A few nights ago my wife, son and I watched “Psycho,” with Anthony Perkins. One of my favorite lines from the movie comes from Mr. Perkins himself:
“We all go a little mad sometimes.”
I went through a period of a few months when I literally felt I was going insane, simply because of pain and its residual effects. One day blended into another, all of them miserable, drenched in the kind of physical torture that can only come from living in chronic pain, and I really thought I was losin’ it.
People would say, “How ya holdin’ up, Rob?”
And I would reply, in all sincerity, “I feel like the cheese is slippin’ off my cracker.”
Trying to make light of my mental state, and not knowing what to do about it.
I’d love to tell you I’ve found some magical cure or pill for this problem.
All I have is a stubborn resolve to never give up.
I’ve spoken to friends, family and members of my chronic pain Facebook group (“Broken People – Mended Spirits,” https://www.facebook.com/groups/brokenpeople.mendedspirits/), and many have told me they also struggle with feeling their sanity slip away at times.
For those blessed enough not to suffer from chronic pain, I’ve done a little research on why this is, and found the following triggers:
- Pain Separates and Isolates – I went from desiring to be the life of the party to not even wanting to leave my house (or my office at work). We can’t do what seemingly everyone else can so why bother? MY ATTEMPT AT A REMEDY: get out and do it anyway. Explain to people that you may not be able to keep up, or you may have to amend the rules of whatever they’re doing, but you’ll do your best. Just doing something is better than nothing.
- Irritability – It’s not only the stabbing pain which makes you irritable, it’s the inability to do the things you used to do. MY ATTEMPT AT A REMEDY: make a new list of stuff you can do. Rewrite the list, it’s that simple.
- Damages Self-esteem – I look at pics of myself as a young man and then compare them to the 50-year-old me, and it doesn’t take much to kill my self-esteem. MY ATTEMPT AT A REMEDY: I look in the mirror sometimes, for 5 or 10 minutes, literally saying to myself, “Accept it. Accept the man in the mirror. Accept who you are. Your family loves you, your friends love you, your co-workers love you, so you must not be the monstrous troll you make yourself out to be.” I know it sounds crazy, but it works. Realize this is you; there’s no going back to “the good ole days.” These are the good ole days, and people need you.
- Forgetfulness, and Inability to Focus – These are natural byproducts of a mind and spirit drowning in pain and misery. MY ATTEMPT AT A REMEDY: research vitamins, such as B-12, which are reputed to help with memory. Look on your smartphone for games dealing with memory, realizing there’s only so much you can do, but that anything will help. Don’t be afraid to make notes to help you remember. I have sticky notes on my desk at work, and on my bedside table at home. Whatever works.
- Sleep Deprivation – Again, from my research, and the people I’ve talked to, this is totally normal. MY ATTEMPT AT A REMEDY: as for me, I recently had a sleep study done and am awaiting the results. The doctor thinks I have sleep apnea, so hopefully I’ll be able to get some help.
- Depression and Anxiety – This is a biggie, and is SOOOO common. How can you not be depressed when your body is howling in pain 24/7? How can you not go crazy? MY ATTEMPT AT A REMEDY: I told my family of my struggles, and asked them to be patient with me. I’ve asked them to help me, while at the same time helping myself by figuring out what brings me out of a funk. For me, it’s music (mainly heavy metal) and going for long walks in the country with my wife and/or son. Sitting at home in the dark will only deepen the anxiety and depression.
- Breakdown of Relationships – Many have said they feel they drove their spouse or lover away because of their struggles. Anger turned to bitterness, and that, combined with the other triggers, eventually helped sabotage their relationship. MY ATTEMPT AT A REMEDY: don’t blame this person. Bring them in to your inner circle, and explain your struggles. One thing you can NOT do, however, and I want you to hear this: never, never, never use your chronic pain as an excuse to be a jerk. I don’t care how sorry people feel for you, eventually they will leave.
Prayer also works, and I know I’m going to anger some of my Christian brethren, but I believe you should pray, even if you’re not a follower of Christ. Research shows many Atheists pray, and it’s very therapeutic. Don’t worry, I’m not gonna beat you over the head with my “God-stick.” It’s obvious from previous blogs that I’m a believer, so that goes without saying.
I don’t want to isolate you if you happen to not believe exactly the way I do. There are plenty of other blogs for that. I want to help you. Please realize, you are a beautiful person, no matter what your low self-esteem tries to convince you.
Get out and enjoy life, for there is a lot of it to adore.
“Don’t be anxious about things; instead, pray. Pray about everything. He longs to hear your requests, so talk to God about your needs and be thankful for what has come. And know that peace of God (a peace that is beyond any and all of our human understanding) will stand and watch over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).”