Interview with Pat South
Pat has completed many pieces of artwork since completing the 4-week Program. View Pat's artwork
Interview with Gianna Knibbs, Pat's Case Manager at the CPMU (July 2008)
Gianna Knibbs (GK): The one thing that brings patients together in the program is that struggles that they face having to live with chronic pain. Pat, tell me a bit about your feelings about coming into this Program?
Pat: "When I first heard about the Program, I was very skeptic, thinking ‘what can the program do for me?' I did not know what to expect or what the Program could offer me. I came to the information session and I promised myself that when I came into the Program I would keep an open mind and that's basically what I did."
GK: What were your thoughts regarding the Program knowing that its focus was on pain management and not pain relief?
Pat: "Up until now, I have gone to doctors and physiotherapists and they have told me there is no cure for my problem. When I came here I don't think I was looking for a solution but I was looking for answers. I don't think I was looking for a cure for my pain problem because in reality I knew deep down inside there was no cure. I kept an open mind coming here... maybe there is something the Program could offer that would help me out along the way?"
GK: So, with keeping an open mind, how was the program helpful for you?
Pat: "Over the last year I have had a lot of trauma in my life. I have had a lot of upsets, much more than most people encounter. I would have to say that coming into the Program when I did could not have come at a better time. I think it has helped me out tremendously."
GK: Pat, how long have you been living with your pain problem?
Pat: "I was injured a year ago, seven or eight months before coming into the Program."
GK: Do you feel it was a good time to come into the Program?
GK: Did you notice any changes emotionally in yourself and how would you describe them?
Pat: "Absolutely. I never thought four weeks could actually change the way a person thinks and feels about herself. I learned a lot about who I was and some of the things that I tried to hide throughout this whole pain process. It made me realize that....it's actually taken me a long time to come to grips with it and now it's kind of like out on the table and it's made me realize that wow, yah, I do have these problems, and now I am willing to deal with them."
GK: So some positive changes around your self-esteem and how you perceive what you can do to help yourself?
Pat: "Yes. I feel like I have a better grip and more control of my life than I did before."
GK:Do I understand then Pat, that you felt a sense of powerlessness before coming to the program?
Pat: "Yes, you could say that. Before I came to the Program I did not want to deal with anything. I did not want to face anything. Coming to the Pain Program, learning different techniques, and talking about my problems and issues that I have been going through, has actually made me want to deal with them and kind of get back on top and feel good about myself. I don't know if that makes sense but it's kind of a life-changing thing. My family has also noticed the difference in my moods."
GK: Tell me about your relationships with your family and friends and how they are different now?
Pat: "I've always had a close relationship with my family but sometimes I am really distant, but now I'm getting closer and more open with them and I seem happier and less moody and more caring."
GK: So, you are getting feedback from your family members?
Pat: "Yes. When you don't feel good about yourself you have a tendency to withdraw and hide in a corner. When you have things that you want to deal with and you start dealing with them, you start feeling good about yourself. It is kind of like coming out of a shell... you want to share that with everybody. I'm starting to share now and I'm starting to feel better and I'm starting to talk about things that bother me. It's a good thing."
GK: There are different components in the Program, like functional activity time, where clients can get back to doing things that they have stopped doing because of their pain. Did you find that this was useful in terms of achieving some of the goals that you had coming into the Program?
Pat: "Actually, I thought it was very, very good. During my stay here I did a lot of painting. If you ask my sister, I suck at it but I enjoy painting now. It is something I want to take up as a hobby. Overall, I just find myself wanting to do more. I want to take up hobbies. I find it very relaxing."
GK: So your interest in getting into hobbies is different?
Pat: "Yes. I did crocheting before but I lost it since my injury. While in the Program I did painting and the odd little bit of gardening. Since I left the Program I have a little garden outside that I weed regularly and I planted some plants in pots on my front porch that and water them regularly. My sister brought over her kitchen cupboards for me to paint. It took me three days to paint them and I made a mess of them but I enjoyed it. I looked like Oscar the Grouch. I was as green as he was on TV. I had paint everywhere but I loved it. I spent three days outside and I would paint one, sit down, have a drink of tea, and sit in the back yard."
GK: It sounds like the idea of pacing activities was useful for you to be able to engage in this hobby?
Pat: "Absolutely. And I know now that pacing is okay and I pace and I don't care what anybody says. Before, I was afraid to pace. Now I pace and I pace and I do it at my own speed. If somebody is in a hurry, I am sorry, go your own way. I'm pacing. I'm taking my time. So, sometimes it takes me a long time to do something but I pace and I'm okay with this."
GK: Again, looking at the different areas of the program, medication management is another. How has the Program's education about pain management influenced your views of ideas about medication?
Pat: "My medication had changed over the course of the year. Since the program, I still am on narcotics. I don't take as many narcotics. I am trying to slowly wean myself off of them and hopefully someday I will be totally off them."
GK: What is helping you achieve your goal of weaning off your medication?
Pat: "Just the art of pacing. I do my relaxation. I have relaxation in the morning. I do relaxation at nighttime and I just pace, pace, pace. Pace and relax."
GK: So you have learned and now use different ways of managing your pain along with medication in your daily life?
Pat: "Yes. There are days where I can have a minimum amount of pain and then there are days where I feel that my head is just going to explode with pain. Those are the days that I will sit down and do a full-body relaxation. It's like the imaginary we learned at the Program."
GK: That's a great way to respond to increased pain. Pat, we talked a lot about new ways of managing your pain since you came into the Program. How do you see your future as being changed or different to what you thought it would be prior to coming to the program?
Pat: "I am just taking it one day at a time. I have a better outlook on life. I know that I do things different now but it's OK. My whole frame of mind is totally better. I think better, I feel better and even though I may be permanently disabled for the rest of my life, I know I'm going to be OK and that's where I put my frame of mind."
Pat: "Just like that broken down tree."
GK: Are there plans for you to go back to school or work?
Pat: "Yes, I would like to go back to retraining and get back into the work force. I'm actually looking forward to it because it will be my new beginning.
GK: How do you think you will do when this happens? What are your thoughts?
Pat: "I really loved my previous job. I know I'm going to miss it dearly... but you never know; like, coming into this Program, I have to keep an open mind. Change is hard but it's renewing. I have really thought about what I wanted to do and I know now that I enjoy helping people. I look forward to becoming involved somehow in this way."
GK: This is interesting because you are doing this interview today: One of the purposes of the interview is to help and give perspective to people considering the Program, and having similar feelings to what your were before coming in - is this a good place for me? What am I looking for? What can they provide for me that I haven't received until now? You are helping others in this way.
Pat: "Exactly. Four weeks does not sound like a lot of time but in four weeks you can pack a lot of information into a person."
GK: Did it sound like a lot of time at the start?
Pat: "No it didn't. I thought, what can I learn in four weeks? I took a lot home with me and I try and use it every day."
GK: Excellent. Pat, one last thing, if you had to give a message to people who are living with chronic pain right now, people in similar shoes to yours, what would it be?
Pat: "Well, my message to them would be not to give up. I have to refer to that broken down tree. For a long time, I was angry, I was frustrated and I thought it was the end of the world. I mean, you're injured, you don't know where you're going. You're unsure about your future. Still, my advice is don't give up. Stay positive and you have to keep an open mind. If you can learn to pace and learn to relax and learn to do things differently, there is always a new beginning. That's about it. I don't know what else to say. I mean, that's what I've learned, and I try and focus on that every day."