Pain Specialist “You go to a therapist every week – you actually have enough to talk about every time!?”
Me “Yes” and trying to avoid being too sarcastic or dropping f bombs “ between you and me – this illness has f… screwed me up”
Before I talk about the stuff that goes with pain and all that jazz, I wanted to touch on something that has really helped, which is therapy. Four years ago I would have refused any talking therapies – a private person and highly introverted, I was absolutely convinced that I would get better and move on, if I needed to re-train my brain, I’d do it with books thankyouverymuch. So having my opinions completely changed about it shows how much it has helped.
Then my pain specialist, after exhausting every option several times over, said that the only thing left was counselling at the local pain clinic – and as a Good Patient, I went along with it. I had a brief initial consultation where I said that my pain strategy which was to push myself until I crumbled, to which she said ‘that sounds OK’. I was then told that I could do to group therapy (which makes sense as it is more cost effective for the NHS), but for me? even if I could handle the length of the afternoon session (which is unlikely) as an introvert, INTJ and not exactly a people person, the whole thing would have me climbing the walls. I abandoned my ‘good patient’ manners and said that I would rather wait the 18 month waiting list for a one to one session.
Less than a year later I was struggling with another illness and full of steroids and their side effects. The pain was spiralling out of control despite an increase in medication, I could feel I was slipping into a depression and needed help before it took fully hold. My options were to see the doctor and go on anti-depressants (which I had already tried and made me very sick) or find a counsellor and see if that could help. I spoke to three therapists. One was into alternative therapies (“Have you tried reiki?”), the other was religious and the last one was just right.
From the first session she seemed to understand that it wasn’t just the pain I was struggling with, but all the crap that goes with it and the whole ‘pushing myself until I crumble’ attitude was not helping at all. There was something else. Something that was the hidden key that unlocked all the why’s. I’m Highly Sensitive. Now, this is an unfortunate term that conjures up whiney images of ‘delicate flowers’, but as a term it does what it says on the tin and is a real condition. My brain works in a different way. I feel more – smells, textures, sound, light, medication are all heightened for me. I am more intuitive and empathetic towards everything (which can cause anxiety) and perfectionistic – in short, sometimes the world is too damn much. On the plus side you are more creative and it is not a surprise that so many artistic people are often HSP’s. The stress I put on my body – to be in a career that didn’t fit me, among people that I couldn’t gel with, in an atmosphere that drained me, all added to the final melt down of my immune system. It was amazing that I lasted that long without falling apart. But more about High Sensitive People later.
Now, two years on, I am still going to therapy. It’s a long term thing and I understand that, layers of behaviour need to be torn down and new ones built. It isn’t all fluffy chats, it’s hard and demands that you work, for it to work; but it helps. And until a new magic pill is made that will make the pain go away, it is all that I have.