Dissociating physical pain away

Digz

MyPTSD Pro
Does anybody else dissociate physical pain away?
If I experience pain, it can be pain of any kind but especially more intense pain, my brain tends to dissociate it either away completely or dissociate enough of it that it's significantly downgraded. This has its positives, I guess, but can be really tricky if you need to tell a doctor your symptoms or rate your pain 0-10.
My husband and others have often said I have a very high pain tolerance, it is only in recent years I have figured out why. I have recently been quite sick and experiencing a lot of pain and have discovered when talking to doctors/nurses in hospital I have to 'up' my rating of pain from the number rating I actually believe it is. Otherwise, they give me painkillers but the other symptoms of severe pain linger and I can be shaking and vomiting but not realising why. I think for me, my dissociative tendencies make diagnosis of any illness very difficult as I also forget about other symptoms.
 

Friday

Moderator
I tell them childbirth is a 6, and a simple fracture is a 3, so use their best judgement as to what number it “should” be given those facts.

My personal pain scale, if I’m talking? At all? It’s 7 or below. At 8 I can only scream, at 9 it’s posturing, and 10 IDFK what I’m doing / I’ve lost all awareness of anything BUT the pain. They usually double my number, sometime triple it... once they realize that’s my deal. I don’t always remember to tell them. But I’d developed a bit of a tick ;) with “I HATE that question.” falling out of my mouth nearly any time I’m asked. It’s just like, dude. If I can answer you? It’s not that bad.

I’ve come to really looooove 💞 ♥️ 💕 “On a scale from 1 to stepping on a Lego, how bad is your pain?” THAT? I can f*cking answer.
 

Digz

MyPTSD Pro
That sounds exactly like me @Friday . I love the Lego question!! I had never thought of giving a reference, I might try that. It was only last time I was in hospital that it really clicked with me that I needed to adjust it in some way or express it differently as the pain I was tolerating and dissociating was rated very different in my mind, or experienced differently. I like the rating of childbirth about a 6. Last time I had bad pain it was the scream, don't know what the f*** is going on and vomit from the pain kind and that was way above what I would rate childbirth. I will remember that reference for next time!
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
I get this.

I absolutely disassociated from the physical pain of when my trauma happened. It must have been painful, but I have no memory of pain.
And I could handle pyshcial pain easily too.
I also wonder if it is thinking: it is just physical pain which isn't a big deal. I.e. a trauma impacted way of looking after myself? I'm not worth expressing it or talking about it or how painful pain is, because who cares and it's just not important?

It's just another thing to grit teeth an get through.

But it's learning about that and actually feeling it and just trusting your scale of 1-10? Because everyone's must be different?
 

RussellSue

MyPTSD Pro
shaking and vomiting but not realising why
Nausea is usually how I know that my pain level is unreasonably high. I grew up having surgeries on my face (cleft lip and palate) and I learned to dissociate from pain so young that trying to back up and be a good physical therapy patient now has been very hard because I don't know what high level pain feels like. I think I figured that if I was expected to lose my lunch (through my nose) in a toilet hours after having stitches put up both nostrils at 8 years old and not cry, then it must not have been all that painful.

I'm 40 and last year I suffered some significant injuries because I had a number of underlying issues in my hips that I didn't know about. I have now been in recovery for 15 months from those injuries and while I am definitely getting better, I think the long haul has mostly been a lot about not communicating symptoms that I was having because I was too busy drifting away to deal with the pain from walking around with torn cartilage surrounding my hip sockets, all the while thinking it must not be that bad since I could still walk. My guess is that I have had a compressed nerve this entire time but the numb spot in my foot was really only mentioned to my primary care, one time.

I tell them childbirth is a 6, and a simple fracture is a 3, so use their best judgement as to what number it “should” be given those facts.

I agree that providing that sort of context makes good sense. If you don't relate to the "normal" pain scale, it's not going to work to communicate the issue.

If you can do any better than I can at relaxing and paying attention at home, maybe keep a journal of symptoms and take a list to your doc, rather than expecting to catch/remember them all in the office??
 
Last edited:

Digz

MyPTSD Pro
not communicating symptoms that I was having because I was too busy drifting away
You put this so well and that is definitely me too. I have actually just started doing what you have suggested, something my hubby suggested just the other day too - making a list of symptoms. There are definitely more there than I realised, that I have been busy drifting away from but even now I know I'm probably not remembering it all. My hubby will often remember symptoms that I don't. In fact, he will often assist me at the docs by giving symptoms or asking questions I just don't even think to ask either, because I think I actually struggle to think about it as I'm always drifting away. Only problem with that is a lot of the nurses/docs give him dirty looks which makes him uncomfortable because they kind of presume he is a misogynistic male who won't let his wife talk for herself and often they won't let him explain why he is answering/adding information. Which is kind of ironic in a way as I grew up surrounded by such males and he is actually the complete opposite.
Nausea is usually how I know that my pain level is unreasonably high.
Thank you for sharing that, it actually helps me a lot. It has not been until just recently that I have begun to wonder if that's what's happening to me. One of the last times I was in hospital I was shaking and hot and cold like I had a fever but I didn't and I was vomiting. I completely confused the doctors and all they wanted to do was give me anti-nausea medication. Luckily my hubby was there and kept insisting that I had been in horrendous pain just before we came to the hospital and they needed to give me painkillers. I had totally forgotten I had even been in such pain but luckily he highly suspected I was dissociating it out.
It's just another thing to grit teeth an get through.
Yes, I think subconsciously I have this attitude and what I'm beginning to realise is that I do just grit my teeth and get through it and afterwards my brain dissociates the experience away. The experience is either forgotten altogether or it is remembered as lots less significant in terms of its impact.
 

