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Monday, July 18, 2011

Intermission: Will power and Chronic pain.

A reader posted a comment to an earlier post. "Will power can't stop the pain." she wrote. No, it cannot.

That made me think of the strange way many of us in chronic pain are lumped together with other disorders people do not understand/do not want to know about/do not like.

What other problems do people have where the answer is often "It just takes will power to get over it."? Let's see: alcoholism, drug or other addictions. Some psychiatric disorders, depression comes immediately to mind.

When you have acute pain people rarely say "Oh dear, you broke your leg. If you exercise it the pain will stop." "Root canal? Just stop thinking about it, it'll stop hurting."

These remarks are okay to say to people in chronic pain. "If you would just get out of bed and stop thinking about your pain it would stop."

When my trigeminal neuralgia was bad and the pain still triggered by the merest of touch I was told by doctor(s) and family, "It's only a little breeze. That can't be causing you pain. You're making a big deal out of nothing."

Because of my eye pain, which includes sensitivity to light and movement, being in eyesight of lit candles is pain provoking. "The light and flickering of the candle can't be bothering your eye. You're making such a fuss over it. Leave it alone" I was told when I asked if anyone minded if I extinguished the flame.

Others with bodywide pain disorders, such as fibromyalgia, and CRPS (chronic regional pain syndrome - which affects every part of the body and is similar to 'trigeminal neuralgia of the body' as one person described it to me.) describe family, friends, coworkers, saying to them "We're tired of your complaining about this pain you say you have. Just get over it. Enough is enough."

"You say you have."?

It is the issue, as always, of invisible disease. If it is not seen: why even when you have a cold you sneeze, your nose runs, your eyes tear, then is it really there? And if it is not seen then it must be something you can get over if you just had enough will power, enough tenacity of mind, a strong enough spirit.

Understanding the name of a disease gives that disease the right to exist. Cancer, MS, diabetes. Those are invisible but we hear the names over and over. We know people who have one or more of them. We know the treatment. We are familiar with the terms: chemotherapy, steroids, insulin. We know will power has no place in the protocols, other than in being able to withstand the treatment.

Will power does not have a place in the treatment of depression. Some addiction and alcoholism treatments may include the ability to control one's actions, to fight off the urges, but that has no place in living with chronic intractable pain. And shame on those who think it does.

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