the feelings take over my thinking and it’s hard to remember what I’m supposed to be doing.

But as I grow more competent at sitting with a feeling, breathing into it, observing it, I do believe that it will become a helpful tool for me. I actually feel grateful now for my current situation and the opportunity it provides me to improve my practice (really, not being sarcastic).

Today I’ve noticed that I have to watch out for my all-or-nothing, have-to-do-it-this-way thinking. Enamored of the idea of using breath and meditation to manage my pain, I did not take any pain medications today. I took a short walk at the park this morning and noticed it was harder than yesterday; I walked more slowly and more uncomfortably. I sat back in my recliner and breathed. I took an afternoon nap, and slept well, but woke up with everything aching. So this evening I took my 600mg ibuprofen. And I’m trying to stay open to the option of the oxycodone. Maybe I’ll take it, and maybe I won’t, and both options are okay. 

I tell myself this but don’t fully believe it. Yet I recognize that the other voice in my head, the one saying, Don’t be a wimp. The pain isn’t that bad. You always make too big a deal of things. You should be able to handle this.–that voice isn’t necessarily my friend. It’s the internalized message from childhood that I’m too much trouble and make too much of a fuss over everything.

I give my wise, rational adult self permission to use the oxycodone if I need to and to practice my breathing with or without pain meds.

oxycodone

 

Update Saturday, April 16. It turns out I was overly invested in not using pain meds and was feeling terrible by evening. Giving my adult self permission to decide was important, but it didn’t stop the You are making a mountain out of a molehill voices and the sense of being weak/giving in too easily. Texting with E. was helpful. She reminded me that it’s only been a week since I had my insides cut up, moved around, and stitched up in new ways. It’s not surprising that I experience pain. There’s a reason why the surgeon prescribed the pain meds ahead of time. I come back to these words as I take my pain meds today and continue with my breathing and meditation.

 

17 thoughts on “Pain, Practice, Permission

  1. I love everything about your session with C. And I love that you listened to your adult self and soothed some of the pain because yes, there is absolutely a reason why doctors prescribe that medication!

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    • “There’s a reason why doctors prescribe that medication!” Yes. Why am I having such a hard time with this? I accept it, for a little way, take the meds, feel a bit better, then stop, then feel lousy. But it’s just been unbelievably hard to give myself permission to regularly medicate and to let go of the demand that I show improvement every single day. Adult self hasn’t stood up well to the “you are fussing too much; it’s not a big deal” voice. Still working on that.

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  2. I so recognise those voices and that reluctance to take medication. So glad E was able to help. For me, sometimes remembering the biological purpose for physical pain can be helpful. It’s there to tell your brain that your body has been hurt, so that you a) don’t keep using your body in ways that will injure it further and b) can do something to fix the injury. The purpose of pain is not to test how strong you are and how much you can endure, even though that’s how I’ve come to experience it. I know you know this already, but just reminding and validating the difficulty in this. Keep taking care. You’re too important not to.

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  3. Yay! This is really so awesome. You did great work with C. 🙂 And I’m glad E was able to be there for you and help remind adult Q that both options— medicine and meditation/breathing are good. I think it’s great you are using both. 💜

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    • I think I DO need both but I’ve waffled a lot on the medication. Working now on being more accepting of the medication side of the equation.

      I know, the work with C is good, right? I feel like I am going to learn so much from her.

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      • Medication is okay. It really is. I know it’s not the same, but from the perspective as a person with chronic pain– fibro– I’ve learned the hard way to take my meds on schedule, because if I don’t– even if I feel okay at the time– I’ll hurt later in the day, and it will be harder to function in the evening or to fall asleep. The meds on time, combined with yoga and swimming do the most good.

        The work with C is going to be amazing for you. I’m really glad you are doing this. Xx

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        • I didn’t know you were dealing with chronic pain on top of everything else. Thanks for your sharing that and your experience with medication. On Friday my doctor told me essentially the same thing–take it on a regular schedule so the pain doesn’t take you over.

          Yoga and swimming. That sounds like it might be a good combination. I love yoga anyway and used to have a regular practice that I have neglected the past three or four years. I think swimming could be a good complement to that (once I am allowed to swim again, in about 4 to 6 more weeks). Plus I just love to be in water.

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  4. Really amazing work with self-compassion here, Q. So happy you are finding this tender place. Yes, one week is not a long time for the extent of trauma your body just endured.

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    • Amazing attempt, blatant failure. Ah, Rachel, I feel like such an idiot. I haven’t been able to hang onto this tender place. I am just tired and in pain and now judging myself for being pathetic and whining. I know there is some wise and patient comfort out there but it’s hiding from me these past couple of days.

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      • The intention in and of itself, is very powerful. I understand that you are judging yourself, and why you might do that, those inner standards are high and relentless. You are in pain, which exacerbates judgment, etc. You had such a major surgery, this healing and the pain relief will take a long time. I know those inner judgy voices are telling you otherwise, but they are wrong.

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  5. That is an important balance to maintain, acknowledging the pain but not assigning meaning to it. I’m glad you are being wise and listening to your body and meeting your needs.

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  6. I’m starting to learn that I can recognize when it is the old mean voices talking to me, and I think I don’t automatically believe them all as I used to. But sometimes I still struggle to find the compassionate, hopeful voice too…there is so much to learn about being gentle and kind to ourselves.

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  7. How wonderful that there are therapists who do that work! That “breathing into the pain” is something I’ve learned to do the hard way over the years with my endometriosis, and it does work for me. I still take the ibuprofen and T3s, but by “breathing with” the pain instead of fighting it, I can mostly still function instead of just curling into a ball. I very much hope this works for you and can generalise to emotional pain as well (something that had not occurred to me but that I’ll now consider). Take care, dear Q.

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  8. E is right, he prescribed the meds for pain, so if you have pain then you need them and thats that. and i know your wise adult rational self knows this. i know too that this post is old but i kept it so that when i had time i could read it. the work you are doing with that therapist c is amazing too, i want to read more about that. xxx

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