OVERVIEW ON THE MONTHLY SUPPORT GROUPS
The format of the chronic pain support group is based on a particular topic about the different aspects of coping with chronic pain. Members are encouraged to talk about the topic and how pain affects their lives and the coping skills needed in order to heal. The meeting is ended with a combination of breathing exercises, guided imagery and meditation. The topic is incorporated into the meditation to create a simulation on all levels.
It is always amazing when someone new sticks his or her head into the room, then slowly walks in and looks around at the people as if to say, "Is this the support group? Am I in the right place?" The reason being is that we all look normal, we do not look in pain.... at a glance. Once acknowledged that they are in the right meeting, newcomers are unconditionally and warmly accepted by the others in the group.
At the last meeting, I was feeling very ill and unsure whether to go, but I knew if I stayed home I would feel worse. My expectations of myself needed to be scaled down and I realized all I had to do was to be there. The rest would follow. Since I accepted my limitations, the pressures that I usually impose on myself were gone. The little details disappeared and all that mattered was being there in my body, in my energy. As people slowly wandered in, it did not bother me. For some reason it made me laugh, because it showed me how caught up I get at times when people are not on time. The tone of the group was about healing. How to use our inner strengths in coping with our pain, with families, with treatment providers, and most of all with our changing selves. One of the most striking remarks voiced was, "I am sorry for not being who I used to be." Hearing those words echoed deeply into a hidden place in me that no one ever sees. This stage of feeling and thought occurs way after the initial trauma ( it comes from an accident, the result of a disease, or the aftermath of an operation or surgical procedure). When the pain does not go away and becomes your daily life twenty-four hours a day. Your whole self - concept is shaken up. It is an identity crisis you did not ask for. You are not able to do things the way you used to. You cannot count on yourself nor can others. Your family life is affected and your career. You feel useless, hopeless, guilty, resentful, full of self-pity, angry, depressed and so very tired from the emotional upheaval and from not sleeping. And yet, to others who can not see the pain, you appear normal, unless they have had the dubious pleasure of experiencing your pain when you finally hit your breaking point. Then they think you are crazy and psychotic! But that is how pain operates. It is a syndrome. It is a disease. It is not understood by many but the sufferers and their loved ones. Once the initial trauma has occurred, the healing process of pain has begun and it is a long one. The support group is only one aspect of the healing process, but a crucial one.
Support Group Dates
January 9, 2003
Time:10:30 - Noon,Thursdays
Davis Library, 6400 Democracy Blvd., Bethesda, Maryland
BRING YOUR PILLOWS, MATS, ICE OR HOT PACKS
WHEN CHRONIC SUFFERING IS MORE THAN A SYMPTOM
Pain, the Disease, was written by Melanie Thernstrom, and appeared in The New York Times Magazine on December 16, 2001. The author takes you on a journey through the pain and suffering of chronic pain patients. Ms. Thernstrom spends time in a pain clinic in New England and sees firsthand the emotional toll pain creates. There are 30 to 50 million Americans daily suffering with pain that has lasted longer than six months. After six months of enduring pain, you are said to have chronic pain. The tears that are shed in doctor's offices around the country have not been calculated, but the tears flow when people start to talk about their physical problems. Doctors say chronic pain is a growth industry, but people that suffer through it call it a nightmare.
Researchers are starting to study chronic pain patients and are discovering that the pain causes the body to change. The longer you have pain, the more sensitized you become and you can even become hyper sensitized to the pain. New technologies like functional imaging, which shows the brain in action, and new drugs like Neurontin, which helps to stabilize out of control nerve endings, are starting to help. Doctors observe and treat people who are suffering and yet are reluctant to treat chronic pain patients. Many do not know whether you are telling the truth or are just trying to get drugs, so they tend to refer these patients around till the patient finds a doctor who is sympathetic. This can be very stressful to the patient reinforcing their negative thoughts and creating more pain through stress. Women are under treated for chronic pain and doctors tend to write them off as hysterical. The article reported that minorities find it much tougher to get treated for chronic pain because of biases that they are seeking drugs.
Depression goes hand in hand with chronic pain. Most people with chronic pain develop anxiety and/or depression. Pain and depression share the same neural circuitry. Hormones like serotonin and endorphin, which help to keep the brain functioning normally, are used up quickly fighting pain. Once they become depleted, the brain and the nervous system go out of balance. This is why most people dealing with chronic pain are also being treated for depression. This article walks you through what goes on behind the doctor's office doors. The tears, the frustration, the pain and the new treatments. It is well worth reading.
- - Geoff Manifold
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There are fifty million Americans suffering from chronic pain who are not receiving the treatment they need. Many fall between the cracks in their own private health insurance, workman’s compensation, and disability benefits. Others are helpless because of a lack of insurance.
Pain Connection is a 501(c)(3) not for profit human service agency that provides a monthly support group, information and referrals, community outreach and education. Pain Connection plans to establish an outreach center which will provide counseling, support groups and seminars, 24 hour hotline, information and referrals, library with Internet access, training program, newsletter, case management, advocacy, and transportation for people suffering from chronic pain. These services will improve the quality of life, offer a chance for rehabilitation, decrease the sense of isolation this population experiences and enable the chronic pain sufferer to take control of his/her condition and treatment and maintain independence.
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