In 2009 I had a work accident, I fell off a ladder onto a concrete floor. This was the beginning of my pain journey.
It’s coming up to 10 years now. During this time I have spent 3 and half years on Workcover, had 10 plus of surgeries, multiple medical therapies, specialists, natural therapists, you name it, I’ve tried it. I’ve swallowed copious amounts of opiates and pharmaceutical medications.
I have been through emotional trauma when employers questioned me as to whether it was at work where I hurt myself. Then specialists formulating opinions that ‘I just did not want to work’. As well as the confrontations with my Rehabilitation officer because of her statements such as “Sarah your just very emotional”. This was a red flag to a bull saying this to me.
THE IMPACT OF MY PAIN ON ME
I have felt useless and unworthy. I went down the path of self-harm. As well contemplating suicide several times because the pain was so overwhelming and I just wanted it to stop.
I remember asking my GP “can we just cut my whole arm off from my neck?” He looked at me and said “no Sarah because even if we cut your arm off you can experience what they call phantom pain!” What the f..k ….. OK, so that was not an option I could take.
I just wanted the pain to stop.
WHO I HAD BECOME
The person I had become, I did not want to be. I was ‘broken’. I was addicted to prescription medication, and going nowhere. It was like being on a Ferris Wheel, going round and round only the difference was that it never stopped to let you off.
My husband would come home from working away, and would find me in a state of crying, drugged up and helpless. He struggled to watch me as he felt powerless. He just wanted to take my pain away. There were times he would scream at me “get off those fucking drugs woman!” If only getting off nearly 100+ mgs of Opiates was that easy.
I was dealing with chronic pain, adapting to working with my disabilities, immersed in the Workcover system and addicted to prescription medications. I also developed type II diabetes, high cholesterol and gained weight.
In 2013 my GP did a routine blood test. He asked me “do you drink a lot of Alcohol?” He shared with me that my test results indicated my liver and kidney functions were that of a person who was a heavy alcoholic drinker. My reply “I don’t drink, except maybe once a year” It is was the drugs I was being prescribed that were killing me.
This was my turning point. This was my awakening. My journey of me unbecoming. I was now ready to make changes.
In Western Australia, I met a neurosurgeon who had an interest in chronic pain. He explored with me, what, why and where my pain was. Then his offer was to insert a spinal stimulator that would run from the top of my spine to the base of my spine. Globally, I was to be the 3rd person to have this procedure.
I now have 8 electrical leads attached to my nervous system in my spine. Also, I have a battery in the right cheek of my butt. As well as a remote control with an external battery that charges my internal battery.
The surgery was not for the faint-hearted. Five days post-surgery I felt amazing. So I decided to stop taking all the prescription drugs for my pain. By day 3 of no medication, I was the sickest human being. I was beside myself, so I rang my surgeon. He nearly flipped out and ordered me to take my medication. He was very clear with me, that for me to come off these drugs, I had to be admitted to hospital, as it was not something to be done at home.
I did not realize that the prescription drugs they were giving me were so addictive. With support from my GP and with my determination to get off these drugs, the process took me 3 months to totally wean myself off all pain-related prescribed drugs.
November 2013 signaled new beginnings for me. My hubby and I built a new home in Perth and moved from regional Western Australia to suburbia.
Then an opportunity arose. My Disability Support Job Service Provider asked me if I would like to participate in a retail training programme that could possibly lead to employment. My background was in retail, so it interested me.
On the day of registration for the programme, I met Melinda. She was the business owner of the Registered Training Organisation (RTO) Culturally Make a Difference (CMAD). CMAD was the organisation delivering the Retail Training.
I attended the Retail 1 training programme and participated in a group interview for the position with the retail employer. Unfortunately (which turned out to be fortunately) I wasn’t successful in gaining employment with them. I knew deep down the real reason why. My history of Workcover and injuries made it difficult to re-enter the workforce.
I can’t remember exactly how long down the track after the course it was, but I received a phone call from Melinda inviting me to the offices of CMAD to have a chat.
I didn’t know at the time but Melinda saw within me the amazing qualities I have. Qualities I could not quite see in myself at the time. She also saw the value of the experience I had with the retail work I had done.
Due to the lack of self-belief and worth I had in myself at the time, I felt overwhelmed and very thankful for the opportunity Melinda offered me. She wanted me to become a part of her business, as a mentor who would support a diverse group of participants and support the Retail trainer in delivering Retail programmes across Western Australia.
I MAKE A DIFFERENCE
A requirement of employment with Culturally Make a Difference was for all employees to participate in the I Make a Difference personal development programme. The reason for this was to support employees integrating into the culture of the business. To support the employees to work with their emotional and mental personal growth and development. As well as to assist us to work with our diverse groups of participants.
Melinda was the designer and creator of the IMAD programme. I was fortunate in that I got to experience the IMAD programme twice. How lucky was I. Minz gave me one of the most valuable gifts I’ve ever received. The tools to see who I truly was, the true me. As well as the tools to heal and manage my emotional and mental pain.
