Pain. Motivation or Demotivation?

An early morning trip to the bathroom. Putting my best foot forward on the return and kicking my little toe into the door frame. Muffled expletives from my mouth and not so muffled expletives exploding in my head. And hobbling back to bed. Pain. Oh yes. Pain. Getting up about an hour later with an ache but nothing visible to indicate my earlier altercation. Getting ready for work. Gingerly inserting my foot into a sock and then a boot and going about my business. Certainly not demotivation in this case. And I can’t say it was motivation for me either.

Eight hours at the coal face (metaphorically). Moving some of the time, sedentary the rest. Still feeling the pain. Home at the end of the day. Boots off. Carefully removing the sock. Bright purple bulb on the far side of my left foot. Not good. A visit to the doctor the next morning. Diagnosis: Broken.

Demotivation

I wasn’t sure I could see it but the doctor assured me the x-ray indicated a break. They xrayed it from three different angles. To make sure. Prognosis: there’s nothing we can do. The doctor prescribed painkillers. The nurses bound the toe and its next door neighbour together. Then I was off to work.

I could have quite easily felt demotivated by this event. I could have taken the time off and sat at home nursing my foot. A broken little toe is one of those things that can’t really be fixed with an intervention. Feeling sorry for myself was a possible response.

It is a sobering experience when we arrive at a brick wall in our lives. It is easy to become discouraged especially when we’ve chosen to take a bend in the road, only to find it is a cul-de-sac. A narrow cul-de-sac that we have to back out of. Despondency can come visiting. What will I do now? Luckily some of the experiences we’ve left in our wake are familiar. We can begin to rebuild. We can take what we’re accustomed to and embrace it again.

Motivation

I went to work. Because I’d broken a toe before I knew how it would all unfold. I didn’t need to put life on hold while I healed. Getting on with it was the only way through. I limped around for a few days. Followed their suggestions about binding my little toe to to its next door neighbour. It soon became apparent after a week that this was more trouble than it was worth. The limp had diminished by then anyway. It was business as usual.

In the face of an injury work is not the only concern. Often based on the severity, any exercise program can be put on the back-burner. I’m not hugely into exercise but I do monitor my daily steps and endeavour to keep them above 9000. I also have a press-up regime that I stick religiously to. I didn’t want go backwards with this so I began hooking the injured foot over the healthy ankle. Still slowly increasing the reps. No loss of motivation there.

Acute vs Chronic Pain

Though it wasn’t very cute when it happened, the pain associated with my broken toe would be termed acute. It has lasted less than 30 days. The next step on the ladder is subacute pain that lasts from 1 to 6 months. After this it is defined as “pain that extends beyond the expected period of healing.” I am fortunate enough not to have experienced pain like this myself but have witnessed first hand the torment it can cause in another. It is soul destroying.

I know from experience how habit can become addiction and how difficult it is to break the pattern and become demotivated. I imagine something similar happens with chronic pain. The sufferer becomes habituated to the pain which becomes embedded in their experience. In enduring the pain they may become used to it even though their suffering is not diminished. It may lead to further despair through depression and anxiety. Fortunately there are ways of managing chronic pain.

Management

Not being a health professional I’m unable to comment on the efficacy of any treatments involving medication. From studies in psychotherapy and life coaching I can encourage readers to look into the use of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or Acceptance and Committment Therapy. Using these therapies will provide motivation to deal with any pain that has become chronic. There are also alternative therapies and practices that have shown to be useful in the treatment of chronic conditions. The eastern practices of acupuncture and tai chi have shown value in some instances as has the use of hypnosis in other cases. Any options mentioned are not a quick fix”. 

Pain doesn’t become chronic overnight. And so relief from symptoms is a process to be worked through. Be committed to the the therapies. It could take as long as a year for you to come out the other side.

“The Hidden Door to Healing”

My friend Amy Clarke had her journey through the underworld of chronic pain. It first presented as back pain and Solving back and neck painthen shifted to her neck. It held her in a vicious grip for many months. From being seriously demotivated in the initial stages she found the place inside her that wasn’t going to be beaten by pain. During this time she was intensely motivated to seek healing from not only doctors in general practice and specialists but also a string of different complementary therapies and practitioners.

Throughout the journey Clarke met with dead ends and often had to retrace her steps to the path again. Just when she thought she’d turned a corner it would lead to a cul-de-sac. And there were lights in the windows along the dark streets. Those lights she combined into a program for fellow sufferers  – “The Hidden Door to Healing”. Again it’s not a quick fix and requires committment to the work.

Conclusion

The path through pain – especially chronic pain – is also a path through motivation and demotivation. It may feel like a roller coaster ride in extra slow motion.There may be screams and moans, loops and barrel rolls, ups and downs, and then the stop. Dismounting the beast and feeling on stable ground once again. With a profound sense of wonder and gratitude that you’ve conquered a mountain.

And in conquering that mountain you have gained the motivation and confidence to look towards and scale other peaks in your life.

“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” 

Sir Edmund Hillary

Resources:

“Pain terms and taxonomies”. In Loeser, D.; Butler, S. H.; Chapman, J.J.; Turk, D. C. Bonica’s Management of Pain (3rd ed.). Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. pp. 18–25.

“The Hidden Door to Healing”. Amy Clarke. Digital program through Clickbank.