Because many of you are disabled and dealing with chronic pain, I wanted to share my experience with pain and right-brain activity like painting and drawing.
I am a very left-brain dominant person. I constantly worked with words, numbers, symbols, etc. When I started dealing with pain on a daily basis, I found that my left brain was trying to make sense of it. I could describe the pain with words (nails being driven through my skull) or numbers (on a scale of 1-10 my pain is __).
But my right brain was also trying to find a way to express those sometimes overwhelming sensations and didn’t know how. Once I started painting, I found it was very therapeutic to give pain a color or a geometric shape or a soft or hard line. These weren’t actual paintings, just expressions of colors and shapes on paper. But when my right brain was engaged and allowed to “speak” I found that my pain was diminished.
From all my years of working as a doula (a companion for women during labor and childbirth) I knew that pain was something that needed to be processed or it would build up and become unbearable. One of the techniques used is to distract the brain. It’s kind of like interrupting a conversation so that attention is diverted. In labor this can be done with massage or rocking or deep breathing. Vocalizing with low humming and moaning can relieve tension.
Unfortunately aside from childbirth, our friends and family tend to get weary of us verbalizing our pain and asking for physical comfort measures. In fact studies show that caregivers often get burned out and suffer physical and mental exhaustion. That puts even more strain on relationships: “What is Caregiver Burnout?”
I find that curling up on the couch with a pencil and paper and drawing or even doodling helps me begin to let my right brain “speak” and process the pain. Often I don’t have the energy to actually sit at my table or easel to paint, but a pencil works anywhere. Hum while you work, rock back and forth a bit and take deep breaths. It can do wonders for your mind and your body!