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Episode 11 | Managing Pain: Long Term Healing and Success

Dive into the world of pain management, long-term healing, and achieving success against all odds, featuring Dr Mandy Mercuri.

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Podcast Transcript

Episode 11: Managing Pain: Long Term Healing and Success


[00:00:39] Amy Squires: Hello, everyone. Welcome back to the Holistic Health Show. Thank you for joining me again today. Today we have Mandy Mercuri on the show. Mandy is a mindfulness coach and writer, and it's through her own journey, through her own, really her entire life, that she's come this far. She's You know, become a [00:01:00] mindfulness coach, teaching others through what she's actually been experiencing and finding useful in her own life.

[00:01:07] Amy Squires: Now, Mandy will be the one to tell you this story a lot better than I can. So welcome to the show, Mandy, and thank you for joining me.

[00:01:14] Mandy Mercuri: . Thank you for having me. Looking forward to it.

[00:01:16] Amy Squires: Excited. I know a little bit about your story, just having known you over the past, gosh, it's been a few years now I guess we could say, yeah, 10 or 12 years since we've really kind of met.

[00:01:27] Amy Squires: Probably. Yeah. So go ahead. I'd want you to just dive right in.

[00:01:33] Mandy Mercuri: Cool. It's always tricky with these things to know when to start. So I probably feel like my journey began when I was 11. I got diagnosed with scoliosis, which is a curvature of the spine. The diagnosis story is pretty cool. My sister was actually learning PE at university at the time and was learning about this thing called scoliosis.

[00:01:54] Mandy Mercuri: Okay. She came home and she said to me, Oh, just, I need you to just like bend over and touch your toes. I'm learning [00:02:00] this thing at uni. And then like there was sort of silence and she sort of like. Made these funny noises and sort of kind of went and whispered to my mum. Wow. And yeah, so she pretty much had diagnosed me from what she was learning at uni and we went off to the GP and yeah, so began a very long journey in the medical system to correct that scoliosis.

[00:02:20] Mandy Mercuri: So we found out from an x ray that it was like, Like an S shape, like quite severe at which, like kind of almost automatically put me into the, the needing to have an operation basket. Yeah, and so I because it was shaped like an S, the top part of my curve, we, we had an operation for that when I was 12 and then we had a couple of years where they did various types of treatment to try and, Allow that bottom half of the curve to correct, but that didn't happen.

[00:02:48] Mandy Mercuri: So I had a second operation when I was 16. So My spine is full of some metal hardware and some screws and fusion and looks pretty gnarly on an x ray [00:03:00] But yeah, you must have those images. Do you? Yeah. Yeah, they're pretty cool. I'll have to show you a picture Yeah, I'd like to see that yeah, so then kind of from then on yeah, lots of medical intervention to try and deal with the chronic pain that ensued pretty much from that point.

[00:03:18] Mandy Mercuri: Did you

[00:03:18] Amy Squires: have pain prior to that? I mean, it would have been a shock at 11 having your sister kind of just, you know, just really experiencing it. Going through what she had learned at uni and, you know, not really expecting, I'm sure, to find anything.

[00:03:31] Mandy Mercuri: No, it was quite a shock. Yeah, no pain and surprisingly, not even anyone in the family had kind of even really noticed.

[00:03:37] Mandy Mercuri: I mean, it was quite obvious once it was pointed out that I had shoulder blades that were not in line and, like, quite mis mal mal aligned, that's the word hips So once we knew we looked and went, Oh, yeah, that's actually quite obvious. But I mean, think of, you know, 11 year old girl is not, you know, getting changed in front of her parents or anything like that.

[00:03:57] Mandy Mercuri: So looking for it and I, I just, you know, you [00:04:00] grow up with it. So you just, that's my body. I was just looking at it thinking that that was kind of normal. So yeah, it was a bit of a shock. And there generally isn't pain with scoliosis at a young age because it's Yeah, it's sort of like your body is just growing in that way and yeah, it wasn't really until after all of that intervention that pain started for me.

[00:04:21] Mandy Mercuri: Yeah.

[00:04:23] Amy Squires: Gosh, I bet, so I guess the surgeries, I mean, even just the recovery from that, such a young age to be going through such a trauma to your body.

[00:04:31] Mandy Mercuri: Yeah. And again, because you just sort of do it and you don't think about it, it hasn't been until many years later that I have reflected. That that probably was a, quite a traumatic experience.

