Pushing back on neuroplasticity

I got the Sydney norovirus right before it hit the news. I’m recovering, but slowly; the persistent low-grade nausea is annoying — and worrisome. I don’t want my body to get the idea that this is the new normal…

Brain plasticity is a major culprit in CRPS and its maintenance —
  • from the first refusal to cut pain signals off…
  • to the growth of the brain cortex area that monitors that body part, so it can handle more pain signals and provide less space for normal body areas…
  • to the deeper remapping and rewiring that alters cognition, disrupts memory formation, screws up autonomic signalling, knocks endocrine and digestive function out of whack…
  • and so forth.




It’s important to stay on top of the brain, so to speak.

 
Thanks to the brilliant pioneering work of Dr. V. S. Ramachandran, we now know that mirror therapy and reducing-lens therapy can remap the brain’s perception of injured body parts to something closer to normal. That was a huge help with the pain, when I had CRPS in limited areas.
 
The reality-shattering concept behind mirror therapy is, basically, that conditioning can work in reverse: rather than allowing ourselves to be the passive objects of what our brain becomes accustomed to doing, we can push back against the brain’s alterations using our natural mechanisms of perception and intent. (The basis of Dr. Ramachandran’s discovery is that perception alone can provide the altering input. Intent gives it more focus, force and direction.)
 
The relationship between body, intention, and brain is interactive, multi-dimensional, and interdependent. 

Having said that, it’s not completely reciprocal, nor is it ever under perfect control — unlike a good trapeze act.

 
If we could will ourselves better, then, given the extraordinary focus and determination of my fellow CRPSers, I know for a fact that we would have done so already. I never had met anyone with as much determination as me, until I met my core group of CRPS friends. If will alone were the answer, we’d have it!
 
CPRS is complex indeed.
 
Anyway… back to what we CAN do.
 
Communicating with the brain, in language it can’t ignore
 
The basic principle of RE-re-mapping the brain is this: describing to the brain, in language it can’t ignore (combining sensory perception and intent), what it should be doing.
 
In my Epsom bath article, I described rubbing a washcloth over body parts that have distorted perceptions and telling them silently, over and over again, “It’s just a washcloth. Feel just a washcloth.”
 
Where there is normal perception, or even nearly-normal perception, I stroke from the normal area to the abnormal area — never, ever in reverse! the brain understands the concept of “spread” — and tell my brain and body, with absolute focus, “This is what normal feels like. Feel normal HERE now. This is normal. Feel it here now. That is the correct feeling. It’s just a washcloth. Feel a washcloth.”
 
Not a burning sheet of sandpaper twice the size of my leg. Not a blunt sense of almost nothing, somewhere else.
 
A washcloth, right here.
 
When I’m doing this, I don’t even think about what the abnormal feelings are like; I came up with those metaphors just now, sifting through my memory. I shut the incorrect perceptions out of my mind and dismiss them, over and over, as obviously false information.
 
I have to take a break sometimes when the pain is bad and just breathe, but I don’t think about it, I focus on the point: learning to perceive what’s really there.
 
Vision, tactile input, kinesthesia (meaning that, as my hand and arm moves over the body part, my brain’s mechanisms triangulate on where things really are and its picture of my body gets corrected), and the focus of intent, are all part of the exercise.
 
This combination of factors is what makes it so effective. The multisensory inputs, the constant messaging of proper information, eventually overrides the false information.
 
Slowly at first, but with increasing pace, the normal sensation spreads over into the abnormal area. Every time. Not always completely or perfectly, but often both.
 
So far, I’ve reclaimed normal sensation in my back and most of my left leg, and I’ve kept the sensation and function in my arms at a level almost incompatible with the decade that I’ve had this disease.
 
Considering how bad things have gotten when I let this slide, the value of this exercise is clear to me.
 
