The sound of my “marimba band” frogs ribbiting. The taste of a milk chocolate enrobed maraschino cherry bursting open. The feel of Teddy’s silky soft German Shepherd fur. The smell of Texie’s snuggles as he snaps his fresh carrots. The sight of a giant purple iris unfolding from bud to bloom in under a minute.

As I’ve learnt to endure pain levels of 8 and above, I’ve gained observation skills I’d otherwise never have paused long enough to learn. The simple moments are easier to pause in than complex ones as the brain, when in pain, battles to tackle intense topics. If you’ve ever been in extreme pain, physically or emotionally, you may have noticed gaps in your memory. You’re not senile, your brain has prioritised it’s intake and forgotten what wasn’t essential. Shifting our brains from this fight, flight or freeze mode, the standard when we are in pain, into the cognitive, calming, meditative state we need to manage pain can be challenging. However, when we get it right, the relief is amazing. It gives us a safe space to park whilst the waves of pain wash over rather than consume. It also allows our brain to process the change rather than avoid it through numbing behaviours. 

Meditation doesn’t mean saying “ommmm”, at infinitum, on a yoga mat, in the mountains. It has as many permutations as there are people, as it’s tailored to what calms and focuses you. On really bad pain days, it may be listening to classical music quietly curled up under a duvet. Meditating may be a Lectio Divina podcast or an absorbing murder mystery. On better days, it’s walking around the garden focusing on the puppies’ playing and observing the changes in the plants. When I’m feeling strong, spending time playing with Texie at liberty is wholly absorbing, one break in my concentration is reflected in his change in behaviour, he is a wonderful mirror! Working out what can completely engage my brain and senses, calms my breathing and bring a sense of peace is one of the best tools I’ve gained from my CRPS. It works just as well for emotional pain as physical pain.

Often, I hear the comment “if I don’t push through the pain, I’ll go mad with inactivity”, I used to be one of those saying it! CRPS put me in my place, pushing through results in migraines, vomiting and passing out, so come to respect my pain. Pausing in my pain by meditating makes me feel active though, it’s a way to rejuvenate and relax. Reframing it, with the help of my psychologist, has made bad days so much more bearable and it’s changed my good days’ rhythm too. Rest is so important to functioning optimally even if it feels counter-intuitive. 

So, take a deep breathe in…and hold for a couple of counts, breathe out and then schedule in some pause time, it’s so worth it.

Building awareness is essential to increasing understanding and improving diagnosis. I’m surrounded by such an amazing community, locally and abroad, who have taken the time to understand me. Sharing #CRPS articles and facts is one of the ways you can help grow the community of understanding. You can share it by forwarding this article or sharing posts on social media.