At last, some intelligent comments about pain medication

Originally posted on April 3, 2013

Michael A. Weiss talks about pain medication

At last, some intelligent comments about pain medication. From a patient, obviously.

“With Chronic Illness usually comes chronic pain. There are many ways to deal with Pain but the most effective and immediate methods usually involve Narcotic Pain Medications. However, the Medical Practice of Pain Management is extremely complex and Narcotics can sometimes create a chronic problem all unto itself as the Patient battles to stay within the confines of “Dependency” as opposed to “Addiction.”

This is the intelligent and eminently reasonable voice of Michael A. Weiss, a chronic pain sufferer, who speaks about the reality of pain medicine dependency. This is a reality in every pain sufferer’s life, and I recommend you listen carefully to what Michael has to say. Since we approach this and every other issue from a Christian point of view, one could add a great deal of prayer and meditation to pondering the issues that Michael mentions. Chronic pain sufferers really need tons of wisdom to navigate through the currents of their particular imposed lifestyle.

Chronic pain is America’s greatest scourge

Originally posted on June 7, 2015

It’s official: chronic, under-treated pain is America’s greatest scourge. “Chronic pain affects about 100 million American adults — more than the total affected by heart disease, cancer, and diabetes combined,” report the Institute of Medicine on their website. “Pain also costs the nation up to $635 billion each year in medical treatment and lost productivity.” That’s the official figures and the public financial cost of this epidemic.

“If you’re affected by unrelenting pain,” he writes, “you’re not thinking of what your pain is costing the national economy. If you’re thinking about money at all, you’re wondering how you’re going to pay the mortgage if you should lose your job tomorrow, because you just cannot sit in that office chair and do a whole day’s work anymore.” Venter says that his book is for those who are still swaying on their feet after receiving the knockout news that their pain condition is not going to go away. “Your pain is here to stay,” the doctor said. “We can alleviate it with drugs and other therapies, but you’re going to have to live with this condition.” Now a whole lot of realizations begin to flood through your mind. Your job — in danger. Your sports activities — over. Swinging your kids around on the lawn — ain’t happening anymore. To be frank, putting on your pants can now begin to present a problem.

But the difficulty of movement and activity is not the only problem. The big issue is that parts of your body — and in many cases your entire body — now hurt all the time. And slowly some of the implications begin to announce themselves in your mind:

    1. You may be on new, powerful drugs. Some medications, for instance the family of pain killers called opioids are, if not necessarily addictive, at least dependency-forming. Even so, the severity of you pain may leave you no choice but to use them. Carefully.
    2. If your pain does not show up in MRI’, X-Rays or blood work, your health or disability insurance may renege on you (they did on the author).
    3. If your situation is not just right, Social Security benefits will refuse you one, two, three, four times. Maybe more. This becomes a major fight in your life (it’s been for the author).
    4. You may lose not only your job (and therefore your income) but also your mobility, your hobbies and family activities, and your intimate life.
    5. Your spiritual life will invariably hit a bump. You may be asking “Why, God?” “Why this?” “Why me?” “Do I really deserve this?” This is the area to which Venter gives the most attention, along with your family life and your relationships with your loved ones.
    6. Speaking of your loved ones: When you’re in severe pain; is it (A) OK to be mean or churlish – they’ll understand, or (B) Important to be extra loving and considerate, and to not treat your pain as an excuse to snap at them?

This is just small sample of the stuff coming your way once somebody has pronounced the “disabled” word over you. What’ worse is that your relationships with your loved ones could go south in a hurry if your don’t handle them right. Venter says: “I didn’t write all these things to try and scare my readers — I’m writing them to say: ‘It’ okay! You’re not the only one in this situation, and there are ways to deal with this.’ I try to give you some answers (obviously I don’t have them all) when you break down and pray, and say to God: ‘Lord, the sky is falling on my head. Everything is disintegrating around me. My life is going you-know-where in a hand basket. Please help me, because I cannot do this by myself.’ That is where God’ gracekicks in.”

Venter’s book on chronic pain walks you through this dark valley with honesty and humor as he reminds you of God’ immeasurable grace, while pointing out the pitfalls and potholes. Your journey together with the author builds up throughout the book, until you’re left with a feeling of awe and wonder at God’ goodness, and you once again have a road map for your future. “You do have a future, don’t you?” the author asks. Venter describes his book as somewhat like a parachute. He hopes that you don’t need it, but if you need it, he thinks you need it bad. If it provides some new hope in only one life, Venter says, writing this book would have been worthwhile.Through Pain to Victory – A Christian Guide through Chronic Pain

by Gerhard Venter is available from Amazon.com as a paperback or as a Kindle eBook.

If I Had A Hammer – The Sayings of Thomas à Kempis

Original post by Gerhard Venter, May 7, 2013

In this post I tell how I came to start reading The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, whose Dutch surname was Haemerken (Afrikaans “hamertjie”) — little hammer. And his book is a little hammer, if there ever was one. I’m putting my reading life back together bit by bit. I don’t have a reading plan. I’m suspicious of plans. I just think broadly of the kind of things I want to read.

