I have just logged into Twitter and logged straight out again. It was all too painful. There was a hatefest going on and I had to leave. So much HATE!
What was the object of their hate? Their Crohn's Disease. This is completely understandable, but SO damaging. Many tweets were from hospital, all were in pain. It was terrible to read. I felt powerless to help remotely: I still recoil from the very real, remote wrath of Crohnies' second hand pain I received over Facebook after making suggestions of strategies that I "knew" would help. "It's just the wrong medium for this kind of help." And then I thought, "Joy, with all your knowledge, you can think of something... even at the risk of being damned to hell by these people in so much pain." So here goes....
I'm not going to tell you about the impact of long term stress on pain - that would be like the Ben and Jerry explaining to you in great detail just how they decided to stop making your favourite ice cream: It doesn't get you your ice cream.
I'm not going to tell you about all the brilliant pain management techniques I know - that would be like explaining the value of a saftey harness to a man falling from a tall building: You're not in the right space to make use of that kind of information right now.
I'm not even going to tell you about how focusing on the things in your life that you hate has been proven scientifically to be a destructive force at the cellular level, (you can have the references if you are interested - just email me. In the case of Crohn's this is like turning a thumbscrew on your intestines).
What I am going to tell you about is the guy that ran the Stanford Prison Experiment, Philip Zimbardo, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Stanford University. In his wonderful book, The Time Paradox, one of the many wonderful things he talks about is the scientific studies made by Bob Emmons and Mike McCullough into the value of gratitude (again, email me and I'll dig the references out for you). A group of people with neuromuscular disease were asked to take the time to think about and record five things in the last week for which they were grateful. They did this weekly for 9 weeks. A second group were asked to think about and record the things that were hassles and a third group were asked to to record objectively the events that had an impact on them. At the end of the nine weeks, the "gratitude" group reported greater satisfaction with their lives, greater optimism, more hours of sleep and waking feeling more refreshed than either of the other two groups.
I can draw on my own history of having two virtually identical abdominal operations thirty years apart. In the first one I awoke from the operation in the most unbelievable pain - I can recall it now perfectly - the pain appeared to start at about one metre above the bedclothes and they couldn't give me enough painkillers. When they suggested that I be helped to sit up I thought they must on a different planet.
After the second operation, a more invasive, longer and "serious" one I had virtually no painkillers and felt like getting out of bed and walking around the next day.
What was the difference? One major factor: Before the first operation I had not reconciled myself to what was happening. From thinking I was a fit and healthy seventeen year old on the Friday I was going to be operated on on the Monday. I was incredulous: All I could think of was, "They are actually going to cut me open with a knife - raaaaagh. This can't happen to me" Every emotion I had was fighting it. The second operation I had reconciled myself to and accepted at every level. That's all.
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