12 steps for chronic pain, looking at harms – step 4

February 26, 2013

Step 4 is about looking deep into ourselves – our fears, how we were harmed, how we harmed others, our struggles and our strengths. It isn’t meant to be a point of condemnation – a list of how awful we are, but of confirmation of what has made us who we are. Without looking truth in the face, it is hard to break out of patterns and behaviors. The truth also allows us to see what works for us, and when we are most how we dream to be.  Since there are a lot of complexities in step 4, I will start with harms done to me.

In the Big Book, step 4 is “We made a searching and moral inventory of ourselves”. I find this step life changing when I am able to dig deeper into my own responses to situations and how this also impacts my current behaviors. For example: One of my friends, “Cailyn”, reacted to my physical symptoms with a lot of questions and assumptions about my psychological state. We had been close at one time, but less connected prior to my illness. I felt hurt by her comments and questions. What she said to me and her lack of support effected our relationship (social) and how I viewed myself (security). I however reacted by being angry, criticizing her, felt doubt, self-pride, rationalized, resentful, suspicious and self focused. Though many of these reactions were internal, I reacted to this hurt by causing additional harm. I am not responsible for her actions, but I am responsible for mine. As time went by, I allowed the relationship to fade, which was a good thing at the time as we were going different directions. However, I continued to resent her and her reaction to me when I was sharing my physical struggles.

Such as with Cailyn, there are many people who caused me harm when I became ill. The list includes family members who weren’t able to recognize my pain, other people who thought I was seeking pain medication for an escape, doctors who were unkind and unhelpful. Some of these harms may have been more about my own assumptions of why I felt they did what they did. In general, most of us are fairly self-absorbed, and on a given day are unable to give everyone the support they need or desire. When I am listing my harms, I found it was helpful not to analyze too much about what I didn’t know, and reflect more on what I felt was a harm, because this is what I react too. Later I can look and pray for clarity on whether my perception could have been off (many times it is) or whether my perception is only slightly true, such as I may think someone is overreacting, yet still might agree mostly with what they say.

Much of my reactions to harms done to me are similar to reactions I have had since I was a young child. I believe many of my reactions are almost automatic especially when the situation brings up old feelings of abandonment, criticism, abuse and/or neglect. If I feel shame, I tend to look for ways of self-preservation. Often this is done by accusing other people, in order to feel ok about myself. When I recognize what I am doing, I can look more clearly at what is being done or said to me, and process whether this is something that is true, where I need to make a correction, or something that isn’t, where I may need to move away from the person or situation. If I am wrong, my guilt can move me to make changes while holding onto who I want to be. If I can’t see clearly something I did, I can ask questions for clarification, and try to understand where they are coming from (which may not be related to me). Though doing the right thing doesn’t necessarily keep me from being resentful, it does give me space to make the choices I want to make, and lessen the impact.

In my world of chronic pain, I hope to find grace and forgiveness for this journey. May I be free of shame, and have a heart that seeks to understand.

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Memoir Review: Crash by Carolyn Roy-Bornstein, MD

January 2, 2013

Crash was an amazing read. Carolyn is a fabulous writer who was able to draw you into her experience of her son’s serious accident by a drunk driver. Being a doctor she explores her struggle of dealing with her son’s injuries, the tragedy of being hit by a drunk driver, the girl-friends’ death, the medical issues that arise and making sense of her experience from both a doctor and family member perspective. She is honest, thoughtful, and inspiring.

One thing that struck me was the randomness of the accident. Many things in life can seem random, in the sense that everything can change in a moment. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time, a simple decision that turns costly. Even those who make poor choices, have a sense of randomness. Many people pay costly for their mistakes, or cause great harm, while others pay less outer consequences. Life isn’t always fair from our reality point. This can be a hard one for me to swallow. I strive for integrity, yet it doesn’t mean my life will be easy or pain-free.

Carolyn’s story was inspiring in the way she was able to grow from her experience and find the gold nuggets in all the losses. She strived to find the balance between doctor and patient, and to use this experience to make her a better doctor. The tragedy of her son’s injuries was brought in perspective by the death of his girlfriend. Her recognition of own lack of understanding of depression and brain injuries is very humbling, as she strives to learn more about a subject so relevant to her son and later becomes an advocate for people with Brain Injuries. She is honest in the struggle, yet looks for the positive, and grows closer to her family in the process. In the heart of the story, is Carolyn’s evidence of grace. “I don’t believe in fate. I believe we deal with the hand we are given. We make our own meaning. We find our own grace. Grace as a kind of acceptance. Grace as thankfulness. Grace as new meaning for a changed life.”

What a way to begin 2013, to move forward in grace. The year 2012 had many challenges and blessings, yet grace is what brings growth, love and humility. Through the health challenges, the healings, the relationships and losses, may grace help me live in the moment in a place of love, acceptance, gratitude and deeper understanding. I don’t know what 2013 will bring me. I can feel fear at the possibilities of financial struggles, health problems, and learning to navigate through relationships. At the same time, I trust that whatever arises, I will walk into it, grow, and becoming a greater person, more aware of the spirit within, around and above, and find the gold nuggets to receive and to give.

Happy New Year everyone. May grace abound to you.


December 24, 2012

The holidays can be very difficult for many people. This is a beautiful blog written about depression and suicide, and ways to seek help. We are not alone and can make it through one minute at a time. Elissa

Cathy's Voice Now

431136_3767625948262_192232921_nI reach out my hands because I have been there.

I haven’t written a blog post since last week.   I started writing several times only to discard it.  No words seemed right after the events of last week.    I will say that my heart breaks for the families, friends, and community of Newtown.    I decided to wait until closer to Christmas and share some of the joys of the season and to share the lessons and treasures of this past year.

However, something happened today that made me change my mind.  This afternoon I saw a facebook message from a friend offering her prayers and condolences to the mother of a 15-year-old young man.  As I read the posts of the past day, I realized the young man was only a couple of weeks older than my grandson.  I didn’t know him but he was part of the group of…

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Withdrawal – 2 a day – drug free within reach

August 20, 2012

Still on the withdrawal plan.  The good news is I am down to about a 1/8 of a pill 2 times a day.  It is harder on my body to take out a dose (from 4 a day to 3, etc) than reducing the amount I take.  I started increasing the times between doses when I would either forget to take it, or my pain level hadn’t increased.  Yesterday I reduced it down again to 2x a day when I was so busy coaching during a soccer tournament I forgot to take my afternoon dose.

This morning I woke up feeling really sick to my stomach and had a headache.  Not sure if this was from coordinating positions for soccer players for nine games this weekend or from the reduction on medication in my system.  Most likely it is a combination of the two.  It may take a few days for my body to adjust.  Fortunately after my morning dose the symptoms gradually disappeared.

I am excited to be on less medications and back to 2x a day for medication intake.  I hate having to take medication with me in the day, especially when out on the field or with other people.  I feel inspired that soon I may be completely drug free.  I am amazed at how much better I can focus and the increase in my energy level.  Unfortunately some of my symptoms were intensified with the medication.  My pain level is higher, but not to a unbarable level.

So thank you for listening to my progress.

 


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