Pruning your neurons intelligently
 
Learned responses are due to the basic learning mechanism in the brain:
  1. neurons hook up, and a connection (or association) is made;
  2. if the connection gets used (or the association is allowed to stand), more neurons hook up to make it stronger;
  3. once enough neurons have hooked up, the connection becomes like a good road;
  4. and the thing about good roads is, they get used, even if they’re used for something odd.
It’s important to manage the roads in your brain, especially when you have a neuro-plasticity disease like CRPS:
  • Make sure the roads in your brain are useful to you.
  • Do that by pruning the connections you don’t want.
  • Prune those connections by letting the associations die.
  • Let a connection die by deciding to think about, or do, something else, whenever it comes up.
    Consistently. Persistently. Relentlessly.
  • And keep making that decision every time it comes up.

It works by a negative, which is not how we are taught to do things: turn away from the response, shut out the perception, ignore the link. That’s how you prune an unhealthy connection.

It takes time, but it works. The time will pass anyway, so your brain might as well be better off at the end of it…

Masters of distraction
 
We CRPSers are masters of distraction — not to mention the kind of persistence that this pruning takes. We can learn to be diligent about applying it to sensory associations we don’t want. This is where ADD, used selectively, becomes truly — oh look! Yellow feet!
 
… Wait, what was the connection I was about to make? I’ve forgotten.
 
See? It works!
 
The joy of having a bit of ADD and being a meditator is, you really can choose when and how to let out the ADD — as long as you do it often enough. It’s a great tool, and I’m grateful for it.
 
Pruning specific sensory and functional associations
 
I’ve had recurring nausea for months now. It’s related to upticks in stress, of which I’ve had more than an elegant sufficiency in the past year.
 
Then there was this tummy bug…
 
It’s day 5 and I haven’t vomited in 3 days but I’m still nauseous. While this bug is supposed to leave one nauseous for quite some time afterwards, I really don’t want my brain getting the idea that sending nausea signals is going to be the new normal. I’m not going to let the nausea become habitual. So I’m pruning those connections.
 
I can’t will nausea away, as it comes from quite deep in the brain from a primitive place. And, unlike pain, distraction doesn’t help much for long.
 
So I’m balancing the use of ginger (short acting, “hot i’ the mouth”, sugary) and anti-nausea meds (long-acting, makes me slower in brain and gut) to shut down the nausea for a good part of each day. 
 
This means I’m not nauseous for a good part of the time. This helps retrain my brain away from constant nausea by letting the relentless association, and the neurons that make it, die off. I’m going to keep after it over the expected week of recovery still to come.
Only constructive connections, please.
That’s one example. It doesn’t take much thought or mental discipline, just persistence.
 
My lovely friend X has a recent example of something different, an obviously inappropriate new association being made.
 
She multitasks, making full use of her functional time. When she was eating, then turned aside to the plastic phone or plastic computer to respond to someone, then turned back, her food suddenly tasted and smelled like plastic.
 
That is a very errant association indeed. Prune it!
 
She is now putting aside the laptop and turning off the phone while she eats, so the association doesn’t develop further. Moreover — and she may have just enough ADD to pull this off — she hopes to be able to switch her attention immediately when the plastic taste pops back into her — Look! Yellow feet!
Egrets make great distraction, especially in funny socks.
It takes time to let those connecting neurons die, but if you get on it quickly, as X did, it can turn around pretty well and pretty quickly.
 
The Principle of Primal Exclusivity
 
This is simpler than it sounds. It’s the opposite of pruning.  
 
When you’re doing something really basic (or primal), like eating or drinking or sleeping or running or sex, keep your attention basically on that activity. It helps keep your brain straightened out about those things.
 
You really don’t want them getting bollixed up, because rewiring primal functions takes more work to undo.
 
That’s one reason why insomniac advice is about having a calming bedtime routine and sticking to it: it’s retraining the brain around a primal activity. The brain needs absolutely consistent signals over a period of time, to retrain successfully.
 
Incidentally, sex (alone or together) is the only activity that (ideally) engages both sides of the autonomic nervous system: arousal is mediated by the sympathetic nervous system, and orgasm by the parasympathetic nervous system. It provides a balancing mechanism I can’t think of occurring in any other sphere of life. Done properly, it could be the perfect autonomic tuning tool…
 
And with that happy thought, I’ll leave you to wash your hands against this norovirus and do whatever seems best.
 

