How I Steer My Inner Pain Conversation to a Place Where I Can Sleep

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by Dr. C |

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Bad pain day. Trying to keep my mind distracted. Perhaps a good show is on television. Or maybe a movie. The “off” cycle will kick in within a few hours. Pain gets worse. Last medication before bed. Time to be quiet and contemplative, but the pain intrudes upon this space. It’s always murmuring, sometimes shouting, and ever-present. Finding sleep means I need to sit in the “pause between.” I repeat the following mantra to myself:

You can do this. Breathe in: 1, 2. Breathe out: 1, 2.

Let go and allow.

My mind will have nothing to do with this “pause between” nonsense. Waving the imagined finger, my brain’s neocortex, “Neo,” interrupts and says, “How’s that to-do list coming? You’re feeling like you didn’t get much done today. You’re trying to make up for that by working on a new to-do list, but having trouble focusing. This pain sure is annoying.”

Neo continually intrudes on my search for the pause between. He can be more annoying than the pain. I respond flatly, “Yeah, nothing new.” I shift in bed to try to relax as I search for the pause between.

You can do this. Breathe in: 1, 2, 3. Breathe out: 1, 2, 3.

Let go and allow.

Neo pokes a nerve cell. “Remember what the pain was like the other night? Whoo-ee, you were tossing and turning, it felt like we were on a roller coaster!”

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My night often starts with thrashing in bed. As I switch positions to find comfort, the covers take on a life of their own, and soon I am entwined by the albino boa constrictor sheets. Waves of pain wash over me as I uncoil the bed linen. Neo didn’t offer any assistance. “Could be a terrible night, you know. It’s surely starting that way. Doesn’t seem to be much you can do about it, huh? You know that each time you try to quieten down to rest, the pain gets louder. I mean, I’m doing what I’m supposed to do, reminding you of the day’s events and whatnot. But it just feels like you’re not trying to fall asleep. You know that you are failing at it.”

The “you’re not good enough” button always hit a tender spot, triggering a surge of anger mixed with worthlessness. I take deep breaths and let out a long sigh of exasperation. Throughout my life this button has been pushed more times than our president has sent a tweet.

Neo pauses for a moment before offering the following, “Lots of memories of pain are connected to punishment, oppression, and self-worth issues. But this is an old familiar path, and you know what will happen if you take that fork in the journey.”

Moving along this well-trodden path, I know that I can tune out those “old voices.” They offer nothing more than the cackling of old hens.

You can do this. Breathe in: 1, 2, 3. Breathe out: 1, 2, 3.

Let go and allow.

Neo jumps in. “We’re not finished here. You have a few things about which to worry. You are trapped in a cycle of heightened emotions, increased pain, and poor sleep.” The logic of his interruption, illustrated with an emotional soundtrack, send me into a worry spin like a dog chasing its tail. The more I worry, the more I became stuck in it. If I keep spinning, I will cross over the “you will never get back to sleep” threshold. I need to return to the pause between.

You can do this. Breathe in: 1, 2, 3, 4. Breathe out: 1, 2, 3, 4.

Let go and allow.

As the first glimmers of change appear, my conversation partner, Neo, warns, “You know the pain is just going to get louder when you do this.”

Very firmly, without anger, I say, “I know that I can move into a pause between and then to a quiet place. I’ve done it before, and I can do it again.”

I can do this. Breathe in: 1, 2, 3, 4. Breathe out: 1, 2, 3, 4.

Let go and allow.

Neo senses the changes. The perceptions of pain and discomfort are slowly lowering. The cool night breezes tuck me into a bed that suddenly feels very embracing. I have no more need to talk about the pain.

Breathe in: 1, 2, 3, 4. Breathe out: 1, 2, 3, 4.

Let go and allow.

Breathe in: 1, 2, 3, 4. Breathe out: 1, 2, 3, 4.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Then, 15 minutes later, I am sound asleep.


Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.


Jessica Winograd avatar

Jessica Winograd

Thanks for sharing your path thru the darkened woods.

Dr. C. avatar

Dr. C.

It's only dark when the batteries to my flashlight run out. I try to keep my heart light on. Thanks for your comment and thank you for checking in on my columns. It is my pleasure and honor to be able to share my insights with everyone.

Derek Marshall avatar

Derek Marshall

My neo is BPH, the over active prostate, that, throughout the night, nudges me to get up, followed by too much wakefulness before nepanthes takes me in her arms again. I deal with this with hard-fought patience, but some help comes, and this I pass on to anyone who has trouble sleeping. No guarantees, but it does help:

Rescue Sleep / Rescue Night calms your restless mind providing natural relief of occasional sleeplessness caused by stress and repetitive thoughts. Non-habit forming, Non sedatives, No hangover, Fast acting, Insomnia Caused by Stress. Made from 6 of the Bach Flower Remedies

Worth a try...


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