Part 2: Lessons Learned in an Intensive Multi-Disciplinary Pain Program
With six weeks of the program under my belt I’m finally able to see the finish line of this 8-week journey through an intensive multi-disciplinary chronic pain program. The lack of blogs and posts the past few weeks likely tells its own story – I’m exhausted! But apart from exhaustion, are there things to be learnt? Has this been a worthwhile experience or a lesson in futility?!
Interestingly, a good friend cautioned me not to get my hopes up too high going into this because while migraine is a form of chronic pain, it really is its own unique “animal.” True to my innate stubborn nature, I didn’t want to listen because without hope… well, what is there? How can we face tomorrow or discover the strength to keep on going. For those who didn’t read my first blog about the program, you may want to read that first (click here for part one) and then come back. For the rest of you, well honestly it has been a mixed bag.
Entering into the program six weeks ago these were the questions foremost in my mind:
- What if I fail in the program or rather, if the program fails me?
- What are realistic expectations or should I just take each day as it comes?
- Is it possible to set goals when there are so many unknowns?
First of all: We do not fail programs any more than we fail medications or other treatments. Sadly, they often fail us . Coming to this realization has been a tough one because I like to feel as though I can fix things – so when that doesn’t happen I tend to wear guilt and blame like a badge of honor. It’s not! No really… it’s NOT!!
There are two parts of the program I actually feel have been beneficial. Yes, only two. Multiple meetings with the pain doctor and pharmacist have resulted in only one medication suggestion and that has so far not been correctly submitted to my insurance. The physical therapy has been a constant battle of wills about what I’m able to do and what is likely to cause a flare-up. The occupational therapy seemed in the large part irrelevant for someone with migraine. And the distance travelled each day has been exhausting to say the least. Sounds discouraging? Well, yes, it has been, and I’m having to make a conscious effort to focus on the positives that are definitely there:
- Talking with their fabulous pain psychologist who has fibromyalgia herself, has been super helpful. Focusing on realistic expectations, speaking up for myself, and discovering how to retake control over parts of my life. Control is a huge thing for me since it has increasingly felt like migraine has taken over my life and left me no choices. Starting to figure out that I still have choices and can be in control in some areas has been eye-opening. Sometimes those choices are to rest, and sometimes to do things that I know are likely to cause a flare-up while allowing for recovery afterwards, but either way, they are my choices and that FEELS GOOD.
- Secondly, learning biofeedback and mindfulness has been a fascinating journey. I often wonder if I’m the world’s worst person when it comes to pacing and/or slowing down, with my mind constantly telling me that there are things to do no matter how sick I am. Just STOPPING TO BREATHE has been an experience! That may sound funny to some of you, but not surprisingly, breathing is important, lol!!
And so, in another two weeks I will happily pass on the things that were not helpful while holding onto the ones that were. Hopefully emerging back into the world as I know it with a couple of helpful tools, more realistic expectations, and plans to rest – for a while at least😊. Do I still feel “at the end of the line”? Realistically I would say both yes and no. In terms of treatment options, there is really nothing else to do at the moment until further FDA approvals. However, in terms of hope, empowerment, courage and determination, the answer would be a resounding NO. Not giving up, grasping the precious moments of lower pain with delight, and learning to accept that for some things in life there simply are no answers.