From persistent pain to passion project
Pain Management Programme participant
A graduate of the pain management programme, Lindsay McLean, tells her experience of the programme and how it has transformed her relationship to pain.
Fed up, fatigued, frustrated and flippin’ sore beyond words is how I would describe my life before being accepted onto the pain management programme. I had already been living with chronic pain for a few years, which had become increasingly persistent and widespread. I was trying to discover any form of relief or solution and felt I had explored every treatment, medication, intervention I could possibly find – all with temporary, little or no success. Eventually I gave up and resigned myself to a very restricted, highly medicated, disappointing and painful life, all of which had begun before my 30th birthday.
My first Pain Management session
When the pain management programme was first suggested to me, I was extremely sceptical. I had been down this road many times before with little to no improvement from the many medical appointments under my belt.
However, my very first session piqued my curiosity as I had not expected to be in such a welcoming, supportive and understanding environment.
It was a group facilitated by the pain management team and comprised of a group of people who lived with chronic pain. Like myself they had endured many struggles because of it, and up until this point I had not encountered anyone who could relate to what I was going through. When I chose to share my experience to the group, I saw a lot of nodding heads, which brought me a great deal of comfort. For the first time I felt a little bit less alone with my pain and realised I was part of a much larger pain community. It was a very emotional and cathartic first session.
What the programme included
The pain management programme took a structured self-management approach, learning about pain education, goal setting, activity strategies, stress management, sleep hygiene, meditation tools, medical management and so much more. I learned about the science behind my pain, and how I could incorporate what I had learned into my daily life, and work with confidence towards important goals I thought had been permanently robbed by pain.
Finding patience and self-care
I’m only human so sometimes I would get frustrated and would want to get the hang of things as quickly as possible. I wanted to go back to ‘normal’ and I would try to rush the process.
I had to remind myself that a bit of self-care was important, to not push on when my body was telling me it was time to slow it down. I also had to remind myself to have patience and even if it felt a long way off, that my capabilities would increase over time. And you know what? They did. They really, honestly did…beyond my wildest expectations.
What I’ve learned
It’s been 12 years since I first experienced chronic pain and found how debilitating it can be, and now I say with the utmost confidence that I live a very full, purposeful, active and extremely happy life, even though I will always have pain.
I’ve learned to communicate my needs and limitations to others without guilt or frustration – which has dramatically improved relationships. I’ve found acceptance – no focus on or comparison to the person I used to be, but the person I am and still can become. I’m not cured – I still experience chronic pain, I still have flare ups and use crutches from time to time but now I have tools to manage pain with confidence, and cope with any setbacks in a positive and effective way. I’m now in control of my life, not my pain.
Returning to Pain Management Programmes
I often come back to speak to new pain management programme groups to share our journeys. I remember how daunting it can feel to show up to that first session and it is important to me to offer reassurance and answer any questions I can as a former pain management programme graduate. I feel this is vital education which can help so many who are struggling without any tangible guidance or direction to help manage a long-term condition with a long-term strategy.
I do get benefit from visiting these groups too – it is very helpful for me to remind myself of where I was and where I am now. To look at the tools I used to get there, the ones I may have forgotten, or ones that were perhaps not applicable to me years ago but could be useful now. Managing our pain is something we must do every day, but it truly becomes second nature, and it was the pain management programme that showed me how.
The pain management programme showed me how to look towards the future without fear and not to underestimate what I can achieve. I wasn’t alone and anything is possible – for that alone, the pain management programme will for ever have my enduring appreciation. I will continue to sing its praises until someone finally tells me to shut it!