I wake frequently through the night and often lay awake in pain, as I try to return to sleep using my imagination – as in one of my many ‘safe, quiet spaces’. Imagination plays a central role in how I respond to pain, thereby either experiencing some relief, or making it ‘worse’. This morning when I woke at first light, lifting my mask, taking my daily meds and replacing the mask to try and return to sleep, two things happened. I dropped into the pain, which was like an abscess behind my right eye, ready to burst and making my eye ‘squint’. “Fuck that hurts!” I felt like I had fallen off a cliff, into that ‘boil’. My imagination responded with the image of the cliff in the movie “The Dawn Wall”, although my imagination added jutting rocks at very reachable intervals, so I could rest and climb back up, whenever I felt the need. When I rested on that wall, I could feel the sun’s increasing warmth, I could feel the rock my feet were stable on, as well as the rocks that my gloved hands clung to. I was in the pain but able to climb out, the pain easing (or oozing) with each step up. Reaching the top of the wall, I lay on my back, feeling the increasing warmth of the sun (my eye mask still on…the pain subsiding)…and I was back to sleep…for a while. Now I have a new ‘safe, quiet space’ – the top of the Dawn Wall.
I find that a strong imagination, in combination with whatever other techniques help (massage, essential oils, medications, etc.), is key to managing pain of any kind, but particularly chronic pain.