I recently started working with a second therapist in order to bring my body into my emotional healing. C. works in the same building as E. but works quite differently. She has a counseling license and a massage license and training in yoga, EMDR, meditation, all of which she incorporates into her therapy. So far we have no concrete plan but have worked on breathing and mediation and used some massage and acupressure when I was so stressed out (and depressed) from proposal writing at the end of March.
Yesterday I had another appointment. I walked in, slowly, feeling pain in my pelvis: some from the abdominal incisions, quite a bit from the vaginal incisions, and some in my low back. I said I’d like us to work on the pain and also to help me manage pain when I wasn’t there. I’ve been taking a combination of high dose ibuprofen with periodic doses of oxycodone, but I’m not really comfortable doing that for very long, for a string of reasons that probably deserve their own post one day.
So we worked on the mat. C. put her hands very lightly on my abdomen and had me breathe deeply, slowly. She said to notice (i.e. be mindful of) the pain. But don’t run away from it. Instead of gripping tightly, fearing the next wave of pain, she asked me to breathe into the pain and stay with it. Create some openness, she told me.
Later she slid her hands under my back and put pressure on some of the sore spots. I continued to breathe slowly and felt some of the tightness release.
Afterwards, we sat and talked about the breathing and the mindfulness, how much practice it requires before it is an easily accessible strategy. We agreed that practicing now with the post-surgical physical pain was a good way to prepare to use it through emotional pain and trauma processing. It almost seems easier to start with the physical pain, because it’s more concrete and specific. (I should also note that though unpleasant, my pain is not overwhelming, so this may not be at all true for people experiencing more pain than I am. With emotional pain or intense anxiety, the feelings take over my thinking and it’s hard to remember what I’m supposed to be doing.
But as I grow more competent at sitting with a feeling, breathing into it, observing it, I do believe that it will become a helpful tool for me. I actually feel grateful now for my current situation and the opportunity it provides me to improve my practice (really, not being sarcastic).
Today I’ve noticed that I have to watch out for my all-or-nothing, have-to-do-it-this-way thinking. Enamored of the idea of using breath and meditation to manage my pain, I did not take any pain medications today. I took a short walk at the park this morning and noticed it was harder than yesterday; I walked more slowly and more uncomfortably. I sat back in my recliner and breathed. I took an afternoon nap, and slept well, but woke up with everything aching. So this evening I took my 600mg ibuprofen. And I’m trying to stay open to the option of the oxycodone. Maybe I’ll take it, and maybe I won’t, and both options are okay.
I tell myself this but don’t fully believe it. Yet I recognize that the other voice in my head, the one saying, Don’t be a wimp. The pain isn’t that bad. You always make too big a deal of things. You should be able to handle this.–that voice isn’t necessarily my friend. It’s the internalized message from childhood that I’m too much trouble and make too much of a fuss over everything.
I give my wise, rational adult self permission to use the oxycodone if I need to and to practice my breathing with or without pain meds.
Update Saturday, April 16. It turns out I was overly invested in not using pain meds and was feeling terrible by evening. Giving my adult self permission to decide was important, but it didn’t stop the You are making a mountain out of a molehill voices and the sense of being weak/giving in too easily. Texting with E. was helpful. She reminded me that it’s only been a week since I had my insides cut up, moved around, and stitched up in new ways. It’s not surprising that I experience pain. There’s a reason why the surgeon prescribed the pain meds ahead of time. I come back to these words as I take my pain meds today and continue with my breathing and meditation.