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The point of mythology — and there is one

I’m working on a series of 3 novellas, a triptych:

1. Kronos in season: The growing-up of a primal god.
2. Hell — the bright side: The original story of Persephone, the original career woman.
3. Pain, a comedy: the intimate family drama that came down to us as the story of Chiron, the wounded healer — and possibly the first recorded case of CRPS.
(Warning: slapstick and hangman’s humor, sometimes simultaneously.)

I’ve been bogged down on number 2 for the best part of a year. In other words, I’ve been stuck in Hell… heheh.

“That Heironymous Bosch. What a weirdo.” – Good Omens

When asked what I write, I usually talk about CRPS and turning medical science into plain English. When asked what my favorite thing to write about is, I have to say, it’s mythology.

“Wait — mythology? … Why??”

Because myths are about the greater parts in ourselves. Those of us in unbearable situations (like the Newtown teachers or Mother Theresa or, indeed, anyone with a terrible illness) have to be superhuman at times. Sometimes most of the time.

Myths remind us of our innate capacity to reach beyond our limits and own the moment, hideousness and all, so that we can lift ourselves beyond all reason and find a way to make things better.

We have modern myths, like James Bond, Star Trek, the X-Men and Harry Potter.  While they have their limits as myths, they still meet the inward need to see that part of ourselves that can bear the unbearable, survive the murderous, and emerge victorious from a no-win situation.

I should have died at least 5 times in the past 10 years. But here I am, very much against the odds, still thinking (sort of) and writing. Rediscovering mythology played a part in that.

And, more than ever, I find it incredibly easy to tell those enormous stories as if I were talking about real people in real time — because, in my own mind at least, I am. When I write about gods and demons, I’m writing of things I know, although under different names.

You should meet my friends with CRPS — and some of their parents. These people embody powers of creativity, diligence, determination, resourcefulness, strength and brilliance that make the great gods of prehistory look like punks, and leave modern adjectives beggared. Telling myths is easy-pie after talking to them!

If we should stick to writing what we know, then I’ve been to Hell and back so often they’ve installed a revolving door for me. I’ve wept on the knees of Hera. Sedna is my sister. I’ve heard Taliesin’s lament. Coyote has my home address, and comes over (too often) for tea… I have my suspicions about what he puts in his cup — and mine.

I won’t discuss the demons, except to say that they, too, can usually be healed. But it’s always by the thing you wouldn’t think of.

“O..kay.” Checks my head for tinfoil hat. “But what does mythology have to do with CRPS?”

It gives us back the unstoppable inner part of ourselves that can defeat it in the end.

And that’s good medicine.

 

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Departure day

With  uncharacteristically sublime timing and verbiage, I got us into a breakup conversation that was the kindest, most civil and caring one I’ve ever had. Hard to argue with the heart problems and needing to be where the doctors are a lot less likely to kill me by accident…

Two days later, it seems more like a stretch out than a break up, but I’m not sweating that. I can’t take any more chaos, stress or drama, so I’m going to let things stand. The love is there, so why kick it to the curb? The world needs more love — at least, mine does.

Given the year we meant to take to see if this would (or should) work out, it’s reasonable to take that time to figure out what shape this connection — with its own strange, resilient, unique strength — should really look like.

I’m getting a healing break with an old friend whose life includes just the right mix of rest and activity, good food and indulgence, solitude and society.

Meanwhile, J is going to wash my car inside and out, and pull everything out of it and put it into storage so I can sort it back in more rationally — as I’ve intended to for months. I didn’t even think of that, let alone hint, I swear! He just thought it up himself, to make my life nicer and more manageable.

I’ll bounce back to J’s in early February to get my stuff and get the last business sorted, then go to LA to see my doctor and find a place to stay that meets my needs for awhile — where he could come visit and try for some reality checks.

Anybody got a place in the warmer parts of the San Gabriel range for under $500/month? Where my lovely wolfish un-boyfriend can bring his considerably better-behaved dog? 🙂

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An upside down day

Today was a day when everything seemed to turn at least one somersault, including my mind. In fact, I just took off the headset and turned one myself, to complete the set.

