Chronic Pain Sufferers Can't Catch a Break
My neck, my back, my anxiety attack!
I've been dealing with chronic pain for the past 13 years, and my pain seems to get worse each year.
Every time I meet with my pain psychologist, I worry that after our visit she is going to tell the doctors that my pain isn’t real—at least not the physical part of it.
I’ve struggled with emotional pain since I was in eighth grade, and like so many others, that emotional pain is a two-sided coin.
Anxiety and depression. Many people who suffer from one of these mental illnesses suffer from the other one as well.
Usually, people who have anxiety end up having depression (not always) and not the other way around since anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the US.
People who are in constant pain emotionally, physically, or both, want one thing: to find relief for their suffering. Because for most, if not all of us, our pain is ruining our quality of life.
Here are some examples of the physical side of pain that could ruin someone’s quality of life. Please be aware, these examples are from my experience with chronic pain.
Due to the neuropathy in my legs and feet, it’s excruciating to be on my feet at work for eight hours a day.
My legs become so swollen that I had to start wearing compression socks that go up to my kneecaps.
The pain in my arms and hands are so severe that I can’t open a bottle of Gatorade anymore and some days it’s hard to lift my arms. It hurts to stand, hurts to walk, hurts to sit, lay on my bed, everything hurts.
I hurt everywhere and because of that, my depression became worse. Being in constant physical pain can cause you to be in emotional distress.
According to Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, M.D. on mayoclinic.org—
“Pain and depression are closely related. Depression can cause pain — and pain can cause depression. Sometimes pain and depression create a vicious cycle in which pain worsens symptoms of depression, and then the resulting depression worsens feelings of pain.”
One of my worries, and I’m sure it’s a worry for many who have chronic pain, is that we’re not going to be taken seriously.
I worry that after they review the notes from the pain psychologist and see how I’ve been suffering from anxiety and depression for seventeen years; they’re going to think that my depression and only that causes my physical pain.
That is a big fat NO. Yes, there have indeed been times that my depression has made my chronic pain flare up.
There have also been times when my flare-ups have caused me to be more depressed that day.
So, I do agree that pain and depression are closely related, but my depression is not the actual reason why I suffer from chronic physical pain.
I might never get an actual diagnosis of what’s causing my chronic pain.
I got diagnosed with neuropathy in my legs and feet in December of 2018, after having it for 13 years.
I thought the neuropathy is what was causing my pain in my arms and hands, but my neurologist ruled that out.
She couldn’t find a reason for the pain in my hands, but she was able to find the cause for the pain in my arms.
I have systemic peripheral neuropathy, which attacks the nerves in my entire body, such as my legs, feet, and arms. I also have degenerative disc disease.
Here are some ways that can help us cope with chronic pain and depression.
Make sure you are getting a restful night sleep.
You should get on a bedtime routine and develop healthy sleep habits since pain and depression become worse by a lack of sleep.
Aim for six to eight hours of sleep and go to bed at a reasonable time. You might want to invest in a weighted blanket.
They are great for people with anxiety and it will help calm you down so you can have an easier time falling asleep.
Listen to your body.
We should all listen to our bodies and know our limits.
Keeping a note on which activity made your pain and mood worse is helpful, since it lets you see what you can do, can’t do, or shouldn’t do.
There is no shame in saying no to activities with friends or family. They’re not the ones who have to deal with the pain flare-up afterward, you are.
Try taking about 20 minutes out of your day to meditate. It will help ground you, so you can have a better time focusing on your body and emotions.
Practicing mindfulness techniques is a great way to help you be more in tune with your body and senses.
Journaling is also a great way to relieve stress from chronic pain and depression.
You’re able to write down all your thoughts and you don’t have to hold back, let it all out and purge all over that blank piece of paper.
Take a hot bath.
Not only can it help ease your body pain, but it can also be relaxing and help with your mood. You can take a nice hot bubble bath with Epsom salt.
Eucalyptus and Spearmint Epsom bath salt has this delicious cooling mint smell that can soothe your mind. It also has anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it a popular choice.
You could also use Lavender, Rose, and Jasmine Epsom salt which will help calm you down and help you relax so you can have an easier time falling asleep.
There are bath bombs you could use that smell good and turns your bath water into a cool color, depending on the type of bath bomb you get.
While relaxing in your nice hot bubble bath, don’t forget to indulge in a little bubbly or any non-alcoholic drink that makes you feel classy.
If you suffer from chronic pain and depression, please know that you are NOT crazy, and your pain is real. Also, remember that I am here for all of you.
I understand what it’s like having physical and emotional pain and know that it helps to have someone to talk to, so you don’t need to suffer in silence.