[00:04:41] Mandy Mercuri: So I was for both operations, maybe in hospital for about a week and then recovering at home for quite a few weeks, took a lot of time off school in between the first and the second operation. I had to wear this like, very hardcore fiberglass brace for six months that they thought might help to realign the [00:05:00] curve.

[00:05:00] Mandy Mercuri: And then I also wore these daggy shoes where, like, I had to have this big block on one side to try and realign. That, that was all the, like, kind of way that they thought they could you know address the problem back then. You know, since then there's been quite a few developments in the treatment of scoliosis.

[00:05:16] Mandy Mercuri: So it's not. They don't actually go about it that way sort of so much anymore, but yeah, so very much in the medical model of this is wrong with you, we're going to fix it. And, and I did, like, if you saw my x ray, straight spine, that's to them, that means yes, we've done our job. Yeah. But yeah, all of that change in the body obviously is going to result in some, yeah, adaptations.

[00:05:41] Mandy Mercuri: Yeah,

[00:05:42] Amy Squires: and I'd imagine long term pain. So, I mean, what did recovery look like? I mean, sure, you've now got a straight spine, but I guess all that hardware, that, you know, must be uncomfortable or, you know, what?

[00:05:54] Mandy Mercuri: Yes. So I suppose the, the pain's, yeah, in terms of like [00:06:00] how or why the pain started, like there's a lot of, that was quite a serious interruption to, you know, nerves and you know, quite a significant operation.

[00:06:09] Mandy Mercuri: So once the pain generally started, I. You know, went to seek treatment and a lot of the treatment was, you know, Oh, you need to protect your back. So, you know, you need to brace your core and you need to do these exercises. And I think just for me, a lot of the problems started with that fear, the fear of movement of hurting my back.

[00:06:29] Mandy Mercuri: So I would probably, you know, brace myself and try and avoid certain movements. And, you know, what I have since learned about the sort of cycle of chronic pain is that. That is basically just telling my body to be scared of movement and sort of sensitizing my whole nervous system to danger. Like everything seems like it's a threat because, you know, I've had these experiences where my pain flares up.

[00:06:52] Mandy Mercuri: So let's avoid all circumstances, anything to do with how that might've happened. And yeah, this ends up becoming a, a pretty [00:07:00] A vicious cycle of, of sort of learning, learning pain is what I've kind of

[00:07:04] Amy Squires: found out. Almost constant stress, you know, mentally and physically just being hyper aware of, you know, what could, could happen or

[00:07:12] Mandy Mercuri: what may come.

[00:07:14] Mandy Mercuri: Yes, definitely. There's definitely a lot of years and years of sort of hyper vigilance of, of, you know, the pain comes and then I do all this big assessment of what did I do wrong to and lots of you know, Not very helpful thoughts, you know, sort of judging myself, pain, therefore shame and guilt and yes.

[00:07:34] Mandy Mercuri: So there's a lot of a lot of sort of thoughts associated with pain when it's such a big part of your life. And yeah, exactly, like it's, it's causes extra stress. And we also now know that stress is a, is a massive contributor to pain. So, sort of. Get caught in a little bit of a vicious cycle,

[00:07:52] Amy Squires: pretty much.

[00:07:53] Amy Squires: And I mean, you know, you've, you're, you're doing well now, you know, you've had your surgeries and you're, you're active [00:08:00] in your life. You have two beautiful children, you know, with your husband and life seems. It's good on the outside. So how are you managing? How are you coping now and how, you know, are you living, I guess, with pain, but managing that pain?

[00:08:18] Mandy Mercuri: Yeah, definitely. And it was probably like, that's quite a jump forward to now, I suppose. So there was probably lots and lots of years where I was living in that stressful state of constantly monitoring the situation and, and, and having lots and lots of ups and downs in it. Probably to answer how things are going now, I need to jump back to when they were at their worst, which was just after my first child was born, the I ended up getting into a, yeah, quite a dark place, I suppose, you know, that kind of constant carrying of a small child, breastfeeding, like I was Tense sort of everywhere.

[00:08:51] Mandy Mercuri: And then you know, there's the emotional part

[00:08:53] Amy Squires: as well. Yeah. I imagine that pregnancy would be challenging on, you know.

