Tuesday, October 21, 2008
The Pain-Panic Syndrome
The combination of pain medication, energy work, yoga, emotional renovation, and HBO has helped me to manage my pain so that, most days, I act and feel like a normal.
But some days, the pain resurrects. What starts as a slow ache in my lower abdomen in the morning can escalate into a of herd of wild stallions stampeding through my body by mid-afternoon. This explosion of pain can be catalyzed by an argument with my sweetie, worry about my parents' health, a change in the weather, a freak anomaly in the space-time continuum, a butterfly flapping its wings in China -- in other words, "Who knows?"
Because I, gratefully, have so many good days now, the first signals of a pain spike are enough to launch me into panic mode. I forget how many years I have dedicated to learning how to move beyond pain, to attach my consciousness to something bigger than my own measly ego, to use my mind to meditate the pain into a blue wave that flows out of my body with each breath. I forget that I have an arsenal of medications I can combine into a giant hammer that can slam any pain spike into oblivion. I forget that the pain comes, and it goes, and that it will never be as wild and uncontrolled as it was in the first years of hell.
Of course, panicking over pain only feeds it. When I panic, I constrict my muscles and my mind so the space I create around the pain is tight and tiny; and therefore every thrust of the pain is that much sharper and always hits its target.
Here's what helps when the reminder of pain starts to set off a full blown panic-pain attack.
I try to breathe consciously. To follow the path of my breath as it swells and ebbs instead of focusing on the ripples of pain. I move my breath to those places where pain grips, and I watch as each breath pries pain's fingers looser and looser.
I remind myself that -- "This is now and then was then." That this pain episode may last hours, all day, even a couple of days -- but not years. There will never again be years of relentless suffering. I am better now. And I have tools now that I could not have imagined then.
And I ask for help. I ask my sweetie to remind me of the truth I try to hold onto -- the truth that the panic makes me forget. He tells me, "This will pass. Don't worry. You know it will. Now, let's see what's on HBO."