Overcoming Setbacks in Self Managing Pain

14th September 2023 | Louise Trewern

Sometimes, things happen in our lives that we are unable to predict. When this happens, the fallout can derail us from our otherwise successful self-management routine.
In April I ended my 16-year marriage for reasons I won’t go into here but suffice to say neither of us had done anything wrong. I changed so much when I came off opioids six years ago and continued to change!


This was not something I did lightly and even though it was my decision, it broke my heart. It would have been easier to stick my head in the sand but A) that would not have been fair to either of us, and B) one thing I have learned is just how much repressed emotions can impact our experience of pain as well as our mental health. I owed it to both of us to be completely honest.

Then came the emotional rollercoaster…. I’ve never liked those rides!

The sadness led to poor meal choices, too much inflammatory fatty / sugary / fast foods, too much alcohol, not enough sleep; the sadness increased fatigue which then meant I wouldn’t do the exercise bike, I also stopped swimming because I didn’t have the energy and I only walked twice a week when I led the health walks. Predictably, my pain began to increase. Old pains started to rear their ugly heads again, my feet and then my knees and then my back started to creep in. Of course, I knew why, but that didn’t make it any easier to manage, or to call a halt to the things I knew were ramping up my pain!

Initially, I started down the old road of berating myself for firstly getting it wrong and then for not immediately putting it right. Thankfully I did recognize that I had to stop doing that and be kinder to myself, allow myself to be sad and allow the emotions to wash over me, notice all the negative thoughts and then let them go. The only reason I didn’t drown is because I clung to the knowledge that the storm would pass, and I would gradually begin to pick up the pieces again and get my self- management routine back on track. I listened to my body, did what I could when I felt like it and no more, so one day I did 5-10 minutes of bike, another day I did a dip in the sea, but I lowered my expectations of myself and celebrated what I could manage, after all it was better than doing nothing!

At one point my foot pain got so bad I could hardly walk and when I did I was walking wonky which I knew was causing the pain in my back so I took the decision to take the anti- inflammatory drug Naproxen for no more than a week (more really upsets my gut) which I hoped would allow me to walk properly and increase activity, therefore allowing me to drop it after a week. It worked!

I started to address the bad food choices, exploring healthy recipes, cut back on alcohol and got more sleep.

I am sure you can guess the results.
Today I walked briskly to the beach here in Torquay (a mile and a half) with my trusty shopping trolley (not a supermarket one I must quickly add) had two 20-minute dips and walked home again which involves a steep hill, three miles in total.

I am sure the roller coaster ride isn’t quite over yet, but I’m beginning to cope much better with the ups and downs!

The two of us want to remain the best of friends!

So, my message is – we never know when when a setback may happen but when it does, and it most certainly will at some point…. remember self-care, it will pass and until it does, be kind to yourself, don’t be afraid to ask for help and cut back on your commitments and your activity but remember it’s only TEMPORARY!