Tag Archives: Pain

Another Birthday

Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.
Celebrated another birthday this week, I think that makes me officially middle-aged, being forty-five. It hasn’t been traumatic or anything, just thinking that more than half of this life is likely over, and that it tends to be a melancholy thought for most. Age has never been something I really dwell on too much. I spend a lot of my time at work with older people, really old, like nineties old.  So that tends to keep things in perspective for me.
I guess I’ve been what most people call an old soul. I’ve always been wise beyond my years, drawn to being with adults, especially older adults rather than children or people my age. I just seem more attune to them. I think Depression has aged me too. I feel like I have lived longer, harder than most. Maybe had more experience emotionally and psychologically so that has matured me. My body seems to register on their cohort as well. I have aches and pains that I believe are a bit premature for someone my age. I’m sure my sporadic exercise and irregular dietary habits don’t help the situation. But I just don’t think I should feel like THIS.
However, I am grateful to be here in this shape and form for now. I don’t know that I want to live to my nineties if it includes sickness and infirmity. I have observed much suffering in the elderly during my work as a nurse and would not wish it upon anyone. What I have now is more than enough to cope with, I can’t imagine life with diminished capacities as well.
I want to make the best of the time that I do have. It’s an opportunity now that I have learned so much during the first part of my life. So I best check with those elders for some wisdom on coping. I bet they have a lot to say about all those birthdays.

Grief and Tears

An excerpt from The Ten Things to Do When Your Life Falls Apart by Daphne Rose Kingma

We live in a culture that is afraid of grieving; we don’t know how to cry. When our lives fall apart in one way or another, we usually try to take control of things and solve them, forget them, or deny them—rather than experience them, accept them, or see the meaning they may hold for us. That’s because underlying many of our responses to difficulty is the unstated assumption that we should be able to engage in life, liberty, and the unbridled pursuit of happiness without ever having to grieve—over anything. It’s almost as if we believe that pain, suffering, and challenge are bad and should never be a part of our path.

The truth is that pain is one of our greatest teachers, hurt can be a birth, and our sufferings are the portals to change. This being true, we need to know how to grieve, to mourn, to shed our tears, because grief is the cure for the pain of loss. Tears are the medicine of grieving.

When life is hard, when you’re in crisis, you should cry not because you’re weak but because crying holds the power of healing. Tears, in fact, are the vehicle for transformation. When you cry, your loss moves through you to the point of exit. What was holding you up and eating you up, what was stuck inside your body, gets released and moves outside your body. Your physical structure is quite literally cleansed and, like a blackboard sponged clean, is available to receive the imprint of whatever comes next.

It has been clinically demonstrated that when you suppress sadness you also suppress positive emotions. What we don’t feel on one end of the emotional spectrum, we don’t feel on the other. As a consequence, people who try to be happy all the time, who suppress what they perceive to be the “negative” emotions of sorrow and grief, actually, over time, become more anxious and depressed. Crying is not a sign of weakness; we shouldn’t staunch our tears. They’re a healing balm, a river to the future.

Physical Pain as it Relates to Depression

Somehow it’s all connected. Literally, it’s on my nerves. My depression comes with its own plethora of physical symptoms. Multiple types of headaches (tension, migraine, menstrual migraine, sinus, chronic daily, ice-pick, etc.), chronic neck pain/muscle spasms, weird aches, and menstrual irregularities. So, what on earth triggered all this??? The acupuncture physician said I had congested liver chi, and after a year of weekly visits, buckets of chinese herbs and many needles, it was still unresolved. I still had pain, and still had depression. He said I had unresolved issues. NO KIDDING. What exactly do you do when your life is out of your control? As in your ex and your teenager are pushing ALL your buttons? Lots of history there, and a child who is majorly acting out because of it. That is a few other posts in itself.

