Facts first: Therapy (physical or psychological) requires that you do a large portion of the work (probably 75%) at home, continuously. Doctors cannot fix you (in most instances of pain complaint) without your participation in the healing process. We professionals can only take you so far – you are with you many many more hours a day than we are with you…so, it is largely in your hands. Even with the right medications, the best physical therapy and wise advice from your favorite psychologist, none of it matters if you don’t take the pills, do the exercises or change your thoughts as prescribed. This means that, even if you feel better with treatment or therapy, you have to keep doing it (e.g., taking your medications, going to physical therapy [PT] or psychotherapy, etc). If it works, why stop? Think about brushing your teeth – you don’t say “I brushed my teeth, they’re clean, I can stop now” (your four year old says this, not you). You are a work in progress, never quite finished or done. Maintenance, effort, upkeep – these are the buzzwords I want you to take away here. Even more importantly, control and responsibility. These two, fortunately or frustratingly, go hand in hand – if you give over total control to your medical team and take a passive role, well, you can always blame someone else when things don’t improve, but you also can’t really say you are in control of your own destiny either. Some people like the backseat and don’t want to drive, but that can be debilitating in the long run, mentally and physically. What may feel like a burden or another thing on your shoulders really is an invitation to be your own best treatment source, to heal thyself! (You see, this post is meant to inspire action, not despair and frustration).
There may be another layer here as to why people tend to stop doing what is good for them – often, doing “it,” whatever it is, can be a reminder of illness, injury, or vulnerability. “I don’t need a cane, that’s only for old people.”
“I don’t need to see a shrink, I’m not crazy.”
Phrases like this have been said by you or someone in your family, I’d bet. Or my favorite, “I don’t want to go to the doctor, she’ll just tell me something’s wrong.” We often cling to the irrational belief that, if you ignore it, it’ll go away. Good luck with that… Being told you have pain or illness, or being given medicine or treatment can be (frighteningly) seen as evidence that you have something wrong with you. Alternatively, (and the view I prefer) these things can give you the tools to take control and be part of the team that is getting you back to life. Do you want the backseat, or the driver’s seat? Do you want control and responsibility or would you rather sit back and complain? You may not like the circumstances, it may not be your fault that things are the way they are, but it is your problem, and you are the one who has to live like this every day. Wouldn’t you like to live a better life? Well, in many ways, it’s up to you…