Early in the 16th century, a lawyer named Hippolytus de Marsiliis described a form of water torture that was designed to drive the victim insane. The victim was restrained while small drops of water would constantly fall on their forehead. The constant drip of the water was bearable at first but before long, this simple nuisance became agonizingly tormenting.
Welcome to chronic pain! Continual pain can become unbearable due to its unrelenting nature. After 20+ years of round-the-clock pain, I had to learn some coping mechanisms in order to survive. In this post, I will cover 3 ways I cope with the relentless drip, drip, drip.
Coping Mechanism #1: Relationships
It’s really weird that a die hard introvert like me would put relationships on the list. Pain makes me want to retreat and just shut out the world around me. I don’t feel like talking to anyone or doing anything other than getting in bed and pulling the covers over my head. The only time I am out of pain is when I am lucky enough to be asleep.
This is the main reason I put relationships at the top of my list because if pain had its way, I would not be any good for anybody. Therefore, I focus on spending time with my family, but I also force myself to go to work everyday to interact with a variety of people. I go to church every weekend and even go out from time to time with some of our close friends.
Relationships are important for everyone but are even more critical for chronic pain sufferers. I encourage you to fight the urge to be alone and find opportunities to interact with others. You will be glad you did.
Coping Mechanism #2: Relax
I used this word on purpose rather than using the word rest. A quick Google search will reveal that the word relax means “make or become less tense or anxious.” Pain is a catch 22, more pain causes stress which causes more pain which causes…well, you see the picture.
Okay, so how do you relax. The truth is, everyone is different and what one person finds to be relaxing may be like fingernails on a chalkboard to others. I personally like to read or watch a good movie. I also enjoy working on this blog–I find it relaxing and therapeutic. We’re all great at finding time for others or work or things that “must be done” but we fall short when it comes to ourselves.
Schedule time for yourself to relax. Find something you enjoy doing and do it! Take a hot bath or a leisurely stroll, play ball with your dog or whatever you want to do. Give yourself permission to relax–you’ll be glad you did.
Coping Mechanism #3: Exercise
This is really tough for us who battle chronic pain on a daily basis, believe me, I get it. Nevertheless, the human body is made for movement, so move. I’m not asking anyone to run a marathon or anything, just simple exercises. The very next day after my 360 degree spinal fusion they had me up walking around the hospital! If I had my way, I would have laid there and slept, but the medical staff knew I had to move if I was going to heal.
Tai Chi for Arthritis is great exercise and it is gentle on the body. I started doing Tai Chi after my first 360 degree spinal fusion and I am glad I did. It is really amazing how gentle, controlled movements can help, but they do. I find this form of exercise to be very relaxing as well. I’m not trying to be a Tai Chi master or anything, I learned a few movements and I do them over and over again. Give it a shot, you might like it as well.
Walking is something I can do even though my feet hurt really, really bad. So I walk every day, sometimes more, sometimes less but I walk every day. I prefer to walk outside with my wife but I have a treadmill when the weather doesn’t cooperate. If I am on the treadmill, I like watching a show since it keeps my mind occupied and I don’t think about the pain as much.
These coping mechanisms have helped me tremendously over the years. I encourage you to find your 3 things and pursue them with fervor. The dripping will not stop, but it might just be a little more bearable. I refuse to be a victim of this torture—how about you?