Firstly, an apology. It has been three months since I last blogged and I am sorry for not being about. I think I have just had so much going on in my head and life and I haven’t had the strength to talk about it too much. I always want to blog and have some lightness and positivity and when I haven’t felt that in the real world, it felt wrong to put out more negativity into an already messed up world!
But it is 2022, and though I am not doing any resolutions (mainly because most people break them and then just feel worse about themselves) I would like to get back into regular blogging. `I know how much it helps me and I have had some really lovely messages from people saying they miss reading my blogs and that they have helped them. So I am going to try and be more regular here. I hope to leave this world just a little brighter than when I came into it and so if I can do this through the blog, then maybe its ok to not always be sweetness and light.
So over the next few weeks I am going to try and catch up a little about what has gone with me over the past few months, but for today I just wanted to chat a little about when New Year doesn’t feel quite so happy. I want to point out now that I am talking about suicidal feelings due to chronic pain in this post, so please don’t read if it is going to trigger you.
As we say hello to 2022, I think everyone is feeling a little worn out, two years of a pandemic will do that to you! And for lots of people, it is an overwhelming time. As you see a million adverts for products to make you a newer, better you. As everyone talks about resolutions, and diet plans and changing things about themselves to be fitter, happier, better, stronger, sexier, blah blah blah, it can be a bit much.
As I start a new year, I think about what will be different for me? And when you have constant, chronic pain, it is easy to feel a little hopeless and think that nothing will be different. It feels exhausting to think about another year in pain. It feels draining and scary. Living with pain that the doctors tell you cannot be fixed means that I do feel overwhelmed at the thought of life without reprieve. And it is hard to feel happy or excited by that.
I don’t want to scare anyone by what I talk about next, and I do want to add in another trigger warning that I will be talking about suicide. I am not in danger, I am medicated, I am going through therapy and I am open with my partner about these feelings, so please do not worry about me. But I do think it is important to talk about the links between chronic pain and suicidal thoughts, or completion of suicide. If this is too upsetting for you to read about then please do skip this blog.
If you are feeling suicidal now, then please stop and get support. If you are in the UK, there is a great list of helplines from MIND here, if you are in another country, then speak to someone you trust or search for support in your area.
This study states that, “individuals with chronic pain are at least twice as likely to report suicidal behaviours or to complete suicide”. I got a lot of information from a great website Pathways here, the blog is by Ann-Marie D’arcy-Sharpe and is very much worth a read.
She says “When you feel that chronic pain is forever, the future can seem daunting. You start to wonder if you can set goals for the future if you’ll ever be able to function and enjoy your life. It truly can feel hopeless, and this can pose a big risk for suicidal feelings. Being in constant pain is a horrible experience. Knowing that this pain is long term and for some people constant, can make it feel impossible to go on. It’s completely natural not to want to live in pain. Your body and mind are not designed to cope with being in pain regularly. When patients are not given another way to escape from their pain (meaning through treatment), they can feel that there is only one escape route.”
Though I haven’t been blogging here, I have been active on Facebook and Instagram and I know a lot of you follow me on those platforms. I have been sharing about my insomnia and how I am struggling to sleep due to anxiety since I had Covid (I will be blogging about the covid for sure as it was a doozy!!!) and pain. And so I was interested to read that “lack of sleep is one of the highest risk factors for suicide in any person, even without chronic pain. When we don’t get enough rest, our bodies and minds struggle to function. Tiredness can make your mood drop as well as causing you to feel weepy and confused. Fatigue can cloud your judgement and make you act out of character. For many chronic pain patients, sleep is the only respite they get from their symptoms. When they are deprived of this break from their pain, they can feel trapped and the need to find another way to escape their pain can increase. This study explains just how high of a risk factor insomnia is, explaining that frequent lack of sleep is, “linked to a five-fold increased risk of suicide in both the general and chronic pain populations”
So adding together chronic pain and a lack of sleep does make you struggle more and increases your risks. Oddly enough, just reading this has actually made me feel better! That may sound odd but I have felt like I was losing my mind recently. My pain levels are high and my sleep is at an all time low, I feel anxious, sad and hopeless and the turning of a new year has made me feel unsure as to how I can face another year of this. But knowing that I am not alone, that it isn’t just me, has made me feel buoyed that I am just processing these difficult events. I am not going ‘mad’ and I am not going to harm myself.