Fifteenth century mystics are not what I want to read right now. In fact, right now I’m reading The German Way of War by Citino as part of my self-imposed course of study in military history (but that’ a blog post in itself). In the process of trying to establish some semblance of order, I think of a very old technique to get your stuff together: positive affirmations.

I was in my early twenties back in Pretoria when I started dabbling in positive thinking. I got Paul J. Meyers Success Motivation Institute system and pasted positive affirmations (surely a tautology) up on my mirror; inane sayings such as “I get up every morning excited about the person I might help that day.” Don’t you just want to slap the man? Anyway. So I begin to look for some sensible affirmations — ones I can believe in.

In the process a website named http://biblia.com snags the seam of my toga and I have to pause. Mmm. They have wonderful books in there: Several Bibles, some in Hebrew and Greek (with the real orthographies); they have Luther, Calvin — everybody who is anybody. My eye catches The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis. Yeah, I’ve known about The Imitation for many years. These guys used to beat themselves over the back with little cats-o-nine tails they carried with them in silver boxes. Wore hair shirts and stuff. Really into their suffering.

Suffering . . . aha! One of my favorite topics. So I begin to read The Imitation of Christ. After the first page I’m wide-eyed like Ali Baba after he lights the first candle to see what treasure there might be in the cave. Dear Lord, thank You for a resource like this! For insight, for wisdom, for wit, for rules for living like this! This pre-modern man writes rules of thumb such as:

“He does much who loves much. He does much who does a thing well. He does well who serves the common good rather than his own interests.”

Note that this is not quite a corporate “How to get your own way, no matter what” philosophy. But that’ okay by me at this time in my life. So, instead of compiling a reading list, I spend the next several work hours copying out aphorisms and and epigrammata (I’m not sure exactly what they are, either, except short witty sayings) into flashcards at Quizlet so I can hang onto them as tightly as possible.

I called à Kempis a “pre-modern man.” That certainly shows. To mine 21st century affirmations from him, you must do a certain amount of violence to his work by cherry-picking passages, because he was a religious and a mystic.

We squirm a little bit at concepts such as having Christ as your Divine Lover and doing violence to your own body. 99.99999999999% of us aren’t quite at that point. And if you want to be fair to the author, you need to remember that that’ the core of his work — indeed, of his soul. But his deep wisdom surely lifted my spirits and continues to do so.

The Monk’ To Do List

Originally posted on June 14, 2013

I started reading Thomas à Kempis to find some affirmations for my daily life, which, like everyone else’s, I suppose, can be challenging. Being a monk doesn’t exempt a person from work. I’ve met monks who told me one could become exhausted, because in some orders they don’t get a lot of sleep. Anyway, The Imitation of Christ is a treasure trove! Listen to these hints for the monk’ (and mine!) daily to-do list. First, general priorities:

“On the day of judgment, surely, we shall not be asked what we have read but what we have done; not how well we have spoken but how well we have lived” (Book 1, Ch.3)

Next, how do I prioritize my daily activities? Carefully, and in accordance with what pleases God:

“A good and devout man arranges in his mind the things he has to do, not according to the whims of evil inclination but according to the dictates of right reason” (Ch. 4)

What should my attitude be towards work? Do everything well and with love:

“He does much who loves much. He does much who does a thing well. He does well who serves the common good rather than his own interests.” Book 1, Ch. 15.

Is it OK for a monk (or for me) to just read a lot or should our work be a bit more practical than that?

“On the day of judgment, surely, we shall not be asked what we have read but what we have done; not how well we have spoken but how well we have lived” (Book 1, Ch. 3)

Some days at the office are doozies. Work can be true suffering at times. How do we handle that?

“You have come to serve, not to rule. You must understand, too, that you have been called to suffer and to work, not to idle and gossip away your time. Here men are tried as gold in a furnace” (Book 1, Ch.17)

Finally, check your to-do list as a daily routine:

“Each day we ought to renew our resolutions and arouse ourselves to fervor as though it were the first day of our religious life. We ought to say: “Help me, O Lord God, in my good resolution and in Your holy service. Grant me now, this very day, to begin perfectly, for thus far I have done nothing'” (Book 1, Ch.19)
“. . . In the morning make a resolution and in the evening examine yourself on what you have said this day, what you have done and thought . . .” (Book 1, Ch. 3)

If you’re diligent, and you achieve something, albeit small, every day, you will feel fulfilled:

“If you have spent the day profitably, you will always be happy at eventide” (Book 1, Ch. 25)

I don’t think I’ve ever mined this quantity of gems from a single book, apart from the Bible. Mother lode! The Imitation of Christ is available free all over the Web. Check it out.

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

gods-grandchildren-morgan-tcboo-e1477275117220This is a very important day! Today, I’m going to plunge into NaNoWriMo. This means starting my Sci Fi novel, God’s Grandchildren. I have a sort of an outline ready, but it’s not the detailed outline that James Patterson does. That’s probably the reason why Patterson writes eight books per month and I don’t. But we’ll see. If you know me, please hold thumbs for me (or spit in your cat’s eye — whatever your culture demands).
If you want to know more about NaNoWriMo, click here:
And so — off to work!