Thoughts On Thinking & Effective Pain Endurance

Dear Audy,

Science might be able to prove that feelings aren’t what makes the world go round, however they sure do propel the people living on it. I’ve read enough about thoughts and emotions to understand that the former causes the latter, however that doesn’t always make controlling the thoughts any easier. I’ve been feeling rather like the pictures below would suggest, i.e. punchy. I’m trying to keep those feelings down, anger and stress are things that escalate pain and since pain is the problem here, I’d rather keep its cheer squad as hushed as possible.

20100130 Punching The World

The thing about thoughts is that we aren’t actually responsible for them. They just happen, they’re just impulses flitting about between cells. What we can control is which thoughts we give weight to, which we allow as truths and which we allow to pass, watching them disappear like lightning flashes over a field. It’s easy to ignore an irrational thought such as (in the cinema) ‘I should kick the head of that person sitting in front of me’ or ‘I should just push over this shelf in the store and see what happens’, because they are obviously irrational. The fact that these thoughts come into our minds doesn’t mean we have to act on them. Thankfully, we have our Egos and Superegos working to keep that nutty little ID under control, but that doesn’t mean we don’t still hear it shouting its crazy urges (a phenomenon that, long ago, some friends and I termed a ‘crurge’).

Suffering chronic pain can lead to a lot of negative thinking: ‘I’m never going to be well again’; ‘Things are only going to get worse’; ‘I am a burden on everyone’. Self destructive thoughts are often the hardest to ignore, although that is exactly what we must do to overcome them…even if they might just happen to be truths. It can be a really hard concept to grasp – the idea that our thoughts are not ourselves, that we are actually the person who edits, actions and files them. Chronic pain leads to a lot of down time, a lot of forced rest and free time for the brain to go ahead and produce any amount of thoughts it likes. On a biological level, pain is also simply signals passing between cells. Many sufferers may be able to relate to a feeling of mental disjointedness right before a pain flare, to having issues with memory and concentration at any time and to feeling as though they are incapable of processing new information. It makes sense to me, that the pain signals bulleting through our brains might just get in the way of a few of the thought signals, I mean, I’m not a scientist, but how many signals can one brain take? When the brain is overloaded like this, it can make it a lot harder to determine a crurge from a rational action, or to recognise that a particular thought is negative. The most detrimental effect of this brain overload is losing the strength and clarity to fight off a negative thought, even when does fall into our mental spotlight.

I’ve been flaring terribly this week and fighting the mental battle feels as draining as enduring the physical one. My body has been burning and prickling from my face to my toes, my joints feel inflamed and I have to keep returning to bed at regular intervals because laying flat is the safest position. I feel like gravity has decided I need a double dose and even the rise and fall of my fingers over the keyboard is difficult. I must endure, though, I must not let all of the negative thoughts dictate my emotions, even if there are so many that they are crashing into one another in an effort to be noticed. I’m fighting constantly to turn the thoughts around and try to combat the negative ones by applying positive counterparts. My positives list might be thin but I try to give these thoughts more belief, more faith and make them strong enough to beat down the masses of negatives.

When I opened the laptop, I thought this would be a whining post, I thought I just needed to vent. Instead, I got to thinking about thoughts and I feel I can cope a little longer having focused on this post for a while. Being in my body might be excruciating at the moment, but I want to get through this without going psycho. I don’t want to start sobbing to the point of hysteria, or until the neighbours knock on the door to make sure everything is ok (this has happened twice, there are still good people out there). I’ve already missed out on the social things I wanted to do this week. I didn’t get to party it up on Australia day and I’ve missed out on a girly night of birthday fun and madness down at Phillip Island. These events are in the past and it’s no use dwelling on the fact that I couldn’t attend so I am turning my attention to what I can do to make today better.

I shall continue trying to move, gently, even if I must rest after thirty seconds. I am reading a marvellous book (Mao’s Last Dancer) and I have a beanbag book holder so I can distract myself with that for a while, even if my hands hurt too much to actually hold the book. I’m delving into podcasts, this is something that can keep my brain active and inspired, even when I’m stuck on my back. I am trying to stay connected to the world by checking in online using my iPhone – the touch screen and light weight make this perfect for when it’s hard to use my hands. I’ve even gotten this blog post written while the morning’s caffeine is still powering the parts of my brain that do think rationally. Strange…I really thought I just needed to scream, but I guess I just needed an outlet to check in with myself, take some time to notice what’s going on in my brain and my body and to have a think about what I can do to make it more endurable, rather than sobbing with despair. I’m actually feeling a little proud…and like I need a nap.

Love & Endurance,

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  • One thought on “Thoughts On Thinking & Effective Pain Endurance

    1. Carly Findlay

      I believe that writing thoughts out can often be a great medicine.

      Glad to hear you’re getting into podcasts – I rec:
      – Is it Just Me by Anglea Catterns and Wendy Harmer on ABC radio
      – Susan Maushart on ABC radio
      – KCRW Good Food
      – The Conversation Hour with Jon Faine on ABC radio
      – Conversations with Richard Fidler on ABC radio

      They are such a good way to keep connected with the world and just tune out, and also lay still.

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