Things were going badly and I knew I needed to do something fast. I sought help from a pain specialist. We tried nerve blocks, denervation (they burn the ends off your nerves to stop pain messages!) These were excruciating to receive and did not even provide much relief. My wonderfully caring and insightful GP was on the border of diagnosing Post Natal Depression when he delved further into my situation to decide that pain (and my inability to cope with it) was the real source of my depression. He had another solution. He referred me to the Barbra Walker Centre for Pain Management at St Vincent’s hospital. After a 6 month wait and a number of sessions with their psychologist, I was recommended to attend their three week, in- hospital self pain management course. I am not exaggerating to say it turned my life around. The course gave me the whack-in-the-face wake-up call I needed. They supported me to come off all medications and learn techniques to deal with my pain by taking matters into my own hands. I learnt the link between my thoughts around pain and how this impacts on the expression of the pain. I also learnt that a little exercise is better than nothing because resting makes the problem worse. The lack of activity causes deconditioning of muscles leading to increased pain. This course taught me to become disciplined and educated enough to take responsibility for my own pain management. It provided a long-term solution when medical science could do nothing further to ease my pain beyond offering a bandaid (pill) solution. With the assistance of the clinic I came off all my pain medications (a harrowing withdrawal experience!) and have not had a pain killer in the past 6 years!
Since then I have been managing my own wellness journey without medication using exercise and mindfulness techniques. I had a lightbulb moment in (of all places!) the toilet! While at the pain management course, the hospital toilet door opened outwards. I was not used to opening outwards and every time I went to the toilet I would push and slam into the door. This went on every time I went to the toilet embarrassingly for probably the first week! One day, early in the second week I went in and stopped at the door. I smiled and I pulled. I got a blinding flash of clarity. Habits can change. Your mind does learn new tricks! This gave me a gleam of hope for my future. If after 20 years of responding to pain with the same automatic unhelpful thoughts and behaviour that I have learnt only amplify my pain, then I can change these thoughts and behaviours. It IS possible to think a different way. Yes, it might take me a while (I have 20 years to bad habits to self correct…) but I can do it. I will do it.
The benefits of this new approach were immediate and substantial. I gained the strength and confidence to resume my social and day-to-day activities with confidence. Regular daily movement is prioritized in my life. I have become better at communicating with my family and friends about how I was feeling, asking for help when I needed it and just enjoying my extremely blessed life. At the pain management course, my long term goal was to be strong enough to try for another baby. Two years later our second daughter Bridget (meaning strength) was born. Self pain management is not an easy road but with discipline, there is such extreme relief and freedom.
After recovery from this birth, I knew there was still something missing from feeling totally in control of my pain. I needed to do more, I wanted the energy to do more! So more recently I have researched nutrition and its impact on the body and mind. I have been following a wholefoods, high nutrient, healthy diet. This was the key to unlocking that final piece of my puzzle. With the right energy in (good quality, real foods) I now have more energy and this gives me greater strength and vitality to continue to manage my pain effectively. It’s an added benefit but I have lost about 10kg during this period (cool!). I am still learning what does and does not agree with my body however I am passionate about maintaining a good diet and want to fuel my body with the best quality foods possible.
I have been blessed with an amazing support team and I could never have progressed in my journey without the love and support of my family and friends. My husband has been down some dark tunnels with me, seen me at my worst, but his strength and love have guided me through. He and the girls will often send me out on a walk or instruct me to do my stretches! My parents, in-laws, and other family and friends have been invaluable support and it’s such a comfort to know I have people in my corner, egging me on for success.
My story isn’t a perfect one and I’m still working on it. I have bad days and unhelpful thoughts creep in and sometimes I still over do it. But now, I don’t beat myself up about it, I just get up, keep moving because I want to be the best version of myself I can be, for myself, and for my family and friends. I want to walk the walk so I can talk the talk. I want to share with other chronic pain suffers that I’ve been down that road too but look how far I’ve come!
And, hey, my journey isn’t over, but if I waited til I was perfect, you would never get to read this! Why not join me for the ride...