Saturday, 24 January 2009

It's Such a Pain

Have you had a Eureka! moment? The kind that comes when you're thinking about something else or looking for something else?

I had one yesterday. We took Jake to see the pain specialist, who agrees that he appears to be in some sort of chronic pain. She took the time to explain the difference between chronic and acute pain -- the different nerve fibres involved. Also, when the body is expecting pain, it usually will feel pain.

Again, it was a lot for hubby and I to take in. But my Eureka! moment wasn't about Jake. It was about me. I have found a canine equivalent of myself. I don't feel physical pain, at least not when my back is behaving. But I feel a deep, chronic emotional pain every day.

Like Jake, I didn't have the best of starts. I arrived as a surprise, and not a very welcome one. My dad accused my mother of tricking him into impregnating her, then he was disappointed I was born 8 days after the new year because he missed out on a tax deduction. My sister, 10 at the time, was not pleased to have a baby sister. Only my brother seemed at all to share my mother's joy.

Jake is an anxious guy, owing in part to his humble start in life (20th out of 21 pups born to his mother last year). His mother was a nervous wreck when I saw her. But Jake seemed happy with his barnmates. Then we took him to our home and he encountered all sorts of foreign experiences. Loud music, car rides, sleeping on his own. And of course then he started to feel exceptional pain in his hips.

I'm an anxious person. You may not know it when you look at me. Over 49 years, I've devised ways of hiding it. I used to bite my nails. I used to constantly bounce my leg up and down. I stopped those habits and tried to channel the anxiety in other ways. The only time I've not felt anxious was when I took certain illegal substances. I grew quickly, like Jake, and people often thought I was older than I was. I was put a grade ahead in school. I look back now and see that this could have been the start of my social anxiety -- the fear that my peers won't like or accept me.

Or it could have been because of my parents' tumultuous marriage. Sunday was fight day in our house. My mother was the main culprit, I decided early in life. Now, I'm not so sure. She's a high anxiety person, and her mother before her was. My dad did nothing to mollify her anxiety. If anything, he heightened it. She did crazy things like cut the crotch out of my dad's underwear in front of us or throw a can of hairspray at his car as he was backing out of the driveway. There are lots of such incidents in my memory bank. She also used to threaten to commit suicide and/or divorce my dad. And when he left, she made good on her threats, or tried to at least.

So I didn't grow up in a warm, loving atmosphere. It was war, and everyone for him/herself. When my dad married my stepmother, I thought that would be the end of the anxiety. It was only the beginning. I never thought my own dad would treat his children as if they were his stepchildren. But that's what my stepmother achieved.

I tried to make friends into quasi family. But if my family is dysfunctional, so are some of my friendships.

This is background for my Eureka! moment. The pain specialist said that chronic pain sufferers became sensitised to causes of pain, anticipating it even when it shouldn't be there.

And so I have become sensitised to causes of emotional pain. I anticipate that certain people will cause me pain; then when they comply, I reassure myself that I'm right to fear the pain they cause. But they have to cause an awful lot of pain before I walk away. I've never walked away from my family so my capacity for pain must be quite high.

Anyway, Jake's pain is being treated medically for now. I no longer take certain substances so I feel all the anxiety and pain. I just need to find a way to cope with it.


Fire Byrd said...

The stuff I want to say about this is for a lunch together not here.
So sending you and jake hugs in the meantime.

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

Terrifically good post and a great analogy between physical and emotional pain through anxiety. Hope the progres towards full health for both you works in tandem. Knowing what the problem is is half the battle.

Mean Mom said...

You've had such a lot to cope with, in your life. I'm not surprised that you are anxious. I hope that you can find a way through your difficulties and that Jake improves now that he has some pain relief.

Flowerpot said...

but both pains are often linked arent they? Have you tried yoga or meditation? Having had a very anxiety making time recently I found they both helped me a lot - but we'are all different.

marymaryquitecontrary said...

I don't know you restinpeace but I do know you are a very nice person. You really open your heart in your blogs;I suspect that writing it down that must help with your pain. Learning to love yourself seems to be the key;don't mix with people who make you feel bad. You are unique remember that.

eurekapaws said...

Hi - I happened on your blog because you said Eureka! That's my company name, and I work with dogs with training and behavior problems. And I named the company for 2 reasons - the way you used it, and the connection to Australian history (I'm English/Australian living in the US).

You are spot-on with your analogy, and whereas in dogs, one thing leads directly to another, as people we start putting complex interpretations on to what is happening and how to handle it. Jake is very clear about his problem - other dogs bound up and hurt him, so he warns them off and if necessary attacks. Your animal behaviorist gave you excellent advice on how to help him.

Now look at what that means for us. You had some really bad experiences when you were younger, but you understand what caused them, and you know that not everyone treats each other that way. The AB has set you on a path to build Jake a history of really positive things happening, so he is no longer so afraid of bad things happening. You can do the same thing for yourself - keep a diary (or a blog) that gives you a checklist of times people with sympathetic, kind, reliable, supportive, etc. I see you getting a lot of those "clicks" on this site.

I am working through this process myself - keeping my focus sternly positive, and trying to let go of pains from the past (I'm 57 now, I feel like this is a new life). The very best to you, and to Jake. Love your blog.

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

Fire Byrd: Thanks for your hugs.

MOB: The next bit is putting it all together to work towards a solutions -- for Jake and me.

Mean Mom: Thank you.

Flowerpot: I do yoga, Pilates, go to the gym two-three times a week. That helps relieve the anxiety a lot, but I probably should do the yoga more.

marymaryquitecontrary: Oh, I thought you'd gone, it's been so long. Thank you for the advice. And nice to hear from you again.

Eurekapaws: Welcome and thank you for such useful advice. I wish you well with your company. I'm sure you will be quite successful.

Anonymous said...

Life begins well before birth, you were very much meant to be here otherwise you wouldn't have been. Hope Jake starts to improve, it must be so disheartening for you all.

CJ xx

Fred said...

I wish I could express myself the way you do. You really know how to convey what you're thinking.

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

CJ: I think I was meant to be here for Jake. God knows what would have happened to him otherwise.

Fred: Thank you.

Sparx said...

Hi Wakeup... this is a great post and is indeed a Eureka moment. I hope you lean to stop expecting the pain but it's a difficult thing to ask yourself to do. Keep trying though, it'll be worth it.

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