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Useful advice from a pain psychologist

stockbrokersstockbroker Posts: 464
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:36 AM in Depression and Coping
that During a good chunk of the last ten years since I have been living with pain, I've always thought it would be great to see a pain psychologist. Hey, I know when I'm in over my head. I either couldn't find one or (once) saw somebody who was part of a pain clinic who was just mean and nasty. Imagine my delight to have met THIS GUY. I want to share what I learned at me appointment. Then, if you guys are interested, I will continue to share.

This particular pain psychologist was in the Navy and spent (and continues to spend) time counselling veterens either injured during combat or suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. He also is a pilot and a flight instructor. He told me that a pilot has a checklist as to what needs to be done upon descent. This checklist is for landing during normal (weather) conditions. So, you land the plane, you follow the checklist. You do it again, and again and again and twenty years worth of agains. But, as I said, this checklist is for normal conditions. Now comes an abnormal condition: turbulance, electrical storm, icing, etc.---YOU NEED TO USE A DIFFERENT CHECKLIST. He told me that I don't have a check list for how to deal with the situation that I am in-----that I continue to use my "good weather checklist" and "work harder, run faster, be smarter, figure it out" and its not working. He told me he has all kinds of experience in dealing with disabilities and he will help me develop that new checklist and that I can stop worrying, it will be okay. WOW. This guy struck a nerve. He made so much sense to me and not in the "booga-booga psychological mumbo-jumbo garbage but just plain common sense. I don't know how to deal with being in chronic pain. I know how to get an A in my class. I know how to make money at my job. That is, I know how to be successful by the standards society imposes and I have accepted but if I keep applying those same rules or standards to my current life of chronic pain, I am going to be unhappy. He is offering to provide me with a more realistic "checklist". This makes enormous sense in a very straightforward no jumbo-jumbo sort of way. I'll begin to get the checklist in two weeks. Let me know if you all are as excited by this concept as I am as I will continue to post what he tells me. Realize that what this PhD psychologist tells me is tailored for ME but I can't help but think that I am exceedingly ununique in my response to chronic pain. Susan.


  • Keep sharing, because you never know whose life it may touch!! I'm glad that you have found something to get excited about in your path for dealing with pain!!
    APROUD CANADIANveteranButNOTa doctor, my thoughts are my own
  • Thanks for offering and spending the time to share with us. I'll be reading about your experiences and information. THANK YOU!
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  • I was told a somewhat similar thing last visit to.
  • I'm glad to hear that you had an excellent experience. I think it is great that you have been given a glance into Navy Medicine albeit through the back door. This is why I love Navy docs.

    Anyway, I too would be interested in hearing how this all pans out for you.

    Take care,

  • This may be the only time since I've been a member of SH that I wanted a post to be longer. Please continue.

