Pain, is it all in your head?

July 20, 2017

Close up of woman hands holding a pills.

Credit: istockphoto

As I read back through the posts that I have written over the past year, I recognize that I am not, nor will ever be as passive recipient of treatment.

I need to be in charge, this is my life.

In my initial posts I weaved the tapestry of my recovery, postulating and problem solving, sometimes getting the answers wrong.

What I needed right from the very beginning was someone to sit me down and tell me where I was headed. This simply didn’t happen and stroke turned my life upside down. Through all of this I have become my own clinical reasoner and problem solver.

I have written previously that as a consequence of suffering a thalamic stroke, I now have central post stroke pain (CPSP), this condition affects about 12% of those affected by stroke. It is also known as thalamic syndrome or thalamic pain syndrome, it is a neurological disorder and is extremely difficult to treat. CPSP occurs when there is damage to an area of the brain that carries lots of sensory pathways, no particular type of stroke causes CPSP, rather strokes in particular areas of the brain do.

Pain is huge, and can lead to depression and isolation. It locks you out of life as you know it, and you lose the sense of who you are.

Once I accepted that it (CPSP) was here to stay, I have sought out as much knowledge about what is occurring in my brain, and why my brain is generating the pain response in my body.

I have strengthened my resolve not to go down the rabbit hole, fight tooth and nail, although I must admit I do feel fragile at times.

Sensory overload wreaks havoc and causes pain flares, its almost like my brain has no filter, but as best as I can muster I am trying to treat pain as background noise.

It is easier said than done, to pick yourself up and get on with life.

It takes time to adjust, to recover, this is a lesson that took me a long time to understand and accept. It will come as no surprise to those who know me that I have found it very hard to be a passive patient.

Once the CPSP diagnosis was confirmed, I did not become the patient who just took the pills. I keep on looking for answers to all the questions that are difficult to get answered.

Pain, is it all in your head?

Yes it sort of is…. it is not just an “all in the head” problem, but a “strongly affected by the head” problem.

Pain, basically is your brain’s assessment of keeping you safe.

I cannot emphasize the importance of listening to your body enough.
When you have chronic pain you have to experiment with what works for you.

I have approached my pain as a learning experience, I am open to the concept that with education and support change can occur.

In my next post I will share some of the tools and strategies I am using to cope with pain.

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