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Why do I spend so much energy & time on chronic pain?

Posted Feb 20 2010 10:04pm

Someone said recently that they’d like a job where they come in, do the job, then go home and have a life.  Later that day I spent an hour or so after work talking to another clinician who, like me, has occasionally been accused of ‘not having a life’ – oh and breaking a few rules to get a good outcome for someone.  We both thought that in health care, at least in New Zealand, there are more people who live and breathe their passion for their work than those who don’t, and that our work is more enjoyable and more exciting than when we’ve ever been working in a job that needs less energy.  I can also say that I’d rather be seen by someone who loves their job than someone who is simply waiting to go home…

There’s a saying I put on the whiteboard behind my door in my office: it says ‘Passion puts perfection in the job’.  That makes a whole lot of sense to me.  And as I ponder and write this post I realise that for many years I’ve held to the idea that if you choose work that ignites something deep inside, you’ll not only feel like you have many choices for your job, but you’ll also thoroughly enjoy your day and will have energy left over for the other things that make up a rich life.

I’m fortunate I know in that I have had advantages in my life – I can read well, I’m endlessly curious, and I can’t recall being bored with nothing to do ever!  This doesn’t mean I have lead a charmed life, I’ve had chronic mood problems, postconcussion syndrome, fibromyalgia and gestational diabetes now morphing into type II diabetes (despite being average weight!).  I’ve also had some relationships fall apart, some work situations not work out, and some trauma and losses I don’t easily talk about.  I think I’ve had a pretty normal range of ups and downs.

But what I do have in bucketloads is the motivation to want to learn more, find out things, to feel moved and have emotions and care and get annoyed on behalf of and LIVE a life.

So when someone asked me what keeps me motivated to write this blog, to work in chronic pain, to read about chronic pain – and to care about whether people with chronic pain get effective therapy, I found it quite hard to put my finger on what it really is that keeps me so fired up.

It’s not just intellectual curiousity, although chronic pain is such a complex and multifaceted area where philosophy, biology, psychology, sociology and things like consciousness, macro vs micro views of humanity, politics and science all intersect one another.  And it’s not that there is an endless supply of patients to see who are all different with varying permuatations of the problems that chronic pain can bring.  It’s also not because of a desire to be seen to push a message that everyone wants to hear, to be popular, to make money out of it.  BTW I don’t get paid to write this blog, and what I have to say about chronic pain management doesn’t appeal to people all the time (wouldn’t you prefer to be told your pain will disappear or be ‘fixed’ rather than my somewhat grim message that ‘if it’s to be, it’s up to me’ – for life!).

It think it’s all of that AND that as a group, people with chronic pain are often misheard, passed from one person to another often with a shrug of the shoulders and a ‘I don’t know what to do, you’re really too hard for me and maybe all you need to do is pull yourself together’ sort of look!  People with chronic pain see endless specialists, are often viewed as ‘the back’ or ‘the foot’ or whatever body part is sore when pain invades every aspect of being human.

Why wouldn’t I want to work in a field where I have the privilege of being a guide or facilitator so the person I’m working with gets to live a life that embodies their most cherished values?
AND a field where I can feed my own passionate curiousity!

The world is full of people who will go about their whole lives and not actually LIVE one day.

I do not intend to be one of them.

I’m reminded of one of my favourite poet’s poem – Hone Tuwhare

Child coming home in the rain from the store

When I see you pause
make talk dawdle-walk
on the back road to your house
your house overlooking
the timber mill and timber yard
I know you stop only to talk
not to the cruel metalled road
but to a stone    a solitary stone
sharp-edged with flat shiny
faces

Through your mind’s eye know
the feel of washed leaves
made green again: tall rain -shafts
drifting: wind wincing
a water-filled pothole

And I child-delighting share
your long walk you talk
to things     and for things along
the bent road where impatiently
others wait for the damp bread
you bring

There is something about talking the time to appreciate the small things that transports me from the irritations and frustrations of stifling rules and procedures that fence and constrain rather than allow those contained to feel protected.

Enough rambling, I hope you get the picture that working as I do is a joy and a treasure and releases energy and I can go on and enjoy other things in my life just as passionately. Except for vacuum cleaning, or tidying (I do not enjoy that!)

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