It's fine to swallow pills for a short space of time, especially when they work. But I'm now hitting the eighteen month mark of being on heavy duty pain meds. I need them. There's no way I can avoid taking them, but I struggle with the notion that they are dictating my life, day, hour.
I'm hoping my current treatment will continue to work and that I'll eventually come off the meds. That's the general idea! But for now, I've had to make friends with my medication. Piles of it.
I've learned a couple of tricks that help and maybe they'll be of use to you too?
The first one is distraction. That might sound trite, but it works like a dream for me. So take your painkillers and then move. Get up if you can. Go and do something, anything. I tend to start off by dancing. I'm not talking "nobody leaves baby in the corner" stuff, but I will admit Justin Bieber has saved my sanity on more than one occasion. I grab my laptop and put on something easy to start off with, like "What do you mean?" that's a good one to shuffle to with the odd clap thrown in.
If you're looking for an old favourite that will empower you and give you the urge to shake your fist and shout "hell yeah" go for an obvious choice like "I will survive" or a bit of "eye of the Tiger" where you can channel your inner Katie Taylor and envisage yourself punching and boxing that pain right between the eyes. If you are little less uncouth than I am, go for a nice sweepy and uplifting tune like Tchaikovsky's "Sugar Plumb Fairy" so you can do floaty movements. Even go on your tippy toes and pretend you're a butterfly.
When I'm in hideous pain there tends to be more elephant after a full feed style movements than those of a prima ballerina, but who cares? You're not trying to win Strictly. If I get caught by any family member, they usually reverse out of the kitchen and don't come back until the music stops. So it's a win-win situation. The dog still looks at me as if I'm a rock star, so I'll take that.
The other diversion I have is baking. I know I've told you that before, but I find it relaxing and there's a visible result to show for my work. It makes me enormously popular with my nearest and dearest and I feel as if I've achieved something. Yes, I find it bloody sore to even lift bags of flour at times, but use your initiative and try to put everything in an electric mixer. If it can't go in a machine that does most of the heavy work - bake something else! Buy smaller bags of flour/sugar etc. (I know they are often more expensive but hopefully this is only for a short time.) If you haven't ventured down the baking route much here's a fab thing to start with. Once you make sure everything is mixed smoothly with no lumps of butter, you literally can't go wrong.
This makes a tray of buns or a small sandwich of two cakes. You need a magimix or electric whisk. Otherwise your arm will feel like it's going to fall off, especially if it's already sore. Measure your ingredients properly and you can't go wrong with these:
Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/gas mark 7.
8 ozs (225g) soft butter
8 ozs (225g) castor sugar
10 ozs (285g) white flour
4 eggs, preferably free range
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Bung the whole lot into the magimix or bowl and blend/whisk. Separate into bun cases and bake for around 15 minutes. Once they're a nice golden colour and are springy in the centre when you poke them (use a wet finger for this - preferably from the cold tap as we don't condone licking, of course - and you won't end up with a blister)
The house will smell divine, you'll feel like a baking queen or king and they can be iced or decorated what ever way you wish.
Go for a walk, shuffle or what ever you can manage. It doesn't have to involve climbing Everest, just do what your body can manage. Fresh air is such a healer. If you are lucky enough to live near the ocean go there. Sit on a rock or the sand and let the motion of the water transfix you while the salty air fills your lungs. If you're precious about your hair, wear a hat or headscarf. You won't look as if you've been to the hairdresser afterwards, but salt spray is a big seller these days. My teenagers use it to make their hair look tousled. I can do that for free at Bray beach!
I hate exercise so you're not talking to a lycra bunny here. But I've come to really enjoy walking, especially with Herbie the dog and someone else (usually my Mum, hubby or son). Ask family and friends will they come with you. That way you're chatting and hopefully not noticing the pain as much.
Heat and cold can really help.