So, prior to acupuncture was twice a week chiropractic, which was going to solve all my pain and headaches by getting me correctly aligned, which was very important, because my cervical spine was already developing bone spurs and curving the wrong direction! Alas, after much cracking, ultrasound, electric stimulation, moist heat and traction, I still was not much improved.

Between chiropractic and acupuncture, it had been aggressive physical therapy with myofascial release, finding muscle trigger points that I could use counter pressure on to reduce tension and pain. It was painful.

OK, so after all this, I’m still in physical pain, and even more depressed, because all these “professionals” that assured me they could help have only helped a little, and only temporarily. Mostly I’ve been helped to empty my bank account.

So, besides antidepressants, I take other stuff to manage the muscle spasm pain and the headaches. I did another stint of physical therapy which was quite helpful because it involved a great deal of deep tissue massage of my neck/shoulders/upper back. This relieved soooo much pain it was unbelievable. But I had a $500 insurance deductible and $25 copays for each visit, and at two visits per week that adds up pretty fast. They also had a $2000/year limit on physical therapy services. The message is that the insurance company would rather pay for drugs because they are much less expensive…it’s not really about your health!

During the time of the physical therapy that included massage, I did not experience a single migraine headache. Not one. Relieving the neck muscle tension/spasms directly impacted the migraine frequency. I felt better, I coped with stress better. Beats taking pills. Anyone want to be my personal masseuse?

The point is, just like that obnoxious Cymbalta commercial, depression can hurt physically as well…it’s a brain disease, the brain is part of the nervous system that interprets/regulates pain signals. So it’s all connected. All these symptoms need to be addressed so depression can be effectively addressed. Getting physicians to coordinate this is a challenge as well. Hello, we are all on the same team, right? I just want to FEEL better, mentally and physically.

That really isn’t too much to ask, is it?

Pain and Anxiety or, “It’s Just Stress!”

So, I guess I best explain that last statement. One day, at work, when I was trying to do everything and be everything to everyone (I am the ultimate people-pleaser in the ultimate people-pleasing profession as a Registered Nurse) I had this chest pain. You know, the kind you probably shouldn’t ignore. Right overtop of my heart, slightly to the left, persistent, as in ALL DAY LONG. But of course I was just tooooo busy doing for others to stop and take care of myself. And it wasn’t the first time after all either. This had been going on intermittently for a couple months. Yeah, I know, BAD NURSE. But that day, it was scary, because it didn’t go away. So when I finally couldn’t possibly accomplish anymore at work, I thought, I’ll just drop by the urgent care and get an EKG or something and get this checked out.

HA. HAHA. Silly rabbit. Not only did I get the EKG, I bought the full cardiac workup and a trip via ambulance to the downtown medical center due to my dismal family history (uncles who died at 37 & 45 and an aunt that died at 60, all from heart attacks/heart disease). Next thing I know, I’m bouncing around in the back of an ambulance being attended to by a young, and I must admit handsome paramedic. They hit every chuckhole on the main route on the way there, and I felt terribly old. The whole thing made me want to cry, and I did shed a few tears alone back at the urgent care.

Thank God for my sister…she is my awesome support system. I disrupted her evening out to dinner with friends with my tearful, whiny phone call. She just said she was on her way. From another city. In another state. Isn’t she the best?

To make this tortuous story short, they found nothing physically wrong with me. NOTHING. After the 2D-Stress Echo, the attending physician and his gaggle of residents spoke with me in the hallway (so much for those privacy laws!). Basically, no physical evidence of heart disease. OK…so now what? Yeah, that’s when he blurted out something about stress management. Still stunned, I could only ask what he thought would help? Refreshingly, he honestly said, “I wish I had the answer.” Hard to find a good physician these days.

So, basically, it’s all in my head. And all these doctors had my medication list, and they all remarked, “you take a lot of medication.” Better living through chemistry I think. Did they think they had any responsibility to go beyond what they might be able to diagnose with scans and bloodwork? Apparently not, not a single question about the state of my depression or if I might be anxious about something. Go figure.