The past week has not been easy, I have to say. And I’m just so glad that Christmas is over. I learned a lot about what I can and cannot do, over the past seven days, and I’m now revisiting my lessons to see how I can improve next year.
I have been in a lot of pain, on and off, for the past couple of weeks, and it eventually took a toll on me. I had been actively managing my pain, with pressure points and stretching and Advil (which is the only pill that seems to work for me), but I was just too busy trying to gear up for the holiday season, and I had too much on my plate. Plus, the weather did not help much, and I ended up seriously over-extended.
The net result is that I’ve been withdrawing more and more over the past days, trying to get things straight in my head. I’ve had a lot of trouble thinking clearly, and I’ve had a lot of trouble managing my emotions. I’ve had a lot of trouble, period, and the people around me who could be most impacted by my limits… well, they have been. I’ve experienced some significant set-backs with loved ones, who are now even more afraid of me than before… Part of it is their “stuff” of course, but I haven’t helped matters, by being so erratic and given to outbursts.
It’s depressing, if I think about it on a personal level. So, I don’t. I’m reverse-engineering my issues, in particular the pain pieces.
I picked up a whole lot of papers on the relationship between pain and fear and anxiety, this a.m., and now I need to read through them and give them some thought. The key concepts I’m looking into are:
1. Anxiety can heighten sensitivity and dramatically increase one’s experience of physical pain.
2. Physical pain can bring on feelings of isolation, hurt, rejection, and emotional pain.
3. Fear has a numbing effect — it’s hypoalgesic (decreases one’s sensitivity to painful stimuli).
4. Impaired cognitive processes combined with heightened physical sensations can induce TBI/PTSD survivors to make choices in life that are not only unproductive, but at times downright dangerous. When our executive functions are impaired, we can end up doing and saying things that we don’t really want to — and certainly wouldn’t, if we were in full possession of our faculties.
5. One poor choice after another, combined with unexpected/unanticipated negative consequences, can heighten our anxiety, which feeds into our “pain loop” and can cause us to unconsciously seek out dangerous/risky situations that are fear-inducing and reduce our overall pain experience.
6. But we are not doomed to lives of disaster. Knowing about these risk factors can give us the awareness we need to develop the ability to identify our issues and actively manage our situations, so we pose less of a problem to society, our friends, family, and other loved ones, and can actually built decent lives for ourselves in the process.
With regard to 1, over at About.com, I found this:
Anxiety sensitivity refers to a person’s tendency to fear anxiety-related symptoms (for example, increased heart rate, sweating, muscle tension, headaches) due to the belief that there will be some negative outcome as a result of having those symptoms. For example, a person may fear having an increased heart rate because they believe that it will increase their risk for a heart attack. Another person may fear being anxious because they think that others will view them in a negative light. Finally, someone might fear having the anxiety symptom of having a headache or difficulties concentrating because they think this is a sign that they are “going crazy.”
With regard to 2, in a paper on sensory deprivation and isolation, I found this:
At a symposium held in April 1956 by the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry, researcher Harold Wolff reported:
We also have reason to believe that the painful experience is one that has a highly symbolic significance and is closely linked with feelings of isolation and rejection, especially when imposed by other human beings under hostile circumstances. (Vernon 1956)
With regard to 3, over at Wikipedia, I found this
Fear induced hypoalgesia
Fear induced hypoalgesia is another example of a mechanism controlled by opioids. It is postulated that fear is a defense mechanism that has evolved over time to provide protection. In the case of hypoalgesia, a decreased response to pain would be very beneficial in a situation where an organism’s life was at stake, since feeling pain would be a hindrance rather than a help. It has been well documented that fear does cause a decrease in pain response, however much like the exercise induced hypoalgesia, the exact mechanisms of action are not well understood. Studies have shown that opioids are definitely involved in the process, yet opiates alone do not completely explain the analgesic response. What the other mechanisms of action are is still unknown.
I think, when it comes to dealing with TBI and PTSD and pain and anxiety and fear, they are all closely interconnected – and they feed into each other in significant ways.
This is all I have time to post about, right now, as I’ve got errands to run and responsibilities to fulfill. But suffice it to say, I’ll be adding more about this in the future, especially as I read up on more info about pain and anxiety and fear and how they are interconnected.