I can't do the cold thing. Some people swear by the peas from the freezer thing. I simply can't bear being cold it makes me instantly miserable, so heat packs are my friend. Either way, what ever suits you, poke about and find the sorest spot. the place where the pain is coming from and put your cold compress or heat there. If everywhere hurts I know that can be impossible. I'm lucky in one way in so far as I know exactly where my main pain is emanating from so I can target the spot.
Showers or baths can be good. Especially if you have a nice shower gel or a bath bomb that might smell delicious. Once any of your senses are heightened in a good way endorphins are released in your body, those little friendly fellas will give you a lift. I've had days when it's taken me over an hour to get in and out of the shower. I bring music in with me so I can (a) grunt and groan and nobody will hear (b) try to concentrate on the music while I do my utmost not to trip on my trousers (sitting on the closed toilet seat is a very obvious solution to aiding dressing or undressing if your pain is making you clum). Is it worth all the effort? I think so. Once the water cascades over you or laps over you if you're in the bath muscles relax and things can seem a little better. Try not to over heat though. I've done that and have come close to clobbering myself as I melt into a messy heap on the bathroom floor. Not to be recommended.
Turn on the TV or radio and try to tune in for fifteen minutes. Hopefully the topic will distract you. I'm a bit of a Netflix fan and once I get sucked into a series that's a great one for me. If I'm too sore (my pain is around my head, neck and right shoulder and arm) I prop my computer on the kitchen counter and stand there. I've sat on the stairs so I can have the laptop above me or below me, depending on how the pain is going that day.
Lots of people swear by acupuncture. I was a great believer for a long time but I've fallen off the wagon. It could be the fact I've enough needles going on in my life. But I know it's super for lots of types of pain, so if you've never tried it, it might be worth a shot.
Writing is of course my saviour. We all know that. So I'll often take my laptop and put that somewhere so I can type. My stories take me away! So if you're not a writer, try reading. If you don't read, start with a magazine. If you can get engrossed in a story it really will help take your mind off the pain. Even looking at the pictures can be soothing - as long as you don't start comparing your thighs to the ones on the model. She's been photoshopped so don't even GO there.
I've posted the image below because it's what they ask at the hospital. Does anyone else find it hard to pin a number on their pain? It used to make me feel like I was back in school again and I was expected to answer the question and get it either right or wrong. But it actually makes me smile at this point. The doctors and nurses aren't mind readers, they're just trying to get a grip on where you are vaguely. You don't win a cuddly toy if you get it right and equally you won't be tied to a chair with duck tape put over your mouth if you get it wrong. It's simply a conversation starter. Try and explain and expand as much as you can so you are given the right pain relief. Some days I can answer the one to ten thing but most of the time I need a different chart, one that moves from ten to have a zooming sharp rocket jabbing at me every now and again while bashing me over the head with a saucepan lid. But I don't think that's on any chart....
Pain is a pain. It's exhausting and debilitating. It can get in on the best of us. But I've found the best way of dealing with it is to take your pain medication, check in with your health care giver regularly (doses can be adjusted and often need to be, so speak out or else nobody can help) and go for a bit of distraction. It's astonishing how your pain can be fooled for a bit. While you're doing the fooling the pain medication can work and you never know, you might get a bit of relief for a while.
Think of a crying toddler who just fell over and is doing open mouthed howling. What's the best thing to do? You point at the doggie across the road shouting "look at the doggie" and they instantly stop crying because you've distracted them.
This is the grown up version of that! Sometimes pain is a toddler inside your body. I know there are many of you reading this who suffer with endless pain that cannot be removed by any of my suggestions. My heart goes out to each one of you. But if there are any of you who are in pain that can be fooled, maybe what I've written might help.
Love and light to you all,
I hope your pain isn't too awful today. Go forth and fool it if you can!
Justin Bieber is playing in Dublin tonight. My teenagers will be there with a tonne of other lucky fans. I'm too old and too sick to go, but this is one of the rare times I wish I was sixteen again! I hope they have a ball. I'll make do with shuffling and pointing in the kitchen while baking brownies. Not very cool, I know. But hey, I'm doing my best here. Maybe one of my two will bring me back a t-shirt. Now that would add to the look right? 😜