[00:08:57] Mandy Mercuri: Yeah. Well, even pregnancy, like it [00:09:00] was a consideration for us, like, would my body be able to handle that? And we did end up going with a, gynecologist that was experienced with supporting women who have back conditions to, to have natural births.

[00:09:12] Mandy Mercuri: And so it, The actual pregnancy and birth went quite well. It was really this afterwards phase and often you know, the body produces all of these great sort of feel good hormones when you're pregnant. And then once you've had the baby, they start to peter off. And it was around that sort of six months after after my youngest was my eldest was born that things started to get, yeah, pretty, pretty difficult.

[00:09:36] Mandy Mercuri: And I was just in a really bad state, just not knowing. feeling quite depressed, quite alone, quite yeah, it was, it was a really dark time and it ended up being a conversation with Mike to my husband to say, you know, this is, this is, everyone in the family. And we need to sort of make some, some sort of changes.

[00:09:57] Mandy Mercuri: So I was quite fortunate. I went [00:10:00] to a my GP and just explained everything that was going on and he was able to send me to a pain management clinic. And that was a three week in hospital clinic where they supported me to come off all my pain medications, which at the time I was on some.

[00:10:17] Mandy Mercuri: Serious ones, because that's generally what happens with, with medication and long term chronic pain is that you start to, your body starts to adapt to them and you then get stronger ones and stronger ones and stronger ones, so, you know, by that stage I was on some quite significant morphine based yeah, addictive opioids, and yeah, so this particular pain yeah.

[00:10:40] Mandy Mercuri: Clinic supported me to come off those, which is what I wanted to do. So yeah, came off the medications and had this long course where they taught me lots of different skills and techniques for managing pain myself. And it was. Life changing really was able to figure [00:11:00] out there was lots of things that were actually within my control to help me with turning down the sort of the volume of pain, I suppose you could say, so things like my thoughts around pain, my emotions that sort of come with pain how I move my body, and also just awareness of pain and my sort of daily activities, things like pacing.

[00:11:24] Mandy Mercuri: So lots and lots of different techniques I learned during that pain management course. And that enabled me then to make all of these sort of shifts and bring these different techniques into into the way I was managing pain. And yeah, like you said, it hasn't gone away or anything, but I am. Definitely managing it in a much more effective way.

[00:11:45] Mandy Mercuri: Which has enabled me to, yeah, like you said, go on and have another child, which we thought for a while there, that wasn't even going to be possible. So yeah, I got myself strong enough in a good headspace and ready to sort of tackle that next challenge. And yeah, [00:12:00] continue to put those kind of techniques into practice in a day to day

[00:12:05] Amy Squires: way.

[00:12:05] Amy Squires: So before we kind of get in, I'd like to hear a little bit about what these techniques are, but this three week course, so I guess I have two questions. Firstly, the three week course... That was when your eldest was still quite young, you would have had to leave the family and go and do that. Yeah.

[00:12:20] Mandy Mercuri: Wow. That would have been hard on yourself.

[00:12:22] Mandy Mercuri: It was, yeah. So yeah, my son was only, I think at the time, maybe 18 months old because it took that long to sort of get into the program. And and so I had to go and stay in the city. So from during the week, I was in the city doing this course. It was a big deal to be also coming off those strong medications at the same time and all of the side effects that go along with that.

[00:12:44] Mandy Mercuri: So it was, it wasn't pretty, but but I got through it and you know, had the support of my family to, to enable that to happen.

[00:12:52] Amy Squires: Yeah. And I guess that would have been, you know, I mean, you couldn't have done it without their support. That would have been a huge impact on your ability to kind of get through [00:13:00] that, that course.

[00:13:01] Amy Squires: Yeah, and then I wanted to ask, and I mean, you know, let me know if things get a little too personal. I am just very curious. With all the medication that you were on, would you have had to come off that to be pregnant and then breastfeed if that's something that you did? And if you were, how Were you able to manage the pain?

[00:13:20] Amy Squires: I know you said about the feel good pregnancy hormones that probably helped a lot. I hope yeah But what after that what about when you had this little baby and you were on all these medications? Was it you know, were you present mentally or how did they impact your?

[00:13:37] Mandy Mercuri: No, it's a good question. And it was a particularly difficult time, I suppose.

[00:13:43] Mandy Mercuri: So for the actual pregnancy the pain started to really impact me around four months and I was working at the time, part time. I ended up resigning from that job just in a lot of stages of the pregnancy, because it was just getting like a little bit too much to sort of handle going into work and [00:14:00] standing and sitting all day.

