July 27, 2014
by Caleen Martin
Stress and The Body, A Painful Connection
At its most basic explanation, chronic pain comes from stress. Stress on our minds, psychological; stress on our bodies, neurological. Combined, we can have excruciating chronic pain throughout our bodies. Many individuals who suffer from chronic pain or other chronic illnesses are lucky to have family, friends or a partner who understands their medical condition and the physical aspects of the illness but how many really understand the importance of the psychological aspect? For that matter, how many sufferers of these varied illnesses understand just how much psychological stress impacts their daily health? We've all probably been told that stress can affect our health. But have any of the many, many doctors out there treating chronic pain sufferers included "communication education" on the prescription pad or as part of their physical therapy must do's?
A Prescription of Communication
Do the people in your life make ignorant and often times cruel remarks out of frustration? Do you burst into tears or say cruel things right back? My pre-fibro career was in communications, and I like to think I can be reasonable. Apparently - not so much. Especially with the ever-present mood swings that like to sneak up on me like a nasty little ninja, pouncing when I least expect it. My husband studies psychology, he should know better...right? It's so much easier to dole out the advice than take it. And I mean for both of us. I can't blame all communication road blocks on others, no matter how wrong I think they're being. I need to take responsibility for my own words and reactions.
I believe this is true for all of us who find ourselves in these situations. How many of us have had a particularly nasty, stressful argument and within a day have an intense flare up leaving you in agony? Probably too many of us. Communication will make or break each and every relationship we have throughout our lives. So why aren't we taking it more seriously? My doctors have never mentioned anything on communication skills. I see hundreds of comments from sufferers trying to figure out how to deal with family and partners who are emotionally indifferent or at times abusive toward them. Suggestions include having them read comments on the various online support groups, leaving fibro pamphlets laying around the house, have them talk to your doctor at your next appointment; nothing in there about taking a communications course.
Get in Line...
We, the sufferers of chronic pain, should be first in line for this. Not because we must be recluses who have no idea how to talk to other human beings, but this is difficult. Trying to express our feelings and needs, educate those we care about on our illness, and how to stay calm when we realize our loved ones are talking out of frustration rather than any true desire to hurt us. This is hard work and we can use all the help we can get. That is exactly why these kinds of courses exist, to help us all do a better job of communicating so we can keep the relationships we want in one piece, and be confident in letting go of those we don't need in our lives. They're as much about self-esteem and self-confidence as they are communication, and sometimes having the information come from an unbiased third party makes it more acceptable.
Envision Your New Life
Can you imagine what it would be like to have open, clear and relaxed communication with your loved ones? To have a clear system for acknowledging each others needs. How many flare ups would never have happened if this was how it was from the start? How much easier would it be to handle the daily pain without having to worry about fighting and arguing with your partner or kids? Not that there will never be a disagreement, but there are healthy ways of working through them, and then there's the way we've been doing it. On the flip side, how much will it mean to your partner, kids, loved ones, friends, co-workers? It could literally be the difference of being a victim of chronic illness, or a survivor of chronic illness.
It doesn't have to cost a fortune, although the information is priceless. College's certainly offer shortened and full semester courses if you want to go that route, but your therapist might have a number of good options for you as well. I was introduced to these courses through my career. One to two day workshops in communications that can be used in any atmosphere and relationship. A number of them are even on DVD so you and your partner can listen to them together at home, stop them, talk about it, and keep working through it. The DVD's also make it easy to go back and relearn what our medical memory loss has whipped out of our foggy brains.
And the next time you're at a doctors appointment, have a discussion with him/her on this topic. Educate them on its importance so they can educate their other patients.