Liz Rezanson feels the pain — her own and that of others.
She found the People in Pain Network, a province-wide pain self-management support group while doing research for her master’s degree in counselling psychology. She had been dealing with chronic pain from two car accidents and wanted to take this volunteer opportunity to share what she had learned.
“At first, you don’t realize that the pain is going to be chronic. There is the expectation of recovery but sometimes you just don’t get fixed,” said Rezanson, a busy wife and mother. “I did everything I could. I had to come to the philosophy of ‘accept the pain.’ That doesn’t mean that you give up or stop trying to find ways to feel better.
“I made the shift to exploring the pain in my body, the sensations from it and to live along side pain. Then I started to live again.”
She said that people with chronic pain can fall into doing less and less — they are still in pain but not doing the things they enjoy.
“Acceptance is a different philosophy of pain. It depends on where people are if this can work for them. But when what you are doing is not working, then you want to look at different possibilities for changing how you do things. I found it hard to slow down and consider pacing, prioritizing and planning. You can do things differently and enjoy things more.”
The people who came out to the first meeting of the Vernon People in Pain Self-Management Network had chronic pain from a variety of causes that has lasted anywhere from six months to 30 and 40 years. The causes included shingles, stroke, back pain, genetic disorders, other illness and accidents.
Rezanson spoke to them about the aims of the group.
“The group is about self care, which is so important in combination with professional care. You only see the professionals for a limited time and their help is invaluable but then you have to use that advice and information for yourself most of the time. Doctors have told me that they are happy to see a group life this and that they will refer patients to it to see if it is right for them.”
She told the group that while everyone has different origins of pain, they are all living with it and as a group they can figure out some better ways to live with it.
“People who are living with pain can become isolated but we hope they will try to come out to the group. It’s OK not to share, or to pass on speaking sometimes. What we want to do is talk about the physical and emotional aspects of pain and what we can do to cope.”
Rezanson led a discussion on the difference between chronic pain and suffering. She said chronic pain is usually defined as pain that lasts for more than six months and affects and limits a person’s usual life.
“The suffering from pain is more how we think about it and we deal with that in many ways, including the treatments for the physical pain. This can include alternative treatments and therapies,” she read from the list of ideas suggested by the group members.
“This is all part of the self care. It involves finding out what works for the individual and having reasonable goals for therapies and ourselves. Chronic pain is getting more attention now and is recognized as something that really exists. Society has set us up to think that we should be able to control any kind of pain. While more attention to self care may not make all the pain go away, it is found that people adopt more of a self care attitude do find that the pain is less or they can feel better about living with pain. Of course, we wish pain could go away for everyone. Unfortunately, that is not going to happen but we can work together to make our lives better.”
Chronic pain affects one in five people, which means that there are more than 800,000 people in B.C. living with pain. The People in Pain Network was founded by Heather Divine in 2011 to provide a way for people with pain to help and support each other. There are now more than 20 self-management groups throughout the province.
“The impact of pain is huge and you will get an idea if you think of it this way. If a person sees their health care provider for 20 minutes a month, the remaining 43,180 minutes are theirs to self manage every month,” said Divine. “People in Pain Network was founded to establish support groups in communities across B.C. and with all the work I have done over the past 25 years I knew that the groups needed to provide so much more than support. Because pain impacts all areas of a person life, and the lives of their families, we wanted to help people to adjust their body, mind, spirit and environment so they could begin to build their new normal.
“It is important to acknowledge and grieve the many losses and changes caused by pain but unfortunately many people get stuck in the pain and don’t have the skills to make these adjustments. Acceptance, the biggest step (which is not about giving up), is about making room to make changes to live well with pain, to build your new normal and to add important activities into their lives.”
Divine said the People in Pain Network owns the adult and youth Canadian Pain Toolkit self management program and the tools from this program form the basis for the educational segments of the meetings.
The Vernon Pain Self-Management Group meets the fourth Thursday of the month from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at The Schubert Centre. People with chronic pain, their family members and support persons are welcome. For more information contact Rezanson at Liz at email@example.com, call 1-844-747-7246 (toll-free) or see www.pipain.com.