    Thanks for this post.
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  • I was feeling much better. The psychiatrist had been upping my antidepressent to what was the highest recommended dose. This, I thought, made me sleepy. (Of course depression will make one sleepy too so who knows.) Since I was complaining of being sleepy, Doc suggested I add a stimulant and gave me a box of something that is used for narcolepsy. I looked at this box for a few days and then decided I didn't want to start taking a drug to counteract the side effects of another drug whose theraputic value at these high doses was unclear. I decided to cut back on the anti-depressants (with the okay of my doc). Separately, my UTI cleared up and I am feeling one helluva lot better. Okay, back to the Commander. I asked him WHY, after I got my stimulator, after my pain levels were much improved did I succumb to depression. Why would I crash and burn when things were getting better? The commander expressed a view that I had considered: you know how when you're in the midst of a crisis, you are calm, totally aware, focused, not at all scared just in crisis mode taking care of business. And then the immediate danger passes and you feel the luxury of falling apart. Thats what the pain psychologist thought happened with me. My own opinion includes that explanation plus the following: for the past 10 years or so, I have been spending an outrageous amount of time trying to first rid myself of pain and then to reduce the pain to a tolerable level. This has been my number one job. Since I got the stim, that job has been phased out. Now what do I do with myself? I've given up so many of my old activities so that I could pursue this job, I'm left with very little to do. This psychologist thinks I've been working, exercising, on the go go go in order to distract myself from having to deal with my situation emotionally. So when I slowed down, I crashed and burned.
    I am going to go for a 15 minute walk every day at lunch time with one of my co-workers. The next week, I'll do 1/2 hour. Then 3/4. Eventually I'll just walk and not work at all. LOL.
    The commander asked me about my religious beliefs. I wasn't much help. He said that he has found that people who could put their experience into some kind of "grand plan", who could give it some positive significance (spin?) tended to deal better with lives disrupted by pain. That would be tough for me. When I see the commander again in 3 weeks, I will quote from Dr. House, "People get what they get. It has nothing to do with what they deserve." Susan
  • Thanks for sharing what you learned today. I have thought much of the same things. When I was making progress with my physical condition, working hard at doing it, my attitude was fairly upbeat and good. When things became stagnant and my efforts didn't help, my mood crashed. I think that is similar to what he is saying to you. As long as one is in the middle of a crisis and in the fight mode, one can handle the emotional part of this. When the "fight" ends, it is easy to get depressed. For me it was when no matter how hard I work, I stopped making progress and actually am regressing, that is when my mind started to fall apart. I too am seeing a psychologist and she is helping me to understand these things. I always considered it "weak" to need to see a psych doctor, but have learned this is far from true.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing again. You are helping a lot of us to understand what is going on in our own heads, and at the same time it is healing for you to share. By the way, I agree with your quote at the end.

    Surviving chronic pain one day at a time, praying for a reprieve because living another 40 years like this doesn't sound too fun!
  • That rings so very true for me as well. When we are in crisis mode, we go from A-B-C etc; Then, when we hit the end of that chain and there is little to no more we just go, poof....I've felt it and thought it.
    Crisis mode is sometimes better, at least then I don't have to think so hard. I just DO. Problem with crisis mode is, usually someone is hurt :( not really what we want.

    I like the ideas, I am trying much the same, just DO SOMETHING, even a little bit helps.

    P.S. You write pretty swell yourself :D
  • Susan,
    R Sternbach the famed PM academic said that finding a cure and giving your sole attention to this focus can develop into making this goal your only objective and he suggested that we try no to make a career of being this person.

    Getting beyond the pain seem like not giving our imposed condition sufficient priority and that is not the case, that management process takes time and resilience, support with guidance, we have not done this before and no perceived blueprint is going to cater to our individual needs.

    It is always difficult evaluating which process to use fort he most part we adopt many strategies before we find the most suitable one. That alternative check list is a good one, that we can sometimes continue with ideas that once tweaked would be more effective, and doing the same thing over and over will a less than adequate outcome just enables us to keep doing that same process. It does sometime take another to review, the what, how and why we do things and those small changes will develop into a more suitable flight plan.

    Some of that uniqueness is learned behaviour the good and the bad, it has to be an ongoing process and as we progress what may have worked at one time is less favourable now we have moved forward. Changing our thoughts will bring success and as you say it may seem so simple an idea now, I am pleased you are encouraged by this change, it is more than just talking it better and in reality this process will not change the emphasis of your underlying pain only how you now interpret those previously held views.

    My four week residential pain management included just these sessions and as you I continue to benefit from a changed outlook.

    Thank you for sharing and good luck.

  • The more I read about other people's experiences, the more wowed I am. As a newbie to the site, I had no idea there were so many of us going thru such similar struggles. Thank you for being so brave in sharing your stories. I learn so much from all of you & make me feel so much braver. The alternative checklist made instant sense to me. Never realized I was setting myself up for failure by using my old "normal" checklist & it's time to recalibrate. Thanks for the reminder, Wrambler, to just DO SOMETHING. I've used that off & on thru the years but never made it a priority before, even tho it usually works. Why is it that the simple & obvious little techniques are the ones we so often overlook?
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