Extreme stress makes me a little whimsical…

Food & housing

I woke up this morning in a motel that was as creepy as it was the night before, when the desk clerk had looked up and down at sweet, white, worried me, and said in her most reassuring tones, “I’ll give you the room on the second floor, on the corner, right where I can see you.”

On the one hand, I was glad there was someone to look out for me. On the other, it was horrifying that it was so baldly necessary. A bit like my relationship lately.

Today was the last day of intestinal meltdown before heading into real wasting syndrome: relentless nausea, episodes of dizziness, and nearly volcanic indigestion. The next step is relentless diarrhea. I’ve had wasting syndrome once this year already, and that was enough.

The automatic drive is about to go in reverse…

Time to put more money into staving off physical self-destruction: I called a good hotel with monthly rates, and made a 30 day reservation.

The indigestion is considerably better, and at least I can eat past the nausea. Success! I WILL save this system!

I finally had a good, real conversation with boyfriend J this evening. For all our mutual problems, there’s a lot of love there. This separation is agony for both of us.

I finally got to say what I have been tripping over all day: nothing feels right. I usually have a strong sense of flow, of what should happen next and how to get there. But it’s as if I got washed up on the riverbank weeks ago, and however hard I try, I can’t catch up with the current. I’m more lost than I have ever been.

Being away from my sweetie, and pouring so much money I really need elsewhere into the painful boondoggle of a separate life, is lonely and brutal.
So I have some thinking to do…

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Metabolic moon dance

My digestion is not happy.

Between the stress of househunting (and the way that forces us into other families’ dreadful dramas), some really egregious motels, and too many things hanging fire for too long…

Plus taking that spirochete-assassinating, gut-grating antibiotic doxycycline for three weeks (19 days, actually; those last four pills, I almost vomited just looking at them)…

With a bit too much pain and dysautonomia for a little too long…

Amidst, of course, the infinitely complex metabolic moon dance of CRPS…

In consensus reality,
this is a shot of my old marina’s night lights…
but it’s a great visual metaphor for the body events of CRPS. Fling!
Image c.2008

… Well, things have been better.

They could be a great deal worse, but really, they could be rather better.

I haven’t been able to keep up my kale shakes, because the indigestion is too energy-sappingly unpleasant. My sweetie made a remark the other day that gave me a clue I want to pursue: don’t mix fruits and vegetables.

I used to know that.

I’m going to try berries with kefir and nut butter as the morning shake, and kale with avocado, cabbage and broth in the evening. (And, for the record, I’ve reconfirmed that organic berries are a lot less nauseating in this hotwired system.)

This assumes, of course, that I can get all the ingredients… Handle the blender… Have a place to plug it in… And somewhere to rinse it out afterwards… In the midst of homeless upheaval and chaos… Twice a day.

Editorial comment is useless. There are times when my natural wryness is wholly inadequate to real life.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Reality check in the pause for breath

With some relief in sight, I can admit that being on the road somewhat underequipped and jnderfunded is really hard. The overnight options, as I learned in Centerville, are fraught with the potential for devastating toxic exposures. Packing and unpacking dvery day is painful and an egregious time sink. The solitude doesnt bother me but the lack of distraction does. The constant, relentless struggle with tbis poor body leaves the words “frustration” and “hovering bitterness” feeling hopelessly inadequate.

I’m supposed to create a budget fod implementi g the CRPS: Art & Spirit projdct. I’m much mord clear about what ig will need to include. Good information to have.
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"Plan" is a 4-letter word

Last night, in an effort to give my autonomic nervous system a chance to calm down, I turned off my lovely hostess’s wifi while I slept. Eventually, I did sleep, after several hours of meditation.

Why the insomnia?

People change with time. My sweetie is discovering that in the harshest way. A friend of 20 years is sinking into the pit of addiction and her transformation has put him at considerable risk, due to the company she now keeps and what they think of him.

I hadn’t heard from him since midday yesterday, and since we had agreed to call twice more that day for different logistical reasons, not being able to get hold of him was deeply worrying.

I followed my inner prompting to head away from the coast (where another storm is heading in, this one bitterly cold) and get to Cleveland, with the option of flying out from there to get to California to do whatever was needed for my sweetie.

