Breakthrough pain or unknown recurrence of serious pain is a problem sometimes. Recently, I’ve been having a lot of it and nothing I (thought I) did was managing the pain back down. Though things were complicated by a painful, but totally unrelated infection, I was back onto regular opioids, with all the problems they bring.
The Problem: Discovery
It was only a chance conversation with a neighbour that reminded me of what I’d been doing wrong. She is a Mindfulness teacher/practitioner and had just been on a Chronic Pain Mindfulness day (Mindfulness, meditation and similar structured relaxation/thinking techniques have been shown to really help in Pain Management: I use them all the time). Some of what she was talking about was standard Pain Management, effectively ‘slanted’ to Mindfulness, but a key comment was a discussion of how the trainer managed to write the books she had. Apparently the trainer used a timer set to 20 minutes, took a break/did something else (e.g. relax/distract), then came back and continued.
It was through pacing. Plain old, simple pacing.
I would have kicked myself except that such an action would have looked odd in front of my neighbour. I realised I had become too absorbed in what I was doing for the MA, too absorbed in the book, research and rewriting. I had been on the PC for far too long and, when reading, doing so for too long, too. It hadn’t helped that the infection made walking a problem, too, so that had gone out the window as well but I had even caught myself playing Minecraft with my eldest Grandson for too long (badly, I admit: the End – forget it; the Nether – aah, rather not).
You see, I had forgotten my own timer, got out of habit of using it (it’s here beside me, now!).
I know my limit: it’s generally 45 minutes on the PC, though some activities are less. It’s been worked up from the 8-10 minutes at the end of rehab to include regular moves so as to reach 45 minutes (that’s why films and cinemas are an issue) and it’s been that way for some years now. It’s why my driving has a 40-mile range – on trunk roads and motorways, at least, less elsewhere. It’s why fast walks have to limited in range (2-3 miles, X-country). And sticking to it is the only way I can write thousands of words.
Fixing It: Reset
I am conscious of the research that shows that breaking a bad habit is difficult, taking several weeks at least of concentrated effort. Rather than try and fight against the habit I had obviously developed, I decided to take a break and go in a different direction. I put the SF book on hold for a while, decided to go onto other tasks that might allow me to refocus on pacing and observing my time limits. Luckily, the latest version of an assessable chapter is with an outside reader. Whilst waiting on that, any pressure is relieved.
So, timer is on and I clock watch (thank goodness for the 45-minutes or so of each rugby half – I could watch the World Cup with ease (US readers may note that rugby halves are 40 minutes each but the clock is only rarely stopped)). I’ve written a couple of flash pieces, a short story of Sarah Newton might find interesting. I’ve watching some recommended Amazon series (such as Mr Robot and Extant – Amazon student through the SU is useful!) as proper breaks. I’m reading some unrelated books based on James Barclay’s interesting comments regarding his first and latest novels. I’m pacing my other activities carefully and going back out walking now the infection is fading.
The timer is on. And the break is helping enormously.
Exercise and painkillers may be useful but for me, as ever, the episode was a stark and painful reminder of the three core planks of Pain Management: relaxation, distraction and pacing.
:doh: Don’t forget, Tim.