Chronic pain patients are some of the strongest, most resilient people we know. Every day they face challenges that would be daunting for others. Simple things like getting dressed in the morning are just the tip of the iceberg. Chronic pain patients are loving parents, supportive partners, and productive workers while suffering pain all day.
When pain patients want to give up
Sometimes, some days, pain patients just want to give up. Some days it’s too much to think about how much it will hurt to get out of bed, get kids ready for school, and only then go to work. Some days all pain patients want to do is pull the covers up and stay in bed. When the pain comes down like a hammer and things begin to look bleak, here are ten things pain patients can do when they want to give up.
1. Allow for pain
It happens. Pain happens. Some days are worse than others, and that’s just a fact. Maybe you overdid it the day before, or maybe something has shifted in your body. There is no shame in taking a day or two off. In fact, one full day of deep rest and restoration may be exactly what you need to replenish your energy.
2. Ask for help
Whether you take the full day off or not, asking for help is another way for pain patients to get through those days when they just want to give up. Maybe someone can pick up the kids after school and help them with their homework so you can rest before dinner. Maybe the help you need is at work and a colleague can lend a hand. Pain patients often balk at asking for help because they don’t want to feel dependent. Think of it this way: if a friend were in pain and at the end of their rope, wouldn’t you want to help them?
3. Be kind to yourself
Pain patients often hold themselves to very high standards. A type-A person in chronic pain is still a type-A person only with extra challenges. Still, the daily routine of struggling with pain is grating and can wear down even the most motivated, disciplined person. Sometimes pain can lead to negative self-talk. Maybe that voice in your head starts to say you’re not good enough or you are unmotivated.
Don’t listen to that voice. Be kind to yourself. Recognize that this stage of the pain is temporary and will pass. Beating yourself up won’t help. Be kind and loving and allow yourself the time to heal.
4. Distract yourself
Many studies have shown that when pain patients are stuck in rumination, their pain increases. Rumination is a state of continually thinking about something – in this case, a particularly painful day.
If you find yourself doing this, distract yourself with something light and fun. If you are truly not mobile for the day, this might be a funny movie or video. If you can move slowly, walking in the woods, going to water (e.g., a pool or the beach), or visiting with a friend can be a great way to take your mind off what you are feeling.
5. Remember what is positive
When pain is overwhelming, sometimes it can help to take some time to meditate on what is positive in your life. Pain patients often have loving families and beautiful children surrounding them. Trapped in their bodies with chronic pain that seems unrelenting, they may lose sight of the things they have that are good and positive.
On days that you find pain to be too much, take a moment and reflect on what is good. Sometimes it can be a stretch, especially if your fingers won’t cooperate to hold a pen or type. In this case, recording a list on your phone or just thinking about what is positive and good in your life can help.
6. Talk to your doctor
If your pain has truly shifted and feels like it has intensified or changed in some way, take positive action and give your doctor a call. If you have multiple health conditions that lead to chronic pain, a change in type, location, or intensity of pain may mean that there is something else going on. This may also help to set your mind at ease and make you feel like you have some control.
7. Find support from people who understand
One of the best ways to hang in there is to find a group of people who truly understand what you are going through. Pain patients can find understanding love and support 24 hours a day, seven days a week through the internet. Joining a Facebook support group or online pain forum can help you get through those days when the pain is especially overwhelming and debilitating.
8. Ignore it
This is perhaps the most controversial advice offered anywhere when it comes to chronic pain. Maybe it seems insensitive. After all, how could you possible ignore pain when it is at its worst?
Although it seems impossible, ignoring a flare-up may actually work. For chronic pain that has no traceable cause, it is the brain that is torturing you on a particularly painful day. Your brain is interpreting or misreading signals from your body and telling you that pain has increased or is worse.
Does this mean the pain isn’t real? Absolutely not. This neural type of chronic pain is just as real as the pain of childbirth or amputation. But recent research is indicating that just as your brain can learn how to be over-receptive to pain signals it can unlearn these patterns. If you can tell yourself that you are going to move through the pain anyway, you may be sending your brain the message, “Enough is enough!”
Although it seems impossible, regular meditation has been linked to a decrease in the perception of pain and an increase in a sense of well-being among those suffering from chronic pain. Slowing your breath, not allowing catastrophic thoughts to enter your mind, and consciously relaxing your body may help you through the worst of a painful flare-up.
10. Call a crisis hotline
If you truly are at the end of your rope and thinking very dark thoughts about your future, stop whatever you are doing and call a crisis hotline. Calling 800-273-TALK connects you to a qualified support person in your area 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Before you give up, reach out. Don’t allow pain to dictate your next step. You are loved, you are valued, and you matter. When the pain becomes overwhelming it may be difficult to remember that. Talk to someone who can help you remember.
When you are at the end of your rope, what helps you get through it?