I recently completed a 10 week Pain Management program at the Norwich Pain Clinic. The course was run each week by a combination of an Occupational Therapist (F), Specialist Physiotherapist (L), Chronic Pain clinical Psychologist (P) and a specialist Chronic Pain Nurse (K).
This programme was first mentioned to me about ten years ago, I hadn’t at that time accepted my chronic pain condition and I believe I laughed at my consultant when he spoke about talking in a group with others. Fast forward ten years and having had what I would now class as my fourth setback period where my pain heightened and my mobility lessened, I got to the point where my team of consultants said unless I accepted help in the form of mobility aids, was willing to accept that there was very little more they can do in the form of surgery and that it really had become a case of learning to manage my pain then it would become progressively worse quicker and quicker and my quality of life would deteriorate faster than it would necessarily need to. Hearing that at 35 I was once again spoken to about this 10 week programme. I reluctantly agreed to go to the initial seminar whereby the team screen people for their suitability of attending. I imagined a room full of oldies complaining about chronic pain following 50 years of hard work etc.
When I arrived at the seminar I wasn’t disappointed, I think I brought the average of the group of 10 people down to 75 (I am maybe exaggerating a little but not much). Two people introduced themselves to us and explained that one was a psychologist and the other a physio I believe and that the two hours of the course today was to introduce the “Pain Management Jigsaw” and that they were going to assess us during the course of the two hours as to whether we would be put forward for the full programme. It was explained to us that 3 full courses run each year meaning out of the 1000’s of people who suffer chronic pain 30 each year get to go on the ten week programme.
I remember quite quickly into the seminar a man plying for the alpha male role telling us how he knew everything, had a great core and stood up out of his chair and sat down again without so much as a wince or use of the arms. I remember thinking what a prick, you are surrounded by people you have never met, that you know nothing about, you know nothing about their pain or their stories and here you are showing off. Sitting on the edge of a semi-circle of chairs nearest to the people delivering the seminar I also clocked one of the people instantly write some bits down. After this incident I sat there thinking this can now go one of two ways, I’ll do what I’ve done for years and lie and try and compete with this person who I’ve just mentally called a prick, or I can sit back, listen and be honest when asked. I am so glad I decided with the latter. Being in a roomful of strangers and talking about my pain and how it affected me in ways I’d never mentioned to my family and closest friends before was both liberating and easier than I thought. I spoke about the mental impact my pain has on me, with my mood swings, extreme lows and the frustration and anger at myself for being this way, and for not letting go of what I used to be able to do. As I was speaking eagerly writing away next to me was the psychologist. Talk about panic! The two hours passed fairly quickly and I remember thinking that it had been good to be out of the house and do something different. As I was preparing to leave the facilitators spoke to me and said they really thought I would benefit for being put forward to do the 10 week programme. Now I’m not sure whether it was the copious amounts of medication I’d taken to get there, the fact that I’d enjoyed being there, or that the staff were young and understanding (cough cough) that despite my fears about being the youngest by a long way I agreed to go on the waiting list for the full programme, a wait that was 8 months in total (must have something about it to be waiting for so long).