Who's in Charge?
“The best way to reduce a pain problem is to help your child learn ways to function (such as participating in school, doing homework and chores, and engaging and physical and social activities as much as possible) even while she is in pain. If a child can function even while she is in pain, she will feel in control of the pain. Feeling in control can and will reduce your child’s nervous system arousal and thus the actual amount or volume of the pain.” (from “Conquering Your Child’s Chronic Pain ~ A Pediatrician’s Guide for Reclaiming a Normal Childhood”).
This was a hard, humbling, but important realization for us. Greta's pain had been in control of her life and of all of our lives for a very long time. And it dictated everything…how much school she could do, how long we could go on an outing, whether we could travel to visit extended family, whether we could host people for dinner…
Then, when we started to understand chronic pain differently we started to realize that her pain had been the alpha in her life and she needed to change that. We had all allowed to it to become the alpha. Her pain response was like a dog that hadn’t been trained because we let it do what it wanted to. It needed puppy training.
Such a strange realization. And counter-intuitive. Especially since Greta was such a phenomenal kid who, in no way, was doing this on purpose.Anyhow, the training began.
She started to set weekly goals (very small goals) and accomplish them, despite how she felt.
~ Putting her socks in the laundry basket
~ Walking up and down the stairs 4 x
~ Doing Homework for 10 min
We cheered her on and rewarded her for her accomplishments. And, what was excruciating at first, soon became a little easier. And the pain that used to scream at her loudly, all the time, was a little more muted. Like it was now in the next room. Still there. But not bullying her.
It wasn’t easy. And it wasn’t fast. But it also wasn’t complicated. And it worked. She started becoming more functional. Regardless of her pain.
Set a manageable weekly goal. Accomplish it every day. Reward. Repeat.
And I am starting to see that this isn't only a formula for becoming more functional. It is pretty much the formula for achieving anything (exercise, self-care, diet, learning new skills).
Baby steps is the new self-discipline. Make it small, manageable, and slow so you don't feel overwhelmed. Then it is sustainable.
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