How Distraction Can Be One of the Mightiest Pain Medicines
At the youthful age of 15, I quickly learned distraction was the #1 way to quietly tuck pain away into the drafty corners of my mind.
I had just had waist-down reconstruction surgery and had to come off the heavy painkillers sometime. It was excruciating, and I despised every second of the pain as I wheeled around in a wheelchair. The pain medicine kept things nice and fuzzy, and even if it made things hard to remember and I struggled to do school work because of them, I still wanted them to help me feel less pain.
As the medicine wore off and I was finally able to start using crutches, I realized I needed a new plan of attack to handle this situation. I tried a few different things, testing them out to see if they helped me handle the pain. I tried reading, movies, parties music. The common denominator was anything that kept me fully occupied. With a really good book I was able to pull myself away from the pain and drift off into incredible worlds of fantasy filled with heroines and dragons, castles and treasure. But if I found a boring book, it did nothing for me and it was just words that lost their sparkle as the pain came back into focus.
It’s the same with movies or TV shows. I would watch lots of them, one after the other to keep myself distracted. Add in some snacks and blankets with lots of pillows and I was set to be transported to another place. It was great! When people asked how they could help me feel less pain, I would say “distraction.” When I was asked what the secret was to surviving a painful surgery and pain that never quit: “distraction.”
I started throwing parties to distract myself even more. When playing host, I had to keep on top of how everyone was doing and so I could lose myself in their comfort. Making sure no one got left out and that there were plenty of yummy appetizers was my niche. It was my heaven.
Even now, all these years later, I still use those age-old tricks to keep myself more comfortable. I make sure I read books often so I can get sucked into them and my current situation drifts away. I struggled so much to learn how to read; if I only knew how much more of a treasure it would become, that struggle would have felt even more worth it.
Learning to transport myself to other worlds and lives with just the voice in my head is something I can’t find a replacement for, but when I am too exhausted to hold my Kindle or tap it so I can turn the page, I turn to my computer and TV shows or movies.
I have collected quite a few, and binge some show every night before I go to bed to relax myself enough to let my heavy medications take effect and cause me to black out. Even all these years later — almost 10 in fact — I can still see that distraction is the answer.
If you can find things that immerse you so much that you forget — even for a little while — that your pain is there, I believe it will do you good. It can help you when the time comes to learn to ignore the pain and push it aside in favor of daily living.
So give yourself a little break, take a breather from this world we live in and lose yourself happily in a little distraction. Your struggles can wait until that last page of a book or until the bad guy in the movie gets justice. Even the Mightiest of us all can always use a little slice of paradise.
Getty image by Vera Petrunina.