Comedy of errors Living with pain

On painkillers

Photo by Matthias Zomer on

I was in a group online a couple of days ago where the general topic of painkillers came up. People were discussing the difficulties of NSAIDs and Tylenol in a general way, when the stronger opinions started coming out.

These opinions were not coming out of nowhere. I was with a very educated group of people and I respected the opinions of everyone one. But some started making blanket statements, “No one should ever take Tylenol, take NSAIDs no matter if it gives you a tummy ache.” “No, NSAIDs are too dangerous across the board.”

And, suddenly, I felt judged. (Although I know these folks were never judging me.) For the record, I cannot take NSAIDs because of an esophageal problem and take high-dose Tylenol three times a day to help control the pain. It felt like they were saying I was doing wrong. Even worse, I was in a damned-if-you-do and damned-if-you-don’t situation.

It was largely because of the absolutes in their speech that I felt cornered. Had someone led with “each case is different, but” I would have felt much more included. And much less judged.

Because pain is so universal, many folks become an expert in it. And most of us normalize our own type of pain, making judgements around our own lens. I hope I am not doing that here in this blog. Do know that when I write from personal experience, that’s all it is, personal experience. Your migraines or lower back pain differ greatly from my fibro and arthritis.

I need to check my own language to avoid the universalizing that others did, which bothered me so much.

We need to share experiences or ideas with each other. Doctors only talk about pain through a limited lens that circles around the medications they prescribe most. Today there is also a narrative about keeping people off of opioids. My doctor is very concerned about keeping me off the stronger opioids as long as possible. This makes sense in a world where some many people start with chronic pain and end up addicted to OxyContin.

We need these shared ideas because so they lock away many findings inside of incomprehensible medical journals and have only brief contact with those writing and researching in other fields. Whether those fields be toxicology and environmental health or herbalism and Chinese medicine. Few doctors are going to bring up cupping, even if it provides sizeable pain relief. We cannot yet study what truly causes that pain relief.

It leaves all of us sorting through a pile of anecdotes that we often pick from based on what we already know or feel to be right. And this sort of confirmation bias is a poor judge of truth or use.

Still, I am now a little more scared of my Tylenol than before. (And my liver already scared me.) How long is my liver going to last? Nobody can tell me that.

Living with pain

Attempt at blogging in times of the Virus

It has been a while since I have written here. The coronavirus came and everything changed. I stay in my house, see nobody, go nowhere. There is no eating out, no movies on the big screen, no live shopping, no sports (and currently restarting them is becoming a very bad idea). My world has become my husband, my cats, my computer, my books, my garden. We have decided I can still go over to my best friend’s house and see her and her family. But that is it. My world has shrunk like a raisin.

And this time, mental health is not at fault. Neither is pain. I am not without those issues and both have reacted to my changing world, but they are not running the show. For once, the world has shifted to my level and anxiety, depression, and pain have become the norm. I wish it were not so. I hope for everyone’s sake this ends soon. My fight has become the world’s fight: getting over, under, or through these forces that bind us to ourselves and away from the world.

My next step (in this blog here) is to start opening to the world again. I have lots of backed-up stories to tell you. I have tried new and different things for living with pain – and found one that works for me a lot (medical cannabis) as well as others that worked to differing degrees. I attended GenCon for the first time (it was online). I’m meeting new people online through Zoom and other tools. And I’ve made some big decisions about how I need to live my life to make me better. And I will post about those and other experiences as I can get the writing done.

My biggest realization is this: I am a writer. Not a successful one yet (and maybe never), but writing is what I do. Knowing this, I need to do more of it. And I will.

Living with pain Neck and back Things that work

Weight of the world on my shoulders

The worst of my pain lives in my neck and shoulders. At times, the muscles seize up so badly that I cannot move them. We always joke that it’s the weight of the world on my shoulders, but that has a truth to it.

When this happens, the first thing I do is lift my shoulders up – like I’m asking a question. Or more likely that I am trying to hide from the answer. This move counteracts the weight that I feel and breaks the block on movement. Yes, it hurts, but as I work them up and down a few times, I feel like blood and energy is flowing again.

Next, I push my shoulders back and my chest out and think of Dolly Parton. Yes, this move is easier in a secluded or private place, but pain is pain and I have gotten a pile of strange looks for this. Push your shoulders back and down and hold for 10 – 30 seconds or whatever feels good.

After some stretching, I break out the Thera Cane. A Thera Cane is a long, sturdy plastic stick with a curve on top. It looks a bit like a walking cane, but it’s probably too short to walk with. (Way too short for my 5’6″.) It has a host of knobs sticking off of it from a number of places. It looks, more than anything, like the frame for some plastic toy parts after all the toy parts have been punched out.

Thera Cane in use on the neck.

Find whatever knob allows you to reach the sore part and use the other parts of the cane to apply pressure to the sore part. Yes, this hurts – but it relieves much more pain in the long run. It is like getting a massage (only cheaper and you have to do the work yourself.)

I lift and replace the cane on my neck again and again until all the lumps are worked out. I’ll then use the Thera Cane to get my feet a little bit or any other body part that feels tense or painful.

When this is done, I’m exhausted and ready to flop back into my nest on the sofa and be quiet for a while. At least for a little bit, the weight of the world is no longer on my shoulders. The next trick is to figure out how not to put the weight back on. I’ll report back once I have that down.

P.S. I’ve linked to Amazon in order to cover some of my expenses (hopefully). So I think that the link to the Thera Cane is part of their Affiliate program. If I did it right.

