The Risk and Reward Theory for Pain Patients

When we were young, risk was mostly about punishment. Experimenting and stretching the boundaries is what being young is all about, usually with little thought to the consequences.

As a pain patient, risk is still about punishment. But as adults, we usually know what the risks are for our behavior. And, we get to choose our rewards. As someone who suffers from constant pain, I frequently have to use rewards to force myself to accomplish tasks that make my pain worse — like moving.

When I was in the Medical Cannabis Program, with access to legal medicine, I used that medicine as a reward. I would say to myself, if you go outside, walk around for awhile and take some pictures, when you get back, you can medicate yourself. When you get back, you can have a little bit of pain relief.

The risk is that the increased physical activity will create a pain storm, making my head and ears pound and throb, leaving me wondering if my head is going to implode or explode (I’m never sure which).

But the theory worked. It took months and months, but I was finally able to spend more time moving than I have in, like, forever. Walks that involved distracting myself from the pain by taking pictures. And after I got home and uploaded (both the pictures and my medicine), distracting myself by looking at pictures of the multi-colored Sandia Mountains, cottonwoods, and the gorgeous New Mexican sky. A mixture of awe therapy and reward therapy.

But then my car broke down, requiring hundreds of dollars of repairs.  And because I’m unlucky, it happened during the time that I needed to pay for the renewal into the program. All that work, not wasted, but stymied, just the same.

When the sun rose this morning over another day of little to no sleep, I took my “reward” theory out of my tool box. I said (to myself), if you will try again to sleep for awhile, the next time you open your eyes, you can have some of that melt-in-your-mouth brown sugar candy you made yesterday (I mean, earlier today). And then when I inevitably woke up hours later, I thoroughly enjoyed my nutless praline, and was able to go back to sleep. That theory worked one more time, and I slept for a little longer. Since I rarely feel well-rested, I am still claiming this day’s hours of sleep as a success.

I haven’t yet come up with a reward that is incentive enough to scrub my toilet. Sure, I still do it, but not as often as I should. 🙂

The Risk and Reward Theory for Pain Patients, by me.

One thought on “The Risk and Reward Theory for Pain Patients

  1. When you figure out a sufficient reward for toilet scrubbing you let me know. My only incentive is when I have company coming, and then it depends on who it is. Ha ha! Since I don’t have company very often, guess what??

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