I took off at 9:30 (woefully early for me) after plugging the router back in and forgetting my jacket — which my lovely hostess chased me down to my parking spot to return.

Worth a thousand words

Dr. Goyal and White Plains Urgent Care were a small parking lot and two buildings over from where my nav device had placed them yesterday. /sigh/

She was saddened and intrigued by CRPS, making notes in the margins of my sheet.  She was initially somewhat dismissive of my description of the bite, because this morning it was being coy, hardly red at all.

I said, “I knew I should have taken pictures. Let me draw you a picture.”

Despite my having explained its vacilating nature clearly, I know from long experience that they need to see it to believe it.

So, using the big white paper sheet they have you sit on, I sketched the bite when I first noticed it, half a day later, a day after that, and so on. I wound up drawing a series of concentric circle patterns, growing, then shrinking, then growing, then shrinking.

I finished by drawing an arrow from top to bottom and saying, “Would you trust that pattern? Because I wouldn’t.”

I walked out with a prescription for 3 weeks of doxycycline and having promised to follow up with my CRPS specialist.

I know it’ll take 3-6 months just to get my insides back into any kind of order. Could take up to a year. I had a bad feeling about this bite, so I’ll consider it time well spent.

 When people talk about Mercury Retrograde, this is what they mean

 While I was in there, my lovely hostess texted me: “Internet still not working – what to do?” An hour (and a lot of non-Mac behavior from her Mac) later, my best answer was, “Call the cable company; it’s a hardware problem.”

Doing unsuccessful telephone tech support for one dear friend behind you, for a problem you might have caused, while driving at highway speeds on strange roads, when you’re sick with worry over another dear friend ahead of you, is not something I would recommend. In fact, now that I can check it off my bucket list, I think I’ll try not to do it ever again.

Her life depends on the internet even more than mine. It’s not optional. I wanted to whip around and ride back to save the day … but for the lashing in my brain to go on, and the fact that her hands work better than mine and I know the interfaces by heart, so there was nothing — in practical terms — that my presence would have added.

I had a fierce feeling that, if I could get far enough away from the tangled vibes behind me, both of these problems would resolve themselves.

So, with solid logic on one side of me, and crystal-clear intuition on the other, I charged ahead.

I crossed the New Jersey/New York state line. Then my lovely hostess texted me to say that she had found a second loose connection — and that the internet was now working fine.

How to search for someone who’s gone missing

I crossed into Pennsylvania. I’d been stopping every hour to stretch and breathe, but I couldn’t stop mulling my sweetie’s situation, so I pulled over to start the legwork of searching.

Here’s the drill. The order varies depending on what you think the situation is, but, when someone has gone missing and you fear the worst, I find it’s very soothing to rule out the worst as soon as you can bear to:

– Contact the police in the area you last knew them to be in. (Use the non-emergency number; the goodwill is worth the effort.) Have they had any dealings with that person? Car accident, fight, anything? One of the first things cops do is ask for ID, whether it’s appropriate or not, so they’re likely to have records of even minor events.
– The police can connect you to the morgue. Rule out the worst, breathe a sigh of relief, and move on.
– Call the hospitals.
– If they aren’t admitted to the hospital, ask for the Emergency Room admissions, which may be a different number.

If all of those turn up negative, count your blessings and wait for them to get back into signal range or to realize they let their phone’s battery die.

First, I surfed the police logs to see if anything was reported. If there was any violence, then it’s a small enough town to turn up on the online blotter. Nothing matched.

I mulled whether it was worth calling the non-emergency number to see if they’d had any other dealings, and I decided to go straight on to calling the hospitals, on the grounds that any police involvement in the situation would be blotter-worthy.

Then the phone rang.

And it was him.

I really think there were gouts of steam poufing out of my ears. My eyes closed and I dropped against the door, so I’m guessing, but it felt like it.

He was slightly shaken, but intact, and maybe beginning to really “get it” about how some people change.

He told me emphatically to be careful who I trust, not to pick up hitch-hikers, and be careful who I talked to.

Naturally, I promised him that I would.