Living with pain Spiritual Things that work

Focused meditation – vacuum cleaner breathing

Pain can hit suddenly – any time or place. Of all the things that work during a pain flare – vacuum cleaner breathing comes in the fastest and the strongest to get me through emergency times.

This is a meditation exercise, but you don’t have to call it meditation for it to work. It is basically a combination of intentional breathing with a very basic mental image. You will want to practice this during times that you are feeling in control – such as a minor pain at home. Once you’ve done it a few times, you can pull it out even under times of stress to dampen the pain.

First, get yourself comfortable. Sitting in a place where people won’t bother me or think I am strange for closing my eyes is a start. It might be easier for you to lie down. It might also be easiest to find a place that has a nice light in front of you.

Next, find a spot upon which to concentrate outside of your body. Most people choose a “third eye” that sits just off your forehead or above the top of your head. Mine is about a foot above my forehead and six inches forwards. Yours might be three feet forward from your heart. Location doesn’t matter, just find a place that you can feel comfortable locating again and again.

Then, close your eyes and breathe regularly. Pay attention to the breath coming in and out of your body. Imagine a loop that starts outside your body and travels in toward your pain, then leaving your body again. You are going to be breathing around this loop.

  1. Start with a spot outside your body that has light or clean air.
  2. Breathe in pulling that light into your third eye.
  3. Keep breathing in (this is a fast set of steps) and pull that light and clean to the part of you that hurts.
  4. Breathe out, grabbing a little bit of the pain (I imagine it as dirt) and pull it away from the pained area.
  5. Pull that pain travels outside your body. I breathe it straight out from the spot. If you prefer a closed-loop, you can follow where it came in and send it out the same way.
  6. Feel the pain leave your body and disperse.
  7. Repeat until the pain is gone or at least reduced to manageable levels. This happens when all the bad stuff around the pain is out of your body and it’s place is taken by good energy that can help you.

I pull out this tool and use it daily. Sometimes this is to bide time until something else happens (e.g. pain meds kick in) and sometimes this is enough pain control in itself. Do not expect to rise out of your chair pain free and a new person. But, this is one of many things I do that work together so I can get through the day.

I learned a version of this in yoga class and adapted it to my needs with chronic pain. If you like this, you might want to look into yoga. Not the twist both legs behind your neck yoga, but gentle, restorative, and therapeutic yoga all work with breathing and the body.

Questions? Ask below. I am eager to fine tune this writing so it is understandable to everyone.

Inspirations Living with pain

Possum Power!

Photo by Pixabay on

The Virginia opossum is my animal guide. Yes, the possum. I know other people have stags, horses, and wolves, large impressive and imposing animals. Well I’m not impressive or imposing and I take strength from knowing there is an animal out there who is like me: quiet, avoidant, and underestimated.

Here are some lessons I have learned from the possum:

  1. Come out at night or when you feel safe. I don’t have to leave my house at rush hour or shop at the busiest time of the day. I can go at 6 am if I like. I set my own schedule and do not have to live according to the times that are most popular.
  2. Eat ticks. Yes, ticks. My experiences living with pain have taught me to deal with far worse things than ticks. Heck, I can take on any number of icky things and make them work for me. Favorite TV show cancelled? I’ve been through far worse. Dentist’s visit? Bring it on! I can eat ticks with the best of them.
  3. Play dead. Oh, I am so good at this one. When a possum is frightened it stiffens and falls over, so predators won’t bother it anymore. Pain gets high – I’m on the couch or in bed not moving. And that’s ok. I can do that until the predator, or the worst of the pain has passed.
  4. Scream if you want to. It’s a great way to get out both annoyance and aggression. And when it’s done, I feel a little bit better.
  5. Be resistant to rabies. Okay, I am not actually resistant to rabies. But I am resistant to a lot of stuff. When I got my tattoo, it didn’t hurt. I was used to much more pain. Massive bruises down my leg, I don’t even feel them. Having a baseline of pain is a shield. Most additional experiences cannot top it, so they are subsumed inside my pain and I can’t feel worse.
  6. Eat trash. Perhaps not every day, but sometimes Cheetos or ice cream are necessary.

A possum may not be your guide. How about an armadillo with tough armor and a soft underbelly? A starling, running around with its group of friends and family? An eel able to slip and slide through all difficulties? We are, perhaps, the strange and ugly animals in the world. But these animals can teach us to know ourselves better and use what we have.

Living with pain Things that work Uncategorized

On chronic pain

Hi. I’m Heni and I’ve been living with chronic pain for a very long time. And I’ve just about reached the end of my rope more times than I can count. At my last doctor’s visit, and yet another, “We can’t do anything about it except give you more pain pills.” I thought I was going to choke. Then I decided I could write about it – and share everything with you. I have fibromyalgia and arthritis – but I want to be inclusive – looking at all types of chronic pain.

I am on a journey to find out what works, even a little bit. I am going to write about it here. Send in your things that work, even a little bit, and we may build a resource here.

Things that work (even a little bit) so far

  • not moving
  • heating pads
  • pills
  • CBD
  • massage
  • popsicles
  • herbal teas
  • aromatherapy
  • meditation
  • screaming
  • aqua-therapy
  • bio-feedback
  • cats
  • sunshine
  • The Great British Baking Show
  • sock filled with rice
  • humidifier
  • yoga – only sometimes

I’ll talk about these as we move forward. I’ll also talk about my continuing effort to find relief and other issues around living with pain. Send in your stories or suggestions and I can blog on that, too.

Also, I find strength in my animal friend the Virginia Opossum. Expect them to pop up regularly.