“It’s all in your head.”
I can’t tell you how many chronic pain patients I’ve treated who have had that said to them by friends, family, and even, believe it or not, their own doctors. Because chronic pain appears invisible and interminable, because it results in a loss of function, because those who suffer from it often give up on the activities they once pursued, even well meaning loved ones begin to lose patience, begin to misunderstand them, begin to think “it’s all in their head.”
But chronic pain is real. And the day-by-day erosion of one’s energy and spirit due to near-constant pain often leads to a sense of being “on your own” without support or empathy. Even the best of us begin to withdraw from the world, to isolate and suffer in silence, rather than risk further rejection.
Which is why I want to tell you about Chronic Pain Anonymous (CPA), a support group for people with chronic pain who help each other with issues of all kinds. Founded in 2004, it has modified the 12 Steps of AA for those with chronic pain. Here’s a description from the CPA website: “The only requirement for membership is a desire to recover from the emotional and spiritual debilitation of chronic pain or chronic illness. There are no dues or fees for CPA membership…. Our primary purpose is to live our lives to the fullest by minimizing the effects of chronic pain and chronic illness in our lives and helping others to do the same. We do this by practicing the Twelve Steps and welcoming and giving comfort and understanding to each other.”
Here in Connecticut, Silver Hill Hospital helped open the doors to the first sanctioned weekly CPA meeting in the Northeast. It is called “Climbing the Hill” and meets each Tuesday evening at 7:00pm at the Martin Center on our East Campus. Like all CPA meetings, this is open to everyone. Because CPA is still so new, there are not many meetings available. Fortunately, there are Internet and phone meetings. Details are on the CPA website. Even if you don’t know anything about the 12 Steps, I encourage you to participate. I tell my patients to go to meetings to find the “pearl.” But sometimes, you may be the one who brings that pearl to another human being, simply by sharing your own story of chronic pain.
The CPA Step One states: “We admitted we were powerless over pain and illness – that our lives had become unmanageable.”
If those words ring true to you or to someone you love, perhaps it is time to make your own first step. Remember, there is help. There is understanding. There is support. There are resources for you to begin to help yourself.
Additional Resources from our Silver Hill Patient Library:
- 12 Steps For Those Afflicted With Chronic Pain, Stephen Colameco, M.D.
- Living With It Daily: Meditations for People with Chronic Pain, Patricia Nielsen
Bruce F. Singer, Psy.D.
Program Director, Chronic Pain and Addiction Center
Silver Hill Hospital
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Silver Hill Hospital’s blog is intended only to provide information; it is not intended to provide diagnosis or treatment. If this is an emergency, please call 911.