I am thankful for the universe bringing us together because I truly believe I don’t think I would be alive today. I am thankful for me being open to learning and growing. For taking the steps to understand myself and to begin my journey of truly healing myself.
MY LIFE NOW
During the winter months, I experience days where I literally cannot do anything, due to the extreme cold temperatures. When there is barometric pressure change, I experience what I describe as ‘debilitating nerve pain’. The whole of my nervous system feels like it is plugged into a power point and is screaming with the power running through it. Whilst sending strong and overloaded messages to my brain.
I literally just want it to shut down. Please I just want to turn the power off in my nerves. It is the most debilitating experience.
I literally spend these days trying to keep warm, usually in bed with the electric blanket on. I physically and mentally struggle with the whole process. The emotions I process through are tears of sadness, desperation for the pain to stop, crying with frustration, self-talk telling myself “I am useless” and “then OMG look how dirty my house is, I haven’t done anything for days”. Then I start to feel overwhelmed and it becomes all too much.
The thing is, no-one is coming to save me and my truth is that I don’t want anyone to save me. Sometimes I just want a hug of reassurance so that I know that it is OK.
Recently I had an experience where I spent days of doing nothing as it was so cold. After 4 to 5 days I got up. I was emotional crying and crying. Then I experienced frustration and tears over an extension cord. I found it so incredibly difficult to unravel.
I was in the kitchen and I can’t remember exactly what I was doing but I splattered stuff all over the window above our kitchen sink. I cried again. Why? Because I knew I wouldn’t be able to just leave the window the way it was because that is who I am.
Physically I struggle to use my arms for anything and the last thing I needed was for me to create a mess to clean up. I am so particular with my home and I hate mess and dirty surfaces.
My husband walked into the kitchen, came up to me and hugged me. He said to me “what is wrong?” I responded with, “look at the mess,”. He said “it is OK just leave it”. “I can’t,” I replied. Then I cried in his arms until I was calm within myself. At this point, I realized that I needed to surrender to the process. It was OK that the window had splatter on it and that the floors required vacuuming and mopping. It was not the end of the world.
Mum I love you and I know you will read this at some stage. I recognize that my obsessive behavior to keep things clean and tidy was similar to my mothers. Yep, I was becoming my mother.
The frustration I still had because of the work accident all those years ago, meant I was still fighting with myself now. WTF lol – I physically and mentally struggle with acceptance of my disabilities because I am too stubborn and independent to ask for help.
I own it, I have had a great teacher-my mother, however, I am responsible for myself and I have the ability to unlearn my unconscious conditioning.
I acknowledge I am who I am and I make it OK to release and just sit with my emotions when they come up. And now I make it OK to leave the window dirty and it is OK to leave the floors dirty. The world will not come to an end.
An example. I couldn’t cut hard vegetables, pumpkins or potatoes. So now I cook all of the hard vegetables in the microwave, let them cool then I peel and dice them. I don’t struggle anymore-yay me!
I couldn’t carry the washing basket outside because it is too heavy. The solution-I now just take one piece of clothing at a time to clothesline. The upside to this is I’m getting exercise.
NEW WAYS I MANAGE MY PAIN
Oh how I have grown, I have learnt and am still learning to manage my pain.
In the last twelve to eighteen months I have learnt two new significant ways to assist me to manage my pain.
I found out that the way I breathe required me to use all of my upper body muscles. This impacted the areas of my body that were in pain. I was never letting them get a rest.
A physiotherapist I went to, taught me to breathe from my abdomen. WOW, it takes practice but I was amazed at the change I could feel. My shoulders and my chest muscles were finally getting rest and had a chance to relax and recover. Now I make my abdominal muscles work harder.
The other valuable physical change I’ve learnt is pacing. Pacing is a simple process however an effective one. An example of this is, instead of mopping the entire house all in one go, I now do a small area at a time. I stop and rest. When I prepare meals, I prepare some vegetables then stop and rest for 10 to 30 minutes.
This has been so valuable to my physical well-being and my mental well-being.
WHERE TO FROM HERE
My journey of pain has taught me so much. I now know that my emotional well-being has an impact on the levels of pain I experience. So now I incorporate meditation and relaxation into my daily routines. As well as regular visits to my physiotherapist for manipulation as well as support with gentle strengthening exercises. In addition, I am walking daily (weather permitting) and I attend a remedial massage therapist every four weeks. And to support my own healing process, I have also learnt Reiki.
I am loving the fact that I am constantly learning about myself. As well as what I am learning about human behaviors. This supports me to gain further insight into myself and helps me to have a better understanding of others and their behaviors.
My approach to life now is to embrace it.
I am grateful for all of my life experiences and I know my world is a reflection of me.
“So here’s to unbecoming, letting go and revealing the beautiful qualities and the jewel within me”