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Video games and art as therapy

Pain relief is an important part of any Lyme disease treatment.

When I informed a friend that I had been diagnosed with Lyme disease and was undergoing treatment, he nodded as if he understood. Then he asked, “so basically you’re just overly-tired, right? You don’t have any pain or anything.”

I’d gotten my
symptoms largely under control at the time. It seemed unnecessary to go into the gory detail, so I simply nodded in agreement. He was right about the overly-tired part, anyway.

The truth was, in the year prior I had actually been driven to the brink of suicide with pain. “Pain management” to me had only been a phrase I’d heard in passing, never gave it any serious thought. Until pain crushed me in its grip and wouldn’t let go.

I picked up a paintbrush instead of a handgun. Fortunately. And miraculously found that for the 30 minutes that I was strong enough to focus on something besides my own survival, I was pain-free. It was incredible. It was weird. I still have a hard time digesting how that could have happened, because my pain was so all-encompassing and constant. But I know that it worked, for whatever reason. How it worked didn’t matter.

But now I realize that it wasn’t so much the act of painting that distracted me from the pain, or held it at bay temporarily. It might have been that I set a tangible goal and was doing something that truly challenged
and engaged me.

A story in the Washington Post,
Taking a cue from video games, a new idea for therapy, discusses the use of gaming to help people heal from trauma and other injuries.

Adding a gaming element to the therapy helps people focus on smaller accomplishments.

“It’s about giving yourself some kind of way to make it through without getting bogged down, as opposed to something big and terrible,” said Dunlap, who is a doctoral candidate at the American School of Professional Psychology.

“One of the biggest struggles is motivation. Video games do that really, really well [and] keep you trying even though you know what you’re doing is difficult.”

Pain management is a relatively new science. It’s easy to forget how quickly medical advances have been made, especially when we feel wronged or misunderstood by doctors. But it’s worth keeping in perspective, as pointed out by the authors of
Follies of Science: 20th Century Visions of Our Fantastic Future.

“Before the twentieth century, good medicine hurt. Patients were bled, purged, and fed awful remedies. George Washington was treated for ‘quinsy’ by doctors who insisted he drink many vials of mercury.”

Have you used art, music or video games as a way to sidestep
chronic pain? I suspect some people suffering from chronic Lyme disease may even do so without thinking they’re doing anything unusual.

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