[00:14:01] Mandy Mercuri: So that was sort of the one major modification that I made. During pregnancy to sort of help support me and my and my sort of level of comfort and pain, and then post the birth, I did come on to some heavier medications that were obviously I was, you know, under the, under my medical care team advised that they would be okay for, for being on whilst breastfeeding You know, but I probably did have, you know, some concerns about being on them and it was just, it's just a really tough balance of, of wanting something to, to sort of ease the pain as well as yeah, wanting to do the best by, by my child and giving them the best start in life too.

[00:14:46] Mandy Mercuri: So it was, it was a A pretty tough balance, to be honest. A lot

[00:14:50] Amy Squires: to think about, you know? In and tell me about. the tricks and the tips and the techniques that you've, you've learned over the years and through that three week course. [00:15:00]

[00:15:00] Mandy Mercuri: Yeah. So a lot of the things that I learned in that course to me initially seemed very different to what I'd already been doing or trying or being told.

[00:15:10] Mandy Mercuri: So a lot of it was really new and different and it took a while to, yeah, embed them in terms of you know, forming new habits. The, the course was three weeks for that reason, because you know, that. They say 21 days to form a new habit or whatever. So by, by doing it you know, every day we'd go in and we, and we'd, we'd do some of the exercises and we'd practice some of the meditations and, and, you know, look at some of the, the thoughts and emotions around pain.

[00:15:36] Mandy Mercuri: We would do that every day for three weeks. So that was a way of sort of kickstarting us into this new way of, of managing pain. So, yeah, in terms of the techniques, I suppose a really big one was pacing. So, very common approach to living with pain is to do as much as you can on a day you feel good.

[00:15:59] Mandy Mercuri: Cram it all in [00:16:00] and then usually that, you know, results in you overdoing it and then you have a day where you need to rest and recover and it's basically just this roller coaster of good days and bad days. And You know, it's not sustainable in the long run because you tend to have more bad days over, over time.

[00:16:17] Mandy Mercuri: And so we learned about pacing, which is to, you know, try and do something every day in a way that will prevent that sort of cycle of up and down. And so it's, it's learning to start really small. So maybe for example, You know, sitting for long periods might be something that can exacerbate your pain.

[00:16:37] Mandy Mercuri: So, you know, rather than doing that, just sitting still for an hour at work or watching TV, they sort of find a way that you can sit for a certain amount of time before pain comes, and then you sort of gradually build up on that. And so this sort of technique of pacing activities was huge for me, because I am a big patient.

[00:16:57] Mandy Mercuri: Maybe overachiever, sort of someone [00:17:00] that does try and like push myself and get lots of things done. And so overdoing it was like, I was like gold star for overdoing it. So I had to sort of retrain myself to be okay with doing activities slower than, than maybe I would have liked to. Or, or even leaving activities, you know, half finished so that you might.

[00:17:21] Mandy Mercuri: You know, leave a little bit in the tank so that you can still get through the rest of the day. So yeah, so some of those techniques were, took a while to kind of get used to. I thought that was a big adjustment. Yeah. Yeah. And still, I'm not saying I'm like now gold standard at pacing. I'm actually still someone that will maybe tend to overdo it.

[00:17:38] Mandy Mercuri: But having that awareness now means that I'm less likely to do that. Yeah. So, you know, learning. Learning some of these things, it was a massive shift in the way you approached just activities and day to day life. So that was a big one. Understanding the effect of my thoughts and emotions about pain on the you know, [00:18:00] expression of pain was, was huge as well.

[00:18:02] Mandy Mercuri: So there's you know, often a big tendency to have a lot of catastrophizing thoughts. So, you know, pain comes and you. Jump ahead to, Oh, my God, this is terrible. I can't handle this. I'm going to be in a wheelchair or whatever. You know, the cycle can kind of go on and on with with fear based thoughts. And so identifying that I'm having those and identifying the impact of them.

[00:18:25] Mandy Mercuri: And then, you know, finding ways to be a bit more gentle on myself and maybe also challenge some of those thoughts, whether they're likely to be true or not. So you know, that was a really big part of it as well. So understanding the impact of thoughts and emotions on pain. And part of that, I suppose, also was learning sort of mindfulness, learning to bring a non judgmental attention to the present moment.

