What is PTSD and how does it affect chronic pain patients?
Prior to being treated for my CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome) in Tennessee, I was unaware that I had PTSD. That was the furthest thing from my mind and I would have never thought of myself as having PTSD. But in 2013 when I was diagnosed with PTSD I had been through so many years of chronic pain and everything that came with it that the diagnosis made sense.
I worked with something called, ‘Issue Solution Technique’, to get through my PTSD in addition to other modalities while working to get my CRPS into remission. I was able to connect the dots to figure out how PTSD became a part of my diagnosis. This included years of intense pain that was unmanageable due to CRPS, listening to doctor and/or surgeons tell me that it was the worse case of CRPS ever, having doctors give up or not know what else to do, several procedures where anesthesia didn’t work so I was able to feel everything that was happening, other treatments that were so painful that I was left shaking and on the verge of going into shock, etc… In combination this is enough… more than enough to cause PTSD. In order for me to get past the PTSD I had to let go of the stuff that had happened while going through my journey with CRPS, I had to allow myself to gain perspective, to forgive those that needed forgiveness and to realize that I was worthy. Then and only then was I able to move on because we all know that chronic pain and CRPS is all encompassing.
PTSD, Post-traumatic stress disorder is a DSM V diagnosis in the mental health world. You have probably heard of it in relationship to war veterans returning home. PTSD is an anxiety disorder that causes the brain to fire in irrational and obsessive patterns after someone has gone through an extreme emotional trauma that involves a threat to his/her life or perceived threat of danger. Chronic pain, whether it is you or someone who is close to you sends off alarms into your central nervous system bringing in hyper-arousal and says, “threat is on board.” In our brain, the very threat of chronic pain memories (i.e. pain, treatments, negative statements by doctors and/or surgeons, traumatic activities associated with this time, etc…) will create the war like environment for PTSD.
Thus what can you do to cope with this threat in healthy ways in order to respond to chronic pain to allow you to manage PTSD symptoms?
First, give yourself a break and acknowledge the truth. Chronic pain is scary and creates rivers and avenues of fear within. Don’t try not to be afraid. Being brave is not the same as not being afraid. Being brave means that you know and understand the risks involved and respond to each risk with positive action, regardless of your level of fear.
Second, get enough rest. (Yes, this is difficult with chronic pain, but try.) PTSD symptoms are intrusive showing up in nightmares, disruptive sleep, and early morning dread. Discover which tools are going to help you rest. If you need a night -light because the dark is all of sudden too scary buy a soft light positive action night- light. One that makes your face smile when you see its glow in your dark room. Experiment with some night- time organic herbal teas, such as chamomile to see if tea will assist you to sleep. Melatonin can be tried as well. (Check with your physician if you are on a sleep medication.) If you are in treatment and it is too uncomfortable to sleep lying down, then sleep in a recliner chair or propped up with a bouquet of pillows. Rest is your friend. When you worry, the very biology of worry breaks down your cells.
Third, have an assortment of music at your fingertips. One day you might really want to hear angry heavy metal music blaring through your house because that might be reflecting your inner state and pleasant massage music is just too annoying when you are agitate. Let music reflect outwardly you inner state. Yet, another day you may decide you want a nice peaceful assortment for calm and relaxation.
Fourth, try finding someone that has a background in PTSD to help you. There are techniques available such as the one that was available to me, ‘Issue Solution Technique’ (that involves tapping, similar to EFT). These techniques can help guide you through the process quickly and easily.
Other things that you can do to manage your PTSD symptoms are journaling your feelings, aromatherapy, funny movies, and good friends. Go to support groups, seek counsel from a professional who works with chronic pain patients and PTSD, and read to educate and inform yourself on your condition. It is important that you come to chronic pain well prepared and ready. Knowledge is power. Do not be afraid to learn about just exactly what is going on with you. Of course, it will be scary but the knowledge will help you make the best-informed decisions about your treatment and your life style.
Last, remember never to give up. You are priceless and valuable. Nothing you did caused this to happen to you. Take comfort, manage your symptoms and keep the hope.
If you would like more information on treating PTSD or chronic pain please contact Advanced Pathways Hypnosis for a free consultation.