Today I met with my Pain Psychologist Dr B for our second session. I have made no secret over these blogs that I am currently battling with my mind and the psychological effects of my disability as much as I am learning to live with the pain and access all the adjustments needed. Now being a Taurean some might say I’m a stubborn so and so, and those closest to me know just how big a step it has been to accept help. It’s not that I am trying to be a martyr, more that I want to help other people and therefore have always put others needs before my own and felt that others were perhaps more deserving. Putting this down in black and white it sounds crazy, I am in incredible pain every minute of everyday, I am entitled to support, there are a number of agencies out there who can support me and if they improve the quality of my life and therefore help those around me and who currently support me I would be stupid not to apply right? Well after my first visit to Dr B I bit the bullet and went all out to enquire about the various support I could get.
I also had some homework, firstly it brought about the changes to my positives and to make sure that I wasn’t going through the motions with them, but was actually looking for the clear sky or rainbow amongst the dark days. Secondly I had to take my life compasses in for her to look at and thirdly I had some questionnaires to hand out to some of my nearest and dearest. This came about because in session 1 I told Dr B what I perceived myself to be. The questions were;
- What qualities or characteristics best describe me?
- How do you feel when you go out in public with me?
- How do you feel that I contribute to life/our friendship etc?
The questionnaires were done in secret, it meant that those completing them could be incredibly honest and today Dr B took them from me, we went through the responses (I didn’t see the answer sheets, and she kept them today so I still have no idea who said what about me). I also unknown to Dr B completed one based on what I thought about myself and I guessed they would be pretty similar to what others had written. I’ll get on to some of the responses and the purpose of them later, first I have a little story to share about the start of the session today.
Upon arriving at the pain clinic today I scanned my appointment letter and whilst trying to put it back in my bag I dropped it on the floor. I looked around the room and there was 4 people in there 3 I would be safe assuming they were in 65+ and a 4th lady who was probably in her 20’s but was busy completing a questionnaire. I struggled to sit down and instead of asking for help sent my back into spasm picking it up. This meant that by the time Dr B came to get me I was stood leaning against a wall in masses of pain. back spasming and sweat pouring down my face. Asking if I was ok I relayed to her what I had done and without missing a beat her reply was “We’ll come back to that” I instantly started to laugh and said you can’t say anything around psychologists can you.
This pretty much formed the basis of today’s session, my preconceived ideas and the reality that surrounds me and what others see. I didn’t ask for help because I didn’t want to be a burden, in my head I am already that on so many people that to be it on strangers too is just unforgivable and so I made my pain worse. Once I was sat talking to Dr B about it and I was thinking about it and the pain I was now in she asked how could I have reacted differently. We spoke about natural reactions to dropping things like tv remotes etc but this is something different for me I don’t really have the cat like reflexes I was once renowned for in goal. I conceded that I could have asked the receptionist, the others in the waiting room or even if I was embarrassed to ask strangers I could have simply waited for Dr B and asked her. She did point out that I was in the pain clinic and that I had no idea what the other patients pain was or their limitations but I put their needs ahead of my own. That didn’t sound like the selfish burden I’d described myself as in our first session.
I hope I’m not breaking patient doctor confidentiality but since I’m the patient I’m assuming this is ok for me to blog about. I was then asked if I had any questions following on from our last session. I spoke about reading her letter that she sent to my GP in which she used a phrase that surprised me when I read. It took a few days to share the letter with my wife and when she wasn’t surprised either I was shocked to talk to her about it. There was/is to me a certain stigma attached to being depressed and when I expressed my concern at more tablets as I already rattle when I walk, Dr B reassured me that a) the fact that I was having sessions with her was a positive step forward b) It didn’t have the stigma that was once attached to it and c) it didn’t mean I had to take more meds as they are just one option available to me.
So now we return to the questionnaires that were filled in. I asked my wife, parents, a couple we see regularly, someone from my pain management support group and the pastor from my LG’s playgroup. So a variety of people from my circle of support and people I trusted to be honest. I will only tackle the first question tonight partly because I am drained and partly because I have been exhausted emotionally and I do not think I will do justice to the words and the ideal behind it (it is now the following morning I just couldn’t finish this yesterday!
We come to the traits of me, and when asked I looked for I said that I am a simple man who looks for simple things in those close to me. I look in my friends for them to be honest, caring, fun to be around and trustworthy, if you can be all that you will go a long way. I was given a piece of paper and asked to write down the traits people used to describe me as Dr B read them out and to keep a tally chart of how many times the words cropped up. This proved to be an exceedingly powerful exercise for me and having rambled and blurted and cried during my first session I went today saying I wasn’t going to allow myself to do the same thing again. However as Dr B read out what others had put about me I was in total shock, surprised by what people saw in me. Initially I thought the first person had been kind so as to not upset me, then as she continued reading them gradually it began to sink in that when I look in the mirror I see a completely different person looking back at me. The tears started although this time they were a mixture of happy, sad, relief and confused tears. This believe it or not was incredibly humble and emotional. The words I had written to describe me were, in the following order;
I struggled to describe myself in this area of the task, it was for me like being asked that question in an interview only this time I wasn’t afraid to be negative. Some of the responses were similar to mine however there were some surprising ones too, things like;
- Unforgiving of himself
- A good father
Things that being controlled and limited by my pain for so long I didn’t see in myself anymore. I truly thought I was seen as this grumpy person to be around and that many of the times when I went out it was only because my wife and LG had been invited so I was there by default, holding people up and ruining the day.
It is hard to explain the impact this has had on me. I know there are times when I sit and I am quite happy in my company or the company of others and I am laughing and joking, but I also know there are more days when I think I am the polar opposite. To hear how others described me was definitely a worthwhile exercise. It has helped me a little to believe some of the things I have been talking to Dr B about and, I look forward to doing more work with her in the coming sessions. I don’t feel I have been able to do justice to this exercise in this blog nor have I managed to explain it’s impact or the surprise that was on my face when Dr B was going through some of these answers. Partially because it has taken so long to write it (it is now 9.30am the following morning and about 18 hours since I started typing, and partly because I am holding back some of the things we’ve spoken about as I do not feel ready (and probably never will be) to share them. I still hope if you have read this waffle this far you have an insight in to how simple yet powerful an exercise it was and more importantly how big an impact it has had on me.