[00:18:51] Mandy Mercuri: So what's actually happening right here and right now. Right now, because catastrophizing is usually thinking a lot about the future. And so, [00:19:00] you know, practicing moments where I could just drop in and be present. You know, whether that's just through breathing techniques or formal meditation or just connecting with the senses.

[00:19:11] Mandy Mercuri: So mindfulness paid a, played a big part in, in learning some of those techniques as well. And then obviously, yeah, how much you move your body and overcoming some of that fear around movement that I talked about earlier and, and not being scared to move and knowing that by strengthening and moving my body, I was actually more likely to start to feel better, start to get stronger, start to be able to do more.

[00:19:38] Mandy Mercuri: So, yeah, learning some of those things in a. in a calm and kind of controlled way with these it was like a multidisciplinary team. So that was really, really useful. And

[00:19:51] Amy Squires: I would imagine that, you know, you didn't take this three week course lately, you know, you were leaving your baby, your family, you had committed to coming off these medications, which [00:20:00] as you've said, in itself was a big challenge.

[00:20:02] Amy Squires: So I guess you were committed, but was there any point where you thought, Is this gonna work? You know, I've relied on these medications so long. Is all this, you know, a little too silly? Is it too hard? You know, did you kind of have a bit of a rollercoaster effect in that way?

[00:20:22] Mandy Mercuri: Yeah, definitely. And I think another big part of...

[00:20:27] Mandy Mercuri: Course that maybe we talked about, but didn't come for me until a fair bit later was this kind of idea of an acceptance of this is this is my body. This is how my body kind of operates and being you know, just being aware of of the limitations that I might have and accepting them. Whereas I think, you know, kind of leading up to that course and.

[00:20:49] Mandy Mercuri: You know, as you would probably know, that's maybe a bit of the way the medical model works is that we're always just, you know, just chasing that solution, that quick fix, that magic pill that's just going to take [00:21:00] it all away. So I think the medication was me trying to do that. And so learning some of these techniques and realizing that I could actually do other things to help sort of dial down my pain meant that, I could sort of experience the, the, the impact of some of those things and maybe let go a little bit of that grasping onto this magic pill and turning a bit closer towards acceptance that, you know, I have a fused spine. There are going to be certain things that I can't do. I can. I can still manage my pain and make myself you know, as physically and mentally well as I can, doing all of these different, you know, different things, and and therefore sort of letting go of that magic solution.

[00:21:44] Mandy Mercuri: Yeah.

[00:21:45] Amy Squires: That in itself must have been really empowering.

[00:21:48] Mandy Mercuri: Yeah. I mean, definitely the noticing. And experiencing the things that I could do that would make a positive impact on my pain. I think I'd always focused on what I was doing wrong. Ah, I've [00:22:00] overdone it or I've... Don't we all do that? Yeah, I know.

[00:22:03] Mandy Mercuri: Every, every sort of anything that goes wrong is definitely my fault. Yeah, so thinking of things that actually, like a real shift of focus. Instead of like, how can we avoid pain? It was actually how can I be well? Yeah. Essentially. And, and all of, there's a lot of things that I can do to be well. And then that sort of just, just that shift in mindset was really valuable in terms of stepping towards acceptance.

[00:22:27] Mandy Mercuri: And I feel like it's important to point out that acceptance is not a, like, one stop destination. Like, you don't just get there and like, it's all like roses from then on. I think I've had multiple. Cycles through, through acceptance. So definitely after that course, there was a lot of you know, feeling pretty good about accepting that this was the situation, but then life changes.

[00:22:49] Mandy Mercuri: And, you know, it doesn't take much to you know. Bring in a shift in the way you've got to sort of assess your whole life or your identity or anything like that. So, you know, having another child or going through [00:23:00] some sort of stressful family situation or, you know, death in the family, all of these big stressful life events mean.

[00:23:06] Mandy Mercuri: A change will happen again, and I might need to revisit acceptance once more. I

[00:23:12] Amy Squires: mean, it certainly wouldn't be linear, and life changes, yes, certainly, and with this physical pain that you're having, along with the emotional and the mental effects that it has, you know, your body is also changing as the years go by.

[00:23:25] Amy Squires: I mean, this has been lifelong for you, so I'm sure the pain has maybe shifted and changed throughout, you know, the years of your life and the different Scenarios your body's been in. So, yeah, I can imagine that that journey has been a lot of, a lot of

[00:23:38] Mandy Mercuri: that. A lot of rollercoaster. Yeah. And, and for me, there was a, a quite a big, significant one, I suppose, around 2019.

