One of the hardest parts of living with CRPS is the not knowing. Not knowing when the fire will ease down, or the icy cold to run warm. Not knowing when the ache will settle or quality sleep will come. Not knowing if you’ll doze off, even when everyone else thinks you’re still awake because you appear to be. Not knowing why you’re being sent to a new doctor, or how the bills will get paid. Not knowing how to support your spouse the way you use to because you can’t work anymore.
Feelings of inadequacies and worthlessness often override feelings of joy and hopefulness.
Yet you still smile… try to make other’s laugh, you laugh yourself.
The title of this blog is just about right for this post. When chronic pain and depression collide we’re left with pain and despair crashing into one another. And a vicious cycle that if we don’t pull ourselves out of either by self or with help will just keep bouncing back and forth. There’s nowhere to go. Chronic pain often causes depression and in turn the depression causes even more pain. Stress will just exasperate the two. What might come of all this? A horrible Flare-up. What can we do? We have to break the cycle. Intervene!
My RSD CRPS fire burns steadily, when I have a Flare-up it becomes a raging inferno, so hot, like a steam burn. There have been times this fire has become visible to the eye. My skin has appeared to burn from the inside out leaving discoloration that very much looks like steam or hot water burns. My bones ache so deeply they are screaming.
An excerpt of an article/essay I first wrote in 2009 (Flare-ups and Flare up Protocol)
“I’ve learned to help myself during these times. Duration, frequency and intensity is something that I have to take control of. We all have to. We truly have to. The tools I use during these times are called my “Flare-up Protocol”. My flare up protocol includes the 3, 20’s.
The 3, 20’s are:
Exercise (ie, Yoga, stretching, walking, if able, light weights, activity, etc)
Modalities (ie, anything that can be placed on the body for pain relief, such as a tens, heat, hands, etc)
Distraction (ie, Memory master system, games, meditation, relaxation, fun, etc.
These can also be considered coping strategies.
My favorite is laughing.
The 3, 20’s mean 20 minutes of exercise, 20 minutes using modalities and 20 minutes of distraction.
These should be done whether or not one is experiencing a flare, but especially during. And up to 3 times a day.
While it’s easier said than done, the worse thing to do for a flare-up is to do nothing at all. Bringing us back to the use it or lose it theory which is quite accurate. Doing nothing can cripple us just as much as the pain itself.
I imagine a few of you might be thinking “You’ve got to be kidding me?! You want me to exercise when I’m hurting this bad? You must not understand” Oh but I do, I’ve said it and thought it a hundred times over myself.
While some will not want to take this to heart, we have to take responsibility for our own pain, everyone has to learn to and implement their own Flare-up protocols to get through these extra overwhelming, overbearing, debilitating flares.
As people we expect our doctors to take our pain away and we become discouraged when there aren’t any answers to satisfy our questions. We become depressed and insecure, yet We have to remember that RSD/CRPS is an incurable illness. Classified incurable because there isn’t a cure to it. There really isn’t anything the doctors can do to fix it. If the injury is correctable, it probably isn’t RSD. Our health care professionals can help us with medications and procedures, and that’s it really… just help us along.
We’re usually directed to pain management when our other doctors are at a loss. Pain management is just that, management. Again, not a cure. An area of practice that helps us manage our pain, not make it disappear. They are intended to help us live some sort of fulfilling life when nothing else can be done. Pain management is usually a last resort and the rest is up to us.
We might not like it but we have to take primary responsibility for managing our own pain because there isn’t enough knowledge or medical and scientific certainties out there to do it for us.
Flare ups are apart of having RSD/CRPS or a chronic pain condition. They’ll never go away, we have to learn to accept this. But, with practice, we can better learn to control them.”
There have been many times I have used muscle relaxation, progressive muscle relaxation in place for exercise laying down. I do simple Yoga stretches. My right calf has had atrophy for 11 years now and continues to worsen. It’s important to help our bodies not waste away. My exercise is also listening to music and moving my body to it the best that I can even while sitting upon my bed.
So how do you survive it? Relax! Try removing worry from your life. Again easier said than done. I know, I continue to struggle with the same issues. The not knowing, the unknown. What will tomorrow bring. For one thing it’s best not to tell ourselves tomorrow will be an awful day. Why? How do we know yet? Tomorrow isn’t here. Positive self talk is helpful. I should practice more of what I preach. Learn how to get Freedom from Pain and Discover Your Body’s Power to Overcome Physical Pain.
I use my imaginary baskets. In my mind I have 3 baskets. 1 for important things, tasks, people, places, issues, etc, 1 for the moderate and 1 for it can wait a bit.
Everything is important to me. So this is difficult. I care so much about people. I often times care too much which causes me to carry much on my shoulders. I don’t know any other way to be. I serve, I give, I care and I love to.
I have to decide what is most important to put into the important basket. I need to learn to put more in the 3rd basket. By putting everything into my first basket I get behind, my moderate basket rarely has enough in it. I end up in a crash and burn. If it’s used right it really can work. Even with kids.
When we’re happy, everyone around us is happy. We all know that saying.
Deep breathing is helpful, meditation, relaxation, guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, distraction, modalities, I’ll leave out exercise 🙂 , support groups, not carrying the world on your shoulders alone, aroma therapy, bubble baths and soothing music, practicing appreciation, being thankful.
I’ve been scheduled to see a Pulmonary Specialist based on my sleep study results. No one has given me any specifics… “not knowing”. I admit I’m nervous as I don’t know why. All I was told is that it didn’t seem to show Sleep Apnea which I was tested for.
I do know one thing, regardless of how hard it all is..
I am, so far, surviving the fire…
and I hope you are too!
Thank you Twinkle, I am going to make a copy of this article for my mom and brother because they just do not get it that I am not okay, not the same active person I was before being hit with CRPS 2 years ago thanks to Dr. Andrew Hartman and his psychical therapist who dismissed my pleas for help, that something was seriously not right with my hand after orthopedic surgery on my thumb!!
I too also know one thing, regardless of how hard it all is..I am still, so far, surviving the fire…and that CRPS sucks big time!!
Constance, San Marcos, California
You are so very welcome Constance! So many people, even family and friends will never understand what we endure on a daily basis. They may try, but most will never grasp it fully. Like you I was so very active, working, driving the kids around, in my younger days I played softball actively for several years, always on the go. Then one day it all changed. My heart goes out to you. I hope that your mom and brother come to realize that this disease is painful, debilitating, often progressive and that RSD in even the hand can bring the entire body and mind down. I’m here for you, if I ever don’t answer right away it’s only because my own pain has me down at the moment. Sending warm hugs your way..
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