Just for the record, I have really great friends who always have my back to the best of their ability. I am one lucky human, and I know it.

Kylertown, PA (don’t blink… No, really,  don’t blink, or you’ll totally miss it)

After sorting out some logistics and stopping for a quarter of hot roasted chicken (definitely a local bird — tasty!) I came to the sinking realization that Motel 6 doesn’t go along I-80, and I can’t afford the ones that do.

Garmin is no help, because they just list the upper scale lodgings. Lots of B&Bs, but no cheap little roadside doss-houses.

I don’t need much, and can afford slightly less. It can be a problem.

I stabbed “Kwik-Fill Motel” on my phone’s map. What the heck, truckers know a thing or two about cheap dossing.

I spoke to a woman, which was reassuring; when I blew past the exit (# 133, if you’re curious, and it’s right after a wooded curve) she did a swell sales-job that convinced me to drive the 10 miles to the next exit and come back… and it turned out to be a good decision. 

This place has been in business since the 1970’s and has only raised its prices $10 since then. It skips the kitsch, thank goodness. My decent-sized room has the tasteful modicum of furniture with classy Colonial lines, with just the occasional bit of ’70’s carpentry or carpeting peeking around the edges. Decoration and color schemes are quite tasteful, for a motel, and — most importantly — the heater works.

A total find.

Next time you want to come to the wilds of Western Pennsylvania, you might as well plan an overnight at the Kwik-Fill; you can’t do any better, but you could do a great deal worse.

The only downside is, I wasn’t prepared for Pennsylvania water. I’d intended to bring a case of bottled for PA, but it was just like I didn’t have time this morning.

I’m going to run the bath and the fan, and give the whole thing time to clear the copious chlorine. If it doesn’t smell bad after that, I’ll have a nice bath at the end of this roller-coaster day. If it does, well, I’ll let it go and be grateful for the rest.

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Vocation and purpose (illustrated)

I’ve spoken of myself as a writer for ages, and made a decent living writing professionally (about software) for several years — until I got disabled as a consequence of the long hours.

Look a little more closely…

My inward life (narrative, spirit, meaning) and outward life (events, tasks, purpose) have been approaching each other at an increasing rate, and the transparency this creates causes some re-evaluation of publicly-held assumptions like what I am. For instance, is being a writer my core occupation — my “real” job, where “real” means “true, valid, essential”?

It dawned on me that writing, for all its wry, playful and muscular delight, 

is, for me, a means to an end. Here’s why.

I’ve considered myself a writer since I was 10 years old. My mother gave me a blank book to write my poems and stories in, when I was 11 years old — a step up from my plethora of scoliotoc spiral-bound notebooks — so at that point I was clearly committed.

But my earliest coherent memories are of comforting her, of trying to rescue baby birds, of helping to wash and change my baby brother.

So there’s something I’ve been doing longer than writing.

As an adolescent, I probably spent more time rescuing cats, dogs and (more successfully this time) birds than I did putting words down on paper.

Writing is a joy, and it’s a tool. I know I wrote the right thing when someone says, “That really cleared things up for me,” or more transcendently, “This helped me so much.”

I write to heal. First, I wrote to heal myself, but now, it’s a way of doing a bit of good in the world outside my own head.

As I remarked to a friend of mine, some people go into the healing professions because they like the feeling of power it gives them to help others.

(Many of them are very good at their challenging jobs, so I’m not inclined to dis their motivations.)

Some of us go into it because we like to help people find their strength and set themselves free.

I used to enjoy some of that power, though I believe I did a good job of maintaining perspective in the face of the quite extraordinary impact an emergency nurse can have. 

Of course, what I really loved about that job was the scope and depth of challenge, and the instant feedback. Never a dull moment, and I learned a lot.

Now I have lost what taste I had for power over others, even benevolent power. But I have always loved helping people find their strength and watching them set themselves free.

These days, when I think of anything worth doing (after taking care of myself), that’s what it comes back to: helping people find their own strength, and watching them set themselves free.

Writing lets me do that in absentia, while I’m unconscious, perhaps even long after I’m gone. If I do my job well, others will be reminded of their own strength, or find the clue they need to set themselves free.

