The Body Broken: One Woman’s Experience With Pain and Medication

Contributor: Rachael Mattice is the Content Manager for Sovereign Health Group, an addiction, mental health and dual diagnosis treatment provider. Rachael received her bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication from Purdue University.

At age 19, Lynne Greenberg survived a horrific car crash. Despite serious injuries, including a fractured vertebra precariously close to her brainstem, she made a full, almost miraculous recovery.

Two decades later, she realized her recovery wasn’t a full one after all – and it was anything but a miracle.

In her memoir, The Body Broken , Greenberg tells the story of how she developed – and ultimately learned to live with – chronic pain. Eloquently written and deeply personal, Greenberg’s book is a must-read for anyone who has experienced chronic pain. Each chapter provides tips and insights into living with the condition.

Delayed Onset of Pain

Greenberg was in the library when she first felt it – a sharp pain in her neck extending to her head – nearly 22 years after her accident. The pain persisted despite visits to doctors, pain medications and therapies.

Greenberg soon learned that her neck had never fully healed from the accident that nearly took her life as a teenager. Her doctors had made a mistake – the neck brace she wore after the accident had been taken off too early, causing the bone in her neck to fuse incorrectly. That improperly healed bone was now irritating the nerves in her spinal cord, causing persistent and uncontrollable pain.

Greenberg was no longer a healthy English professor who occasionally danced ballet as a hobby. She was a person with chronic pain.

When Painkillers Become Enemies

2902351751_c30aacdaf8_oAt first, her doctors prescribed her pain medication – so many medications, in fact, that they exceeded the drug collection of the late model Anna Nicole Smith.

“I perversely continued to fixate on Anna Nicole Smith as well, realizing that I resembled her more than anyone else,” she writes. “Instead of hundreds of poems tucked into my desk, like (Emily) Dickinson, I had bottles upon bottles of pills shoved into my bathroom drawers.”

The painkillers that the doctors prescribed swiftly transformed from her saviors into her enemies. She became hooked on opiates, gaining yet another tick mark on her list of physical ills: addict. She eventually found herself detoxing at a hospital, overtaken not only by the pain in her head and neck, but also the aches and pains of withdrawal. The pain medication was supposed to save her, but instead, it had changed her brain’s distribution of neurotransmitters, flooding her thoughts with depression and anxiety. She felt hopeless.

Transforming Her Mantra

Her stay at the hospital saved her. She learned from her doctors how to manage pain without the medication. She learned how to re-appraise her thoughts with cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, transforming her usual mantra from “I am never going to get better” to “It’s too early to know how much better I am going to get.”

She learned relaxation techniques for when the pain was particularly rough. By facing her pain head on, Greenberg found that her anxiety and depression disappeared. The pain was still there, but it no longer controlled her like it once had.

“I play the role of a magician, with sleights of hand and tricks up my sleeve, or a juggler, struggling to keep several options afloat, or a tightrope walker, balancing precariously and hoping that I don’t fall again,” she writes in her book. “Sometimes, I’m simply a clown, foolish in my efforts; other times, I’m a lion tamer. I have mostly learned that it is a three-ring circus not a one-man show.”

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What has been your experience with pain and relaxation techniques? What other natural ways have you found to manage pain?

About the Author:

Rachael Mattice is the Content Manager for Sovereign Health Group, an addiction, mental health and dual diagnosis treatment provider. Rachael is a creative and versatile journalist and digital marketing specialist with an extensive writing and editing background.

Her portfolio includes numerous quality articles on various topics published in print and digital formats at award-winning publications and websites. To learn more about Sovereign Health Group’s mental health treatment programs and read patient reviews, visit Follow Sovereign Health Group on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addiction. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on May 1st, 2015
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