“You cannot always wait for the perfect time, sometimes you must dare to jump.”
I once went bungee jumping in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I have always loved thrills and sky diving still remains on my bucket list, however I will be honest my bike accident/brain surgery has made me a tad bit more cognizant of safety. I remember being with a few of my friends I was camping with on the beaches of Myrtle Beach and the one thing I wanted to do was go bungee jumping (not recommended for people with chronic pain yet I had not come close to acceptance at this point in my life.) This was during some of my worst years in my journey with chronic pain and nothing scared me more than not finding a cure to chronic pain so bungee jumping was just not as scary to me as it was to the people I was with. I just jumped, without hesitation or thought and I have to admit that ten second thrill was well worth the jump. It brings a smile to my face when I think of the pure excitement I had for those mere ten seconds. That jump was simple for me just as I believe jumping out of a plane would be. The jump I made in my decision to manage pain naturally was one hundred times more difficult. I remember my friends walking out all ready to jump in Myrtle Beach and walking back saying: “I can’t do it.” Then twenty minutes later trying again and for most of my friends this went on for quite a long time. That is how it was with my choice in managing pain without treatment or medications: walking to the plank about to jump and then feeling such a strong sense of fear I had to walk back. This went on for a few days and then I did pull that band-aid and decided to jump. Some days I feel as if I am still falling and in all honesty have fallen off my track of managing pain naturally two times since accepting chronic pain and spending over a month at the Mayo Clinic. Recently one of my readers asked me for tips on how I manage pain with no medications as she has no choice but to go off her current pain medicine for a procedure she is having. I understand her fear and her pain. I will do my best to share what helps me the most in my management of chronic pain but keep in mind that acceptance was the first step in this long fall that has resulted in something I like to call life.
1. Acceptance: whether or not you make a choice to go off pain medication for a short period of time or for life you must accept that the beginning stages are going to suck. Yes, it is hard. Withdrawing from medication is gut wrenching: literally. Those of you who have experienced any sense of withdrawal know how hard it is. It is as if you have the worst flu but with that flu comes depression, bouts of crying, feelings of hopelessness, and a sense of total emptiness. With that said: these feelings do not last forever and once you accept that the beginning is the most difficult part it becomes a tad easier. Knowing deep down that both the physical and emotional aspects that come with coming off pain medications go away and your thoughts are un true is the greatest gift you can give yourself during this time. There are so many people who stay on pain medication because of the fear of both withdrawal and/or not being able to manage pain without the one thing that has given them some relief. I get it. You are not crazy and there is nothing wrong with you. Taking something your body is so dependent on both physically and emotionally is beyond difficult. This is not a time to be hard on yourself. This is also not the time to believe anything you think. Let your body do it’s thing and know it will go away. I am an email away and I have gone through this more than once: I get it.
2. Stretching/Exercise: If you have been following my blog for a long time you know that exercise/yoga/stretching are so crucial in my management of chronic pain and anxiety. Just this morning, I awoke after a nightmare of being in a waiting room for pain medicine and my heart was beating out of my chest. I sleep in my work out clothes (have for years) so I can just get to my living room do my morning stretches and work out. The Jessica pre acceptance of chronic pain would not be caught dead in work out clothes or exercising in any way shape or form. I will be honest, it took me months upon months to get into a routine of exercise and now I love it. Some of you may not be ambulatory or have certain factors that make it very difficult to exercise and that makes this element difficult but not impossible. All of us can stretch and I urge you to do so each morning starting from your jaw, neck, shoulders, hands, back, all the way down to your toes. There are also many yoga DVD’s that one can do sitting down such as chair yoga. If you google exercises for your certain condition I am quite certain something will come up.
3. If you have chronic pain you know how difficult it is to sleep. Back to the cycle of chronic pain. Pain makes it difficult to either fall asleep or stay asleep and then lack of sleep intensifies the pain the next day. Aside from melatonin or a light sleeping aid there is this magical thing I found called: “yoga nidra.” Do not allow the word yoga to deter you from this life changing form of meditation. Every single person: chronic pain or no chronic pain should own a yoga nidra CD. All you need is a comfortable place to lay down: a bed, couch, the floor and a CD player. You put the CD in, close your eyes and follow what the speaker on the CD is telling you to do. It took me a few times before I felt the effects of yoga nidra but by the third or fourth time of trying it, I was hooked. I will never forget the feeling I had after I had awoken from a yoga nidra practice: a tiny bit freaked out because it does put you in a trance like state, refreshed, and very relaxed yet awake. The equivalent to a thirty minute yoga nidra practice is the same as sleeping for about three to four hours. Get on Amazon now!
4. Distractions: You must train your brain to not think about pain. Pain enters my mind on a daily basis and each time I find a distraction. I have written this before but I remember after leaving the Pain Rehab Center, where I learned to manage pain naturally finding it so difficult to not think about pain. I would bring a book with me everywhere I went and if someone was with me I would ask he or she to drive and I would read just to distract my mind from pain. You are much more powerful than you believe. It is time to find your passions again and each time pain thoughts enter your mind find a distraction: anything!
5. It sounds very cliché but a healthy diet is just important for everyone but especially those with chronic pain. I remember when I bought my first juicer and the excitement I had at trying all concoctions: I made up so many recipes and now juicing is just part of my daily routine but does juicing cure chronic pain? No. These are all tips that if used together make a huge difference in your life with pain. Try and stay away from processed foods and remember everything is okay in moderation. I do not always eat healthy and we have pizza night and one will never take away my chocolate or coffee. Healthy eating and making healthy meals/juices and smoothies actually becomes fun after a while.
6. Moderation. Life can be insanely busy and as a society we have trouble saying the word no without feeling guilty. Guess what? You need to say no. You cannot do it all and in reality no one can. You must take breaks. You must focus on you first and let guilt go. This sounds so easy but for many of us it is very difficult. Enjoy what you can do and be present. Stop thinking about what you cannot do or what you do not have and enjoy what you have right now. You are enough and you are doing your best.
I could write a lot more about how I manage pain naturally but I do not want to overwhelm any of you, especially Genvieve: the inspiration for this post. I am so very honored to have each of you read my posts and I do beam with pride when you actually take the advice from that crazy Jessica from New Jersey.