So, I’m a healer… who writes.

At least I have better dress sense and less disturbing kibitzers than this guy.

I hope it helps.

(revised 12 March 2013, to add images and improve clarity)
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Getting it right

H’mm… Struggling with the recurring message from the world around me that I can’t do this, I can’t cure this case of cold chronic CRPS. It’s twinned with the message that, whatever I’m doing, it’s wrong.

I’m not interested in whining, because, as my CRPS cohorts know, this nonsense is par for the course… but every now and then, it’s good to step back and do a reality check.Let’s take a good look at this thinking:

  • On the conventional medicine side, I walked into a new doctor’s office with my tabulated timeline of years of a complex case, pictures showing the evolution of the disease in this body, and documentation about what works and what doesn’t. The response: “You spend way too much time thinking about this!”

Don’t waste time trying to find any upside to that remark. It surprised me especially because most of my docs (the best in the biz) loved my documentation. Now I know that the really good doctors love it, and the ones who don’t love it are either one-trick ponies or second-rate. This one was a one-trick pony, and once he’d done his job, I was gone.

Let’s back up and pretend this guy asked,

  • “Wow, that’s a boatload of well-crafted, thoughtful documentation. Why did you go to so much apparent effort?”

I’d say, “I was a nurse so the concepts are easy, and I was a tech writer so the structure is even easier. This is a cakewalk for me. If I CAN’T document what’s going on, check for a pulse!

“Moreover,” I’d go on, assuming the doctor cared about my well-being, “tracking this stuff frees up my attention by letting me plonk it down in black & white and then put it out of my head. That leaves the rest of my time free for meditating, friends, bathing, housework, and so on.

“Besides,” I’d add, if the doctor looked like one who could take a joke, “most docs find this case hopelessly confusing, and I don’t need you wasting my time by asking the same questions 3 times and still getting it all wrong in the end, just like the one other doc who refused to look at this!” Ha ha.

Clinical note: Seriously, physicians, that’s how to handle an expert patient: Ask, then listen. Saves time.

  • The alt-health folks are liable to tell me, first, that I’m sick because I think the wrong thoughts; then, if they ask about my mental habits, it’s obviously because I eat toxic foods; if they want to get straightened out about that, “it’s clear, dear, that you’re too attached to this disease” and there’s nothing anyone can do to help. (Direct quote.)

My fellow CRPSers are thinking exactly the same things as me right now.

Besides the sheer cruelty of that response, the fact is that spontaneous total remission from CRPS after the first 3 years is even rarer than spontaneous remission in cancer or AIDS. I’ve heard of it happening once as late as 7 years; I’ve had it for roughly 10; average survival is 30 years after onset. If any of you has more optimistic data, I’d love to see it!

Here are some things I’ve learned about how what you think and what you do REALLY affect the course of your CRPS:

  • Those who stick exclusively with the conventional model and submit to their doctors without question, especially when they have noxious drug reactions (as I do), tend to suffer much and die young.
    That’s what happens when you’re a passive patient with a disease that few doctors understand.
  • Those who become well-informed and educate their doctors, have better results and do considerably better for much longer.
    That’s what happens when you open your eyes and take initiative regarding a very rare and complex disease.
  • Those who research and implement changes to diet and lifestyle most vigorously, have the best results from their care and use a lot less medication with much better results, higher function, and lower disability.
    That’s what happens when you shoulder real responsibility for what you do and how it affects your life.
  • Those who are active in the online communities, seeking support and providing support to others and sharing information, tend to beat the odds.
    That’s what happens when you constructively engage with your community.

I’m looking for something I’m not doing yet. I will figure it out, hunt it down and I will do it.

CRPS is an incredibly hard disease, in every conceivable way. Where there is any spontaneous remission at all, there is something to work with. I just haven’t figured out what yet.

Since I still have CRPS, I find those recurring messages a little intimidating. I  don’t yet have hard data to throw back against the key message.

I can see that, when others say I’m doing things wrong, the statements tend to be presumptuous and ill-informed — but the fact is, I still haven’t cured my own case of CRPS …YET.

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