Having gone from June 2014 through Christmas and New Year and into 2015 without hearing further from the Pain Management Clinic I assumed that for whatever reason they had decided to not put me forward for the programme and I was back in limbo with my pain spiralling out of control, my mobility and functioning reducing daily and becoming a real arsehole to live with.
Then early January 2015 I got two phone calls – the first from my community occupational health arranging a home visit, and the second from the Pain Management Clinic telling me I was down to be on a 10 week programme starting in February………………Oh sh!t it’s getting real now I’m going to have to sit in a room of miserable old moaners having had hip or knee replacements and not understanding the different demands that a 30 something has. I received a letter confirming the course which had a couple of questionnaires in it to complete and take to day one! After a lot of nagging from my loving wife I completed these to take with me.
Firstly the Occupational Health lady came to my bungalow. She quickly understood the issues I have around the home and getting out and about and offered a load of equipment to be fitted to my home. Now 4 years ago we bought a bungalow that was rundown and in need of renovation after the previous occupant had moved into sheltered housing. The first thing I did on the day of getting the keys was to take a handle off the front of the house that screamed old person’s bungalow. Here was a lady telling me I needed two walking sticks, a perching stool in the kitchen, a shower seat and a toilet frame (which had to be replaced for an expanding one due to my big arse and inability to be able to stretch round easily to wipe) a grab rail on my bed to help me get up, special blocks to raise my chair and the fu@king hand rail back up to help me in and out of the door! Talk about world collapsing. Now when you enter my home I apologise about all the aids I have littering up the place and the chair that most people can’t touch the floor when they sit on it and all our LG toys!
The next big step came the first day of the 10 week programme, the final nail in my coffin after being told there is nothing more currently that can be done to help control my pain. I was driven to the first session (I would have found an excuse not to get myself there had it been down to me, but my parents made me go). I sat in the waiting room with a number of people, some being called for the clinic running and I was trying to second guess who was on the course with me. A lady came through and called through the people for the pain management programme. I was relieved to see that my previous assumption of what my fellow pain management seminar people were going to be was wrong. There was 10 of us in total, three men and seven women with the youngest being early 20’s and the oldest around 60, and clearly from all walks of life. There was a range of chronic pain medical conditions within the room and clearly a lot of nerves and apprehension. I must admit I was sat there thinking what a load of old b@ll@cks this is going to be with people telling me the same sh!t I’ve heard 100 times over the past 13 years since my car accident. Once we were all settled (on some great high back chairs that were very comfy) the four people in the room introduced themselves to us, there was an Occupational Therapist (F), Specialist Physiotherapist (L), Chronic Pain clinical Psychologist (P) and a specialist Chronic Pain Nurse (K). They welcomed us and went through the usual safety/emergency procedures. We were then each given 10-15 minutes to speak to the people either side of us to find out things about them that were not related to our pain.
Very early on the four health care professionals (for want of a better way of describing them) set out their stall. That in the next 10 weeks they will not be waving magic wands and curing us, but that the course was intended to help us manage our pain in maybe more ways than we had done previously, or in different ways, to accept ourselves, to learn more about pacing in everyday life and any number of other difficult topics that might come up. The concept of the Pain Management Jigsaw was reintroduced to us. Only this time there was an acknowledgement from the professionals that for each of us the parts of the jigsaws would have varying importance, some would be major factors in helping to control our pain and others may not contribute at all. It would be down to us to figure out which elements of the jigsaw were most important and/or influential to us through the duration of our time on the course. This would only work if we were open and honest with ourselves, each other and when the time comes with our support networks.
The pieces of the jigsaw are (in no particular order of importance);
- Pacing, goal setting and activity management
- Exercise and chronic pain
- Thoughts and feelings
- Everyday life
- Family and Friends
- First aid, planning for setbacks and flare ups
- Educating about Chronic Pain
- Maintaining it all post course completion
The expectations of us were simple;
- Willingness to be open minded to try new things / change.
- Willingness to work in a group setting.
- Commitment to attending the programme on a weekly basis.
- Respecting issues of confidentiality within the group
- At the beginning and end of the programme, and possibly at follow-up appointments, you will be asked to fill in questionnaires and do physical assessments to measure your progress. This also helps staff to assess the programme and make improvements where necessary
The first session finished with us looking at a number of cards with different phrases and thoughts on them. We were asked to collect the ones that resonated with us and then to use them to complete our ‘Life Compass’
I was more relaxed after hearing all this and understanding the purpose of the course, I left after the first session with some homework (to think through our way of doing one routine daily task, for me getting dressed, and instead of doing it in autopilot to bring it in to our consciousness and to try different ways of doing it to make it easier), a folder to read through, and a slightly less sceptical outlook of the weeks to follow.