02 December 2013

After two weeks of whatever, I was back at work today. There, I did it. Other people go to work - have to go to work - with more dramatic symptoms. I had forgotten to what level fatigue can rise and how it can knock me over once the door has been opened. But I made it. Frankly, I have no idea how but never mind.
And the sun was out today after such a long time. 

Last Thursday I sat with a friend who is having a hard time coping with the sudden death of a young niece. Now, that is what I would call a hard time and she is struggling but underneath she has this tremendous trust, in life, in recovery. We sat close and hugged and held hands and I wiped away her tears and I was hoping that some of her trust will rub off on me.
But in the end I just felt sad. And a bit afraid of dying. But only a little bit, for a short while.

I read about this study with the 75 healthy male volunteers at the University of Hamburg. These happy and healthy men were randomly assigned to two groups and half of them were given a nasal spray with oxytocin and the other half were given a nasal spray with salt water. But of course, nobody knew who got what. Some time later, a nice male doctor comes along and rubs two identical ointments on two sites of a participant's arm all the time explaining and identifying pretending that one of these is an anaesthetic ointment that reduces pain and that the other one is just a control cream (but we know that they are both the same). Then the doctor does some elaborate mumbo-jumbo setting up something to measure pain stimulation. Next,
 a series of 10 stimuli of the calibrated intensity was applied to each of the 2 sites in pseudorandomized order. Each stimulus lasted for 20 seconds, followed by a rating procedure and 40-second rest.
 And here's the thing:
Despite identical thermal stimulation on both sites, pain ratings for the placebo [anaesthetic ointment] site were significantly lower compared with the control [ointment] site across both treatment groups.  
So just because they were told that the cream was reducing pain, they felt less pain. Well, yes, I have been a mother to a small child, I know that trick. But there is more:  
The placebo analgesic response was significantly higher in the oxytocin group compared with the saline group.
In other words, the participants who got oxytocin trusted the doctor's instructions, believed him and felt less pain. 

I've got a long way to go here. Obviously, no oxytocin is coming my way and thanks to all heavens and skies, I have very little pain. But still, I wish I could trust my doctors, just take my meds and do as told and rest assured that they know what's happening and that I will be ok - whatever that is - and never once let any or all of these nagging worries and questions enter my mind and spread through my body like an electric current. Being unwell can turn into an endless session of existential questioning and struggling to hold back the what if scenarios. All that stuff that theoretically I have long left behind.
So what else is new.



37paddington said...

This resonates for me right now as my cousin is dealing with a sick daughter and doctors who try to dismiss her mother insights into her child and who think they know best without taking the time to know the child. Things are a little better now that they have moved to another hospital, but it is so hard to trust. And yet what choice do we have? I am glad you felt well enough today to go out in the world.

Fire Bird said...

Here listening to how hard this is. No easy answers. Well done for getting to work. Go gently.

mm said...

The third sentence from the end strikes such a chord with me. Well done for getting back to work - a real achievement.