Pain—emotional or physical

I’ve talked on a number of occasions about having endometriosis. Every month after dealing with severe PMS I am then relieved of that with severe pain. I have been blessed recently to find that taking an amino acid, D-Phenylalanine helps reduce the pain considerably. It helps make endorphins and allows me to take much less ibuprofen and now I deal with a relatively manageable amount of pain. It’s been one of the most wonderful supplements with clear value that I take.

If anyone wants to try it for pain the way it was prescribed to me was to take 1500 mg for a week. And then 500 mg daily after that on an empty stomach.

In any case, though my pain is manageable today as I thought about what I might write about on my blog I thought I would revisit this physical pain as it has so many parallels with emotional pain. Dealing skillfully with either emotional pain or physical pain is really quite similar. I explore this in an old post on my endometriosis pain while I was dealing with the pain of the loss of my brother.

Synchronistically, I asked my husband to help me think of something to write today and as I was thinking, “I’ll write about pain.” He sent me this article written by a woman who had a epiphany of sorts while in pain:

I am a forty-five-year-old woman who suffered a spinal injury thirty years ago that has resulted in a legacy of on-going physical pain. Of course this has been difficult to live with, but some twenty years ago I had a significant experience that radically changed my perspective on life and plunged me into the wonder of living in ‘the present moment’.

I was in an intensive care ward at the time, with an acute deterioration of my condition. I had been bedridden for several months and unable to sit up, but on this occasion I had undergone a diagnostic procedure that required me to sit up for several hours afterwards. During this long night of intense pain I felt myself sliding towards the edge of madness.

I spent hours with two internal voices locked in combat – one voice convinced I could not stay sane till morning and the other willing me to do so. It was an incredibly intense, brittle, heart-breaking experience.

Then, suddenly, my experience completely changed when I heard a quiet inner voice saying: “You don’t have to get through till morning; you only have to get through the present moment”. It was like a house of cards collapsing, revealing the space that had been present all along, if only I could have recognised it. My experience immediately changed from an agonised, contracted state to one that was soft and rich – despite the physical pain. At that moment of relaxing into the present moment, just as it was, I intuitively knew I had tasted something true.

I am hoping in time I will eliminate the need to pain medication completely. And I believe I will.

I have a friend who is a nurse practitioner in pain management. She works with people who are dealing with long-term chronic pain. Part of the program they offer there teaches mindfulness meditation for control of pain in her clinic. The people who really get it return to full successful lives with little or no medications. She says it’s pretty incredible. They also teach diet and nutrition to minimize pain. The standard American diet isn’t just bad for mental health, it’s bad for pain management too.

Meditation helps all the varieties of human pain possible—physical and emotional and spiritual. As the woman above found all you have to do is deal with the present moment. And as I said in my last post a large part of that is acceptance that that can be found in mindfulness however you choose to call it.

Just so you know, none of these practices need be studied within the confines of Buddhism. I am not a Buddhist thought I’ve read a lot of Buddhism over the years. Mindfulness and meditation is a human birthright and can work in conjunction with any religious belief system or none at all.

A good introduction to mindfulness that is completely secular is Jon Kabat Zinn’s Wherever You Go, There You Are.

For a more Buddhist view on acceptance I really loved Tara Brach’s Radical Acceptance.

About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters

7 Responses

  1. Pat

    Hi Gianna,

    I think you’re on to something very important here for you and for all of your readers (including me). Successful members of 12 step programs have learned that you take it one day at a time every day, but some days, we have to go hour to hour or minute to minute. Mindfulness meditation is one of the best tools we have to heal and to overcome stress. I have to say, though, that in the throes of benzo withdrawal as I am right now, with little or no sleep and my nervous system totally on edge, it’s difficult to be still. I’m having trouble commiting myself to it, even though I know I must try. The night went by last night and when I realized it was morning, I could feel my shoulders were up to my ears, my back was tight, my stomach muscles pulled in and my teeth clenched. Gee, why can’t I sleep? Last night, my significant other said to me, “what won’t you be able to do when this is over?” That applies to all of us becoming med free!

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  2. Hi Gianna, I’m so sorry you’re in physical pain. I’m glad that helps you, focusing on the present. I’ve never suffered with much pain so I don’t know what pain management entails or feels like (besides labour of course) The thing that comes to my mind when it comes to ‘making it for this moment’ kind of thing was when I was in high school, jogging for P.E. class. I detested it, and was always one of the last stragglers in. UNTIL I discovered a little trick. While running, with my lungs burning, and legs falling off, and often thinking what a loser I was, I was also often overwhelmed to think how much FURTHER I had to run. It one slowly dawned on me to change my focus. I told myself, that I did NOT have to run any further than the next telephone pole. And as soon as I got there of course, I would think, ‘ok, let’s just take it till the next one, and then I swear I’ll let you stop if you need to’. That’s what got me through it, and got me to be one of the best runners in the class after not too long. There’s definitely power in mindfulness, and ‘the here and now’. I hope you’re feeling much better soon, Gianna.

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  3. naturalgal

    “Then, suddenly, my experience completely changed when I heard a quiet inner voice saying: “You don’t have to get through till morning; you only have to get through the present moment”. It was like a house of cards collapsing, revealing the space that had been present all along, if only I could have recognised it. ”

    As much as I complain about my past psych-docs, this is a bit of information that they gave me that got me through my really, really rough times.

    Maybe it was acutally a worker at the hospital who told me. You don’t have to worry about the future. Just make a pact to live through the day. If that is to hard just an hour at a time. If that is too hard, then just a minute at a time.

    That’s how I got through my worst depressions…..a minute at a time.

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  4. Yes…this idea has helped me through tough times, too. I tell myself, “I can make it through another minute. Maybe not a whole day, but I’m not going to think about that, I’m just going to focus on the next minute.” Shifting your focus, your perspective, makes all the difference.

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  5. Hi,

    I came across your site from Life with PMDD. I’m sorry about the PMS and the pain. I guess I’m commenting because I also have endometriosis and PMDD (I transitioned from severe PMS to PMDD about two-three years ago around age 32 or 33). Before I was correctly diagnosed with PMDD the label Bipolar Not Otherwise Specified was tossed around and I was given much medication until I put my foot down and insisted the meds were making depression worse and creating new symptoms. One last try with an anti-depressant made me suicidal to the point of planning so after that I started tracking my cycle (I’d been wondering about it for years but nobody would listen). My wonderful GYN listened. Now I am on my third month of YAZ (birth control pill) and have been PMDD free since starting it. For the first time in years and years I am not having to deal with depression or mood fluctuation. Other birth control pills made the mood stuff and the endo pain worse. So, taking YAZ has given me back my life, basically. I take it non-stop, both for the endo and for the PMDD. Just wanted to share that in case it’s useful to you.

    Take care –

    Jennifer

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