Friday, 27 August 2010

Psychosomatic Pain

So apparently I can add another interesting experience to the list of things I have been able to experience thanks to this tremendous amount of stress I'm under. It started yesterday when my right arm felt 'tired'; any movement with it would quickly generate a feeling of intense fatigue. While brushing my hair that night I had to switch to my left hand, because it felt like my right arm was about to fall off. I must say that I have experienced mild forms of this before, but nothing this serious.

I took a sleeping pill that night, so my sleep was relatively undisturbed, until I woke up around 6.30 AM, with the most intense pain in my right arm. Virtually every position in which I tried lying on my bed hurt a lot, those which didn't hurt right away started hurting after a few moments. After getting up the pain got really bad at times, causing me to take multiple of the strongest OTC painkillers one can get which seemed to help for a while, especially thanks to the codeine content which always makes me feel fuzzy and happy.

Then the painkillers started wearing off after only about an hour or so and the pain returned in full force. It was driving me crazy. No matter how I held my arm, it still hurt. I was thinking that it might be an inflammation of the synovial cavity of the shoulder joint, as my mother had gone through it a few years ago and the symptoms seemed similar. Yet the signs of an infection such as redness, a swelling and warmth were absent, which made me question this diagnosis. Instead I just tried breathing techniques to push away the pain, to keep it from controlling me. Pain often is a self-reinforcing mechanism, where the feeling of pain causes one to focus on it more intensively, causing the pain to seem worse, causing even more intense focus and so on.

After putting on something warm to cover my arms, and continuing my breathing exercises, the pain was gone within twenty minutes, and I haven't noticed it since, aside from a minor dull pain in the affected area of my right shoulder. This demonstrated beyond any doubt that it wasn't an inflammation, nor anything physical. The only remaining explanation is that it's psychosomatic, i.e. caused by the brain's imagination. Just like one can use one's mind to cause burn injuries and stigmata to appear on one's skin, excessive stress can and will cause strange pains and other physical symptoms.

I have experienced similar things, such as a very sore chest, painful legs and other discomforts, mostly in the last few years. This last one was the most impressive, however, and is an undeniable reminder that I'm experiencing higher levels of stress than ever before. Beyond these pains I have also since yesterday experienced headaches, trouble focusing and a general lack of energy. Today I also spent a fair bit of time crying for no apparent reason other than to relieve some stress.

To be quite honest, my general quality of life keeps diminishing thanks to things like this, but also in how it affects my general view of life. The way one perceives life at any point in time is completely an issue of perspective, and it can be very hard for others to imagine how someone else may see life. I, for example, find myself further and further drawn away from seeing life as something to enjoy and closer to something which is a death trap, a cruel joke without any purpose or goal.

A few days ago Pieter asked me whether he could trust me with managing my supply of sleeping pills and I told him straight away that he couldn't, that I absolutely can not trust myself with enough sleeping pills to make me feel terribly ill, as I experience enough moments when it seems like a brilliant idea to take them, even if afterwards it turns out to be an absolutely bone-headed move and will maybe have caused permanent damage to my body or brain.

Frankly, with the appointment at the UMCG still over a month away, and me losing more and more trust in it being anything more than another fancy ruse to keep me docile and such, I'm not sure I'll even last that long without suffering another episode like this morning and maybe even one I can't do anything about, or which goes beyond merely inflammation symptoms and does something dangerous, like cause actual injuries. If people can cause their skin to show first and second-degree burn injuries using just their mind, imagine what someone under a great amount of stress and with a negative perspective on life could do.

To be honest, I'd much rather read about things like this in a journal than experience them for myself. Unfortunately that choice isn't mine, and thus I'm basically condemned to sit out this ride, or die trying.

Isn't it fun? :)


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