By Kerry Smith.
Several weeks ago, I described what was facing me in terms of a significant surgery that was sure to change my life. This article is a response to my decision at that time.
Your thoughts, prayers, advice, all of it, every bit of it, I thank this community for sharing with me. It has helped beyond words can say. The thoughts of another fusion surgery, this one even bigger than before, caused me to seek some second opinions on such an extensive surgery that I was facing. The evidence of a positive outcome to this kind of surgery was not positive. So, with this in mind, I cancelled the neurosurgeon appointment. Yep, thank you but no thank you. The long fusion, which was what was being proposed to me, would take 14 to 16 hours to do. I guess me being extra-long meant that my surgery would be extra-long! I talked to enough people who had experienced this kind of surgery and I put the brakes on it. Now understand that nothing in the physiology of my back has changed. You ought to see my discs above my cervical and lumbar fusions; they are a mess! Herniated, bulging, pushing, whatever you want to name it, they ain’t right!!! All of them, in one area or another, are pressing on nerves creating mind-blowing pain and I was willing to try anything, anything to help me survive other than another surgery. Seems I have tried most everything accept what a number of doctors are now suggesting for managing our pain.
I am already seeing a counselor that has helped me with my depression. He is also a hypnotherapist. I have been meditating for some time now even before going to this counselor and it has become beneficial. As my counselor was watching me limp in to his office, he said, “why don’t we try hypnosis to help you?” My initial thoughts were highly skeptical. Highly! But if I was not choosing the hack saw method to pain management and I was not getting more pain medicine, so what else was I going to do, right? So, I gave it a shot.
He gave me headphones that hat he had tuned to elevator music and I laid down on his couch with pillows under my knees. He then asked me to begin to breathe deeply and to count in my mind to 10 along with him and he would lead me to a place of a deeper consciousness. With each number, I could see myself walk down a flight of steps. 10, 9, 8, going ever so deeper, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and finally at my deepest point, 1. I was soon way relaxed, and having to work on allowing thoughts that would come flooding into one ear to go out the other ear. He then asked me to envision a way to keep the pain away from me, a barrier, something where I could push the pain away. For me, I saw a beach house that had a back deck overlooking the ocean. I could see the skies, grey and violent with rain and the waves of the ocean violently pounding the beach and the deck where I was sitting. I then constructed a dam, a barrier to the pounding waves which I associated with pain and placed the wall out in the ocean. Low and behold it stopped the waves. I then crawled back up on the deck and watched the waves stop at the wall, crashing and pounding, but not penetrating the wall. And now, as the pain was crashing, trying to come through, I envisioned the pain stopping at the wall.
Then slowly he led me back up the flight of mental stairs to a place where I slowly opened my eyes. When I was finished, I stood up and my pain level had dropped from a 7 or 8 to a 2 or 3. That is surely manageable, right? But wait I said, how in the world does that work? We talked about the significance of the mind in managing pain and that studies show people who are able to block out pain and live a relatively normal life. He recorded the session and I have it to listen to each day as I feel the pain trying to crash over or around the wall I built to keep the pain out and the results are so good, so far.
If you have not googled Hypnotherapy and Chronic Pain Management, I encourage you to do so. The Hypnotherapist session has been several weeks now and my pain levels are significantly lower. An author by the name of Dr. Herbert Benson was one of the first clinicians to discover the role of the mind in managing chronic pain. Many others have followed. He taught at Harvard Medical School and when he first proposed the power of the mind in healing, Most Harvard doctors practically ran him out on a rail.
My friends, doctors are not going to give us more pain medicine to help us manage our pain. In Shelby County Tennessee, there were over 15 pain clinics caring for pain patients. The DEA has closed 12 of them leaving 3 to manage a territory of over 3 million people. Many of those clinics are being investigated now for over prescription and using pain patients as cash cows for unnecessary procedures. My pain doctor said that licenses were being taken away left and right from pain management doctors and he was not going to lose his by what he described as over prescribing pain medicine.
I am not sure if Hypnosis is right for everyone. You all have buoyed me with your kind words and thoughts and prayers and that is quite significant and supportive in my pain management and I am grateful. I wanted to share something that has worked as I walk this path with you. My MRI shows a spine with significant stuff that is happening. I am not physically fixed by any means. Yet I have another tool in my pain managing tool box. I encourage you to explore the use of mindfulness, meditation, and even hypnosis as you and I live in this hell hole we have found ourselves in.
Editor’s Note: Kerry Smith is a former minister, a professional artist, and has suffered with chronic pain for over 15 years. He has lectured and written on the topic of chronic pain for several years. He is a frequent contributor to the National Pain Report.