Wednesday, February 10, 2010

People in pain

Chronic Pain BarbieImage by Migraine Chick via Flickr

I don't know what it was about this past Monday, but it seemed a day of pain for some of the women in my sessions.

Lately, having experienced a medical situation myself that causes a lot of physical discomfort, I've developed a far greater appreciation for the deep frustration and futility that goes along with chronic pain.

Both women were crying, each doing her best to cope with her body in the best way she could.

The first woman, C (I saw her first thing in the morning), is still fairly new to me. Some of her staff seemed to think the fact that she sat on the floor on her behind and scootched herself forward was (aside from being odd) because of my being someone new and unfamiliar.

OK. I guess the fact that C screamed and cried through much of the session, after throwing her shoes at me (boy, did I have a flashback to George W. Bush and the shoe throwing incident. But I digress.) but didn't try to leave may have been because I was new as well. But she certainly seemed to be hurting from what I could tell.

I sat with her and nearly cried myself as I musically accompanied her frustrated tears and sounds. She reached her hand out to me once or twice, and I did my best to move over (we were sitting on the floor) to be within her grasp.

C then went back to stripping off her clothes. Of course, she first made a sign that looked like "toilet" with her right hand. We managed to limp out the door and into the hallway (where she sat down and proceeded with the stripping process again). I managed to get her dressed and we hobbled into the bathroom area where she completely stripped down. At which point I got someone a bit more familiar with her to get her dressed again.

She then went to sit at the table and seemed mellow and cheerful. That was when her staff let me know that C was just messing with me because she doesn't know me. "See? She's happy!"


In the second situation, V, when I arrived was restrained because she had been thrashing her head into various hard objects (the floor, the wall, the door, the wooden sides of the chairs...), and her staff felt freaked out (who wouldn't freak out seeing someone do that to their body?). 

One look at her, and it was clear (to me anyway) her sinuses were bothering her. A lot. Her nose was running furiously, and her eyes were swollen shut. (This is a person I've known for a few years, and she is always stuffed up and particularly unhappy when allergy season is in full swing. I also had had a headache the entire day from the shifting weather patterns, so I didn't come up with this thought out of the clear blue, as it may appear.)

Anyway, she came out of restraints in time for the music therapy group to start (thank goodness). We were attempting to make the trip from the day area to the room where we have our session, and that became a whole drama unto itself.

V couldn't seem to organize herself, so her staff got her wheelchair for her. S wanted to run around (and when she runs around it usually involves many curtains being torn down and a general swath of destruction in her wake). M started to vocalize in an angry-sounding way and looked as if she was about to take a bite out of whoever was standing or sitting too close to her. L appeared in the hallway, naked (evidently naked is popular on Mondays...who knew?). 

Music therapy anyone?

The staff took the person who was naked and the person who was all set to run down the hallway with her to get them reassembled, and I took the rest of the ladies in with me. V was still quite distraught, and yanking at my clothing with a death grip. M was still vocalizing loudly and approaching me (and V, who was now clinging to a handful of my shirt and pulling me down toward her), sounding a bit desperate. N was vocalizing, somewhat less loudly, as she attempted to settle herself in a chair (sometimes it takes her a while; she has a bit of the OCD).

M ended up walking out the door and went with her staff person (who told me she needed to shower the person who'd been naked). 

Okay. O....K....We're breathing.

I went back to V, held on to her hands and joined her distressed vocals with my voice, attempting to find a soothing, but reflective, simple vocal pattern (not an easy task, given the circumstances). She let me move behind her wheelchair so I could give her some deep pressure input to her shoulders and arms. V began to rock and very slowly settled down.

Gradually, the rest of the group came in, and we were able to finish the session with some minor semblance of order. 

But, yeah. Pain. Not fun. 


Lozzie Cap said...




WHAT a challenging group. But, do you know what I love the most about this entry? That is, apart from the extraordinary insight into the dynamics of a section of the community that I have not yet worked with - those in constant pain - but the fact that you somehow managed to inject humour into your description!

I worked with a new group the other day and one man had an epileptic fit, one man shouted THE ENTIRE way through the session, one woman was alternately crying and laughing, one man was self-harming and the final person in the mixture had just been rushed to hospital in an ambulance (she was OK) If it weren't so very serious, it'd be the plot for some kind of terribly dark sit-com that only airs after the watershed. But the staff at the setting where I was working have to deal with this kind of situation every single day, more or less, and have developed a very British way of dealing with it sometimes .. with humour.

There's a phrase I hear a lot: "You have to laugh, don't you? Else you'd just cry the whole time."

Roia said...

Truly. There is never a dull moment in this work, is there? If we can find joy and laughter in some aspect of being with people's pain then we have hope of getting through it, I suppose.

Nice to "see" you blogging again as well. Missed your posts, Lozzie!

Lozzie Cap said...

Needless to say, it feels totally WRONG to be able to find humour in pain. And yet, it seems to be some kind of coping mechanism that some human beings employ. My mother joked her way through years of breast cancer - surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, the whole thing.

Roia said...

Gosh, Lozzie, as you've read, I just had surgery to correct some terrific pain. I'm fairly certain it would have all been much more horrible if I couldn't find *something* to chuckle about.