RussellSue

MyPTSD Pro
Only problem with that is a lot of the nurses/docs give him dirty looks which makes him uncomfortable because they kind of presume he is a misogynistic male who won't let his wife talk for herself and often they won't let him explain why he is answering/adding information. Which is kind of ironic in a way as I grew up surrounded by such males and he is actually the complete opposite.
Right after I hurt myself, I had to put my cat down at like 3:00 in the morning because he was having heart failure. A few hours later, I had my first appointment with a new primary care. Being in intense pain, running on lack of sleep and still being quite raw from holding my best kitty while he died, I went into meltdown when the nurse told me that my husband could not come in for my appointment. I NEEDED him to. I told the nurse that if he couldn't come in, I would have to leave because the appointment would be a complete waste without him there. They let him in but they didn't forget I was a "problem" patient. I ended up having to find a new provider.

My husband told me later that they probably just wanted to verify that I wasn't being abused without him in the room but I found this very distressing and unhelpful since it increased my stress level and made it that much harder to think. Why not ask me over the phone or trust that I am grown and might be able to call for help if I need/want it? I feel like it runs in line with what you were talking about -- here is this extremely kind and patient man who helps me feel safe and sometimes serves as my memory and his presence is treated like threat to my well-being. They are eyeballing him like he's a dick when he's really there to help.

I hope you are able to figure out what all is going on and get some relief. My PT has basically said that if I am mildly uncomfortable, I must get up and do something about it. His go-to is stretching for my situation but if that and the heating pad fail, put on a pain patch or take something. Under no circumstances should I be ignoring discomfort, at this point, because I have done a lot of damage just pushing through and not paying attention to the pain. Since I started really understanding what he was saying and getting serious about paying attention, I have actually had an easier time.

I was bitching in a recent post because he told me to "listen to my body." I can't do yoga because my shoulders are also in bad shape but otherwise listening to my body is hard because I am uncomfortable, all over the place. I do not even want to try and notice all of what is going on because there is just too much. So, I haven't gotten real Zen or anything BUT I am really trying to help myself just by slowing down and taking action when I do notice even little things.

Best of luck getting things figured out.
 

Eagle3

MyPTSD Pro
OMG, story of my life, literally. I can't discuss anything with doctors because they don't believe I'm actually in pain. Between Autism, PTSD, and degenerative genetic disorders in my joints, I'm in CONSTANT pain but cannot express it in a way anyone recognizes. I get so much stuff done while in pain that would incapacitate anyone else, just because pain is my life, and I'm used to it. Dissociation is the only way I can cope with this much pain, and docs don't get it. Then, when you try to actually TELL them about pain levels, they just accuse me of being a drug-seeker, or it being purely MH-related, or attention-seeking, and ignore me completely. It SUCKS!!

I like the idea of a different pain scale. I've also had to learn to consciously express pain in a way doctors can recognize. I've even been working with my mindfulness-based T on learning to pay attention to my body and respond when something feels "off". I'm in a lot less pain now, and can actually function better, but I still have the underlying pain that never goes away to deal with.

Good luck finding answers!
 

Digz

MyPTSD Pro
They are eyeballing him like he's a dick when he's really there to help.
That is exactly how it is for my husband, often. It's nice and simultaneously not nice to know someone else experiences that. I agree that they have to check women aren't in trouble but I think there are better ways of doing so.

I am really trying to help myself just by slowing down and taking action when I do notice even little things.
I am just starting to do that too. but it can be tricky. I guess it's like all these things, you get better at it over time. This morning I was doing some housework and I reckon for about twenty minutes I had just been gripping my side as I did it because I was in pain but the concept hadn't really registered with me, I was just pressing on it and continuing what I was doing! Took some painkillers when I finally realised!

The doctors think they know what's going on with me. It is likely my endometriosis, am just waiting to see a specialist and see what they decide for treatment. Unfortunately until then I just have to put up with the symptoms.
 

grit

MyPTSD Pro
Two things come to mind:
I dissociated while having laser eye surgery when I saw the scalpel coming at me! I honestly think this affected my eyesight now (maybe the focus went blank and the laser did not work properly) but I avoided the pain or the impact of the scalpel!
I thing another reason I probably kept up my dissociation for so long (and I am little embarrassed of this) is, it makes me look good and youthful ( I can feel the delusion behind this now) but I did not know what I know today. I exuded an attitude of looking young cause I truly felt...until the fog was removed and there is a middle age face staring right back at me! Wow!
so yeah, I will concur it can be that powerful if one uses it for these sort of things intentionally or unintentionally.
 
Top