My brain is processing and working through chronic pain. I recognised that I wasn’t doing so well last year and saw my doctor who prescribed me antidepressants and referred me for therapy. I have been seeing a PTSD and trauma specialist who has experience in working with people with long term health conditions for around 6 months and we are working through a lot of my issues.
I feel no shame in telling you about my medication support and talking therapy support for my mental health, I don’t feel stigma or embarrassment. And I hope that times are a-changing and we are all recognising that every single one of us have issues that we may need a little extra support with! If you are struggling, then please don’t face this alone. Speak to someone you trust, speak to your GP, get help.
So anyway, finding this blog made me see that chronic pain and suicidal thoughts are a problem for a lot of people. But it also really made me think about what we can do to get support and to help ourselves. As always, just a reminder that I am not medically trained and you should always speak to a medical professional for any medical problems. This list is a few things that may help you.
Seek treatment for chronic illness
This may be psychological treatments, physical therapy or medication. Speak to your GP, specialist nurse or consultant about what treatments are available. I have finally been referred to a Pain Clinic after a long time of asking, don’t give up. You are entitled to support.
There is a free meditation suggested by the NHS here. They say “With this guided Pain Management meditation anyone can start using meditation as a tool for managing pain. Pain, stress and our emotions are connected, making living with pain difficult physically and psychologically. With meditation we can change our relationship with pain, reducing its impact on daily life. Experience the amazing power of your calm mind!”
Studies say that “pain is a multidimensional experience that involves sensory, cognitive, and affective factors. (This) renders the treatment of chronic pain challenging” it says that meditation and mindfulness significantly helps with pain. I know people feel sensitive when we talk about non-medicated treatments for chronic pain, and I get it. If I could think myself pain free I would!! For me, meditation and mindfulness isn’t about getting rid of the pain, but I have found it helps as one coping strategy amongst many others.
There is a lot of information about living with pain, here are a couple fo websites to check out.
Charity: Action on Pain
If over the counter pain relief is not helping, then speak to your doctor about prescription pain relief. Just remember that often pain relief needs some tinkering to get right for you. If your prescription pain killers aren’t helping, then get a review with your doctor to look at dosage or potentially a different type.
Believe me, I know that when you are in pain, the last thing you want to do is to exercise!! But studies show that gentle exercise can help psychologically and physiologically with chronic pain. The important thing is to choose an exercise that won’t put too much strain on yourself. This might be walking or swimming or gentle stretching. If you have a long term health condition, it is good to chat with a medical professional before starting out on a new exercise regime.
Mental Health Support
I have been under the mental health team for around six months now, I see a fully trained therapist who has experience in working with disabled people and people with long term health conditions. Speak to your doctor about a referral or search for private therapy in your area.
On the NHS Scotland website, you can work through a self-help guide that uses cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help you live with chronic pain.
Living with chronic pain can feel super isolating, speak up if you are struggling. That may be to your partner, a friend or family member, but speak to someone you can trust. You can also look for support groups in your area or online. You might want to look for a chronic pain group, or for a group that specialises in your specific illness. Speaking to others makes you feel less alone and can help you feel more positive and find coping strategies.
I suppose my biggest thing to say here is that whatever you are dealing with right now, you are worthy, you are wanted, you are better here. Please reach out if you are struggling with your mental health right now. Put your hand on your chest, can you feel your heart beating? That is called purpose. You are alive for a reason, so please don’t give up.
Peace and love