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Chronic Pain is Not Imaginary

Pain: often defined and restricted to the physical realm (i.e. due to injury). For some people with chronic pain, it’s less about pain due to physical issues and more about the overactive pain receptors they often have in the brain. These overactive pain receptors can trigger the patient to relive old trauma and old pain. For example, before my VR pain management therapy, when I attempted to walk down the stairs, I'd hesitate and my anxiety level would begin to rise. My brain was setting me up for failure before I'd even physically started the task of "walking down the stairs".

I didn't realize was the fact that I was having a PTSD-like episode, flashing back to a month prior where my legs stopped working, causing me to fall down a flight of stairs. Through my therapy sessions and reading medical literature, I learned that "normal" people who get put into a situation that causes them anxiety can control how they react to it whereas people with Functional Neurological Disorder (me) literally cannot control all of the reactions to the stimuli. Another personal example, excessive heat or specific painful stimuli (i.e. needles) can cause me to have a syncopal-seizure episode.

But anyways - back to walking down the stairs. Any other time, if you asked me to think about walking down the stairs, I'd logically think and answer "Yes, I could fall again. Most likely, I'll be fine." But at that very moment right before the attempt, my brain would panic, allowing and preparing more pain receptors for the task since we've gone from a simple "walk down a few stairs" to "going to fall down an entire flight".

This lead to many months of retraining my brain on how to "walk down the stairs" correctly. I practiced going into the task calmer and more self-assured, thus starting off with less pain stimuli available to my brain. Brain retraining wasn't just limited to walking down the stairs. Some examples that applied to my hand tremors included picking things up, eating with silverware, using a smartphone, typing on the computer, grabbing an object, hand-eye coordination/accuracy (i.e. not hitting yourself in the face by accident when you're trying to lift your arm to scratch your back), and much more. Every single day, I not only use my brain for work and daily tasks, but I'm constantly retraining my brain on some daily function most people take for granted. While these past few months of therapy and progress have been positive, my brain has been more tired than ever. It's a good thing my parents blessed me with the "large head" genes so I have room for all of this brain activity.

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