Thinking about chronic pain as an injury hurts treatment.
Chronic pain has serious physical and mental health consequences, interfering with school completion, the transition to work, and social and autonomy development. Adolescent chronic pain also has significant costs for parents, interfering with both work and family functioning. And treating pain is hard. Treatment adherence requires committing to a treatment plan that often increases short-term pain and has significant costs in terms of time, effort, and lifestyle restrictions. You need to exercise and stop eating food that tastes great. (My son experiences severe chronic pain. His worst trigger: pizza.) You need to push yourself out the door when every instinct tells you should crawl under the covers and sleep. It hurts. A lot.
Thousands of children go to school in pain every day
Let me tell you about my morning
I guess my morning started last night. Maybe it started a few months ago.
For the last several months, my son, like clockwork, gets a migraine on Sunday afternoon. It starts with him feeling a little odd and spacey. Then he would start getting flashing lights in front of his eyes. Sometimes the whole room he is looking at distorts, like one of those weird spatial anomalies in Star Trek.
Then the pain starts. Sharp stabbing pain through the top his head (ice pick headaches), the thudding at the base of his neck, and the pressure at both temples.
It’s not often that I read a scientific paper and immediately change how I parent my child.
But I did last week.
I was reading a series of pieces by developmental psychologist, Laurence Steinberg, first winner of the Jacobs award for “groundbreaking contributions to the improvement of the living condition”.
School helps kids in pain. But how do you get them there?·
My youngest son lives with severe, frequent pain. He has chronic migraines. In the last 35 days, he’s been pain free for five of them. This morning he would squeal with the sound of a toilet flushing in another room, shudder when the light hit his face, and lie shaking at the prospect of just sitting up in bed.
Think of an ice cream headache that lasts for four days. Then starts again.
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Explaining your disability can get you more effective help from professors·
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) protects students with conditions that impede normal life functions from discrimination (The American Psychological Association’s Summary can be found here). “Normal life functions” include going to school. I know much more than I want to about this act, because my son is chronically ill from one of many invisible illnesses. He has severe, chronic migraines that leave him in pain much of the time. The American with Disabilities Act also protects children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), depression, and a host of learning disabilities. In elementary and high school, the accommodations needed to help people who face these barriers get a fair chance at education are covered by IEPs and 504 plans. These plans lay out what the student’s, parent’s, teacher’s, and school’s responsibilities are in creating a successful learning environment for the student.
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Pain, Ambiguous Loss, and Acceptance
Acceptance means holding both a painful now and a hopeful future in our minds·
Death can be a harsh shock, as someone is ripped from us and is no longer present in our lives. It has a finality to it – that’s part of the shock and much of the pain. But it is real and concrete. Ambiguous loss is fundamentally different, in that it is a loss where we are simultaneously confronted with two simultaneous states that can’t be resolved.