A Pained Life: When Habits Hurt

By Carol Levy, Columnist

I am a creature of habits, some of them bad. Not the “I can't stop eating chocolate”  kind of bad,  but bad in that I don’t always follow my own advice.

For example, I have a bad neck and as a result lifting something heavy often leaves me with worse neck pain. Every time I lift something heavy, I hesitate and think, “You need to put on the neck brace first. You really need to do that.”

Then I get annoyed and tell myself putting on the neck brace would be too much trouble.

The fact that I leave the brace out on the dresser and it is easily accessible makes no difference. My neck is held together with clamps and screws. How can a neck held together with a bunch of metal not be able to pick up anything, no matter what it is?

The fallacy of that thought is proven each time I move something heavy. But I don't heed myself and I pick it up anyway. Bad habit #1.

Then comes bad habit #2. The neck brace is supposed to help hold up my neck. But even when I wear it, I fight it. A good example is what happens when I take out the trash

The containers are a little ways away from my apartment. I do not want to have to make a number of trips (there is always a minimum of 2 large bags and more often 3). At least one is filled with cat box litter and is always heavy. The extra weight turns me into a turtle. I automatically scrunch up my shoulders and lower my neck as I lift the bags, feeling that somehow makes me stronger.

It doesn't, of course. And once I am finished my neck hurts horribly and the pain exhausts me.

So why don't I learn my lesson? Why do I fight doing a really simple thing that will help me?

One reason is denial and the other is looking at the short term rather than the long. I have to make the decision to accept what I can and cannot do -- sometimes just out of sheer stubbornness -- if I want help myself and reduce the pain when and where I can.

It is a lesson so hard to learn because it comes out of an acceptance of our limitations. At the end of the day, it is not the physical things that I do or refuse to do that cause the pain. It is my refusal to accept. Then I’m not a turtle but an ostrich, keeping my head in the sand.

I wish they had a neck brace for that.

Carol Jay Levy has lived with trigeminal neuralgia, a chronic facial pain disorder, for over 30 years. She is the author of “A Pained Life, A Chronic Pain Journey.” 

Carol is the moderator of the Facebook support group “Women in Pain Awareness.” Her blog “The Pained Life” can be found here.

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represent the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.