One of the things my pain condition is leading me to do is to become as healthy as possible. When small lapses can cause such magnified consequences, it pays to put a lot more of my effort into keeping as well as I can, instead of digging my way back out of a pain flare. Mental health is no exception to this rule. Chronic pain is hard to live with, hard to get up and face every day. My psyche needs to be in its best possible shape to handle this extra load. So, even though I feel like I’m dealing pretty well with the pain condition mentally, I’m still going to therapy so that I can fix everything else that makes my life more difficult than it has to be.
My brain thinks everything is my fault. It’s ridiculous when I step back and look at it, but part of me truly believes I am responsible for everything. I think this is actually one of the reasons why I like operant conditioning theory so much and it resonates so well with me–it is all about recognising the consequences of your actions and making them as deliberate as possible in order to reach your goals, and in doing so the trainer gets to be responsible for all of the behavior of both the trainer and trainee.
It is a magical sort of mentality when one is caught up in it. Someone is in a bad mood? My fault. I’m having a bad pain day? I caused it myself. Why did I fall down those stairs in the first place? I know I shouldn’t, but a small part of me believes that it was not the lack of railings but the fact that I was rushing through my list of things to get done that is ultimately responsible for my injury, and thus, my pain condition. It’s not a very flattering view of myself, to see this grasping for power over circumstances that this complex boils down to. But it is not an unusual problem either, and I take comfort in the knowledge that many other humans have had to work their way through this psychological hurdle as I am right now.
Taking the whole world personally is not helpful when I’m coping with CRPS. I worry about the effects my pain has on the people I love, and the more help I ask for, the harder it gets to ask. The more pain I experience, the more I slip into blaming and scolding myself for the choices I made that may have contributed to my added pain. I skipped my yoga, or ate pizza instead of a balanced meal I was too tired to prepare–if I had just been better,I would not be hurting so much. It’s been especially challenging during the high-pain days of my morphine taper. Lately, I catch myself thinking these types of unhelpful thoughts and correct myself, repeating “I am not responsible for everything,” as I work to rewire over three decades of thought patterns. I know that I’m getting better because I am catching and correcting my thoughts instead of just believing them, but it takes practice and time to learn to think in a new way.
I’m grateful that I need to fix this issue. Without my CRPS, I may have lived my whole life believing that I was responsible for everything. Pain gave me the necessary push to create new, healthier thinking. It isn’t a lot of fun, and of course it isn’t something I would choose for myself given the option, but I am glad that, some day soon, I will be a person who is only responsible for the things that are truly under my control. A healthier person. Maybe even a happier person than the one I would have been without having had to cope with chronic pain.