[00:23:47] Mandy Mercuri: I was, I was working at that time in a fairly stressful job, a job that I loved, but it was very, very busy and, and lots of demands on my time. I, I had also at that time. Decided that I wanted [00:24:00] to run a half marathon and I was doing some full on training for that. I do think I remember this. Yeah. Yes.

[00:24:05] Mandy Mercuri: And I, you know, I was at that point, like I had it all going on. I was like, yes, I'm training, I'm feeling great. I'm working really hard, but, you know, that was never gonna be sustainable probably for my body. And so, yeah, to, I, I did the half marathon and that was awesome. Yeah. And I felt very, you know, proud of myself for having done it.

[00:24:23] Mandy Mercuri: But then, you know, I train for an event and then I'm like, Oh, that's done. I'll just stop now. So I went from very intense training to nearly nothing for a while. And, and work was intense and so, yeah, there was a pretty big shift in, in the way my pain was expressed.

[00:24:39] Amy Squires: Yeah. Yeah. Just the marathon training, you know, that's, that's a lot.

[00:24:43] Amy Squires: It's only

[00:24:43] Mandy Mercuri: half. Only a half marathon. Oh,

[00:24:45] Amy Squires: well, I, I've done a half marathon and I, you can't say only.

[00:24:50] Mandy Mercuri: Yeah. No, it was, it was a big deal, but that was, that was a, like a culmination of different things happening in my life, which all sort of led to another level of [00:25:00] pain and felt like at that time that it was different and that I, I had done something major damage or I, you know, I, I, I felt like it was.

[00:25:09] Mandy Mercuri: It was, it needed to be addressed basically and I, it ended up with me resigning from that job and deciding to take a year off to look after my health and that was a big a big shift and an adjustment and I needed to go through that acceptance kind of thing all over again. Yeah. Yeah, and that led into 2020 which was meant to be my year of health.

[00:25:29] Mandy Mercuri: So, yeah, don't probably need to say much more about what happened in 2020 for that to be not quite as expected. No, not for anyone. No. But yeah, just sort of to point out that like you, you need to just change with the times because, you know, we're always changing and shifting and, you know, having these different things, you know, happen that we don't expect.

[00:25:53] Mandy Mercuri: So just got to be flexible, roll with it, make the changes, be adaptable. As hard as that is [00:26:00] sometimes.

[00:26:00] Amy Squires: Yes. Even for anybody who is the most flexible and adaptable or thinks themselves so, it's yeah, life throws it at you sometimes. Those curveballs. True. And then, so you've kind of taken all this, you've had a huge journey and you know, a very successful and inspirational journey.

[00:26:18] Amy Squires: And you're sharing that with others now and actually helping others do the same. So what can you tell me about

[00:26:24] Mandy Mercuri: that? Yeah, well, I think it was during that 2020 time when I was, you know, in theory taking the time off to, to look at my health and I... I returned to my mindfulness practice in a big way, like I had forgotten about it for a while, and I had to re remind myself and I was getting such such joy from the practice, and it was really, really helping me and I wanted to...

[00:26:50] Mandy Mercuri: you know, keep, keep doing it. And I thought the best way for me to really embed my practice in my day to day life was to learn to teach it because [00:27:00] you know, it's a big part of teaching mindfulness is embodying it yourself. And so yeah, decided to undertake this one year training to teach the mindfulness based stress reduction course.

[00:27:13] Mandy Mercuri: And that was, Yeah, great, great experience. I met some amazing people, learned lots of new skills and, and it did exactly what I wanted it to, which was really ground me in my practice and, yeah, now enables me to sort of take what I've learnt and share it with others because I know how much mindfulness made a difference in my life, managing pain, and I think being able to share that with others and weave in my story is, is helpful because they can sort of see through my experience the difference that it's made for me.

[00:27:48] Mandy Mercuri: So, yeah, it's been, been a great journey so far, still new, still fresh, but I'm loving it. There's always

[00:27:55] Amy Squires: more to learn, always. Yeah. But Mandy, so what is [00:28:00] mindfulness? You know, what mindfulness journey?

[00:28:04] Mandy Mercuri: Yeah, well, I mean, the basic definition is, is being present. Without judgment and just noticing what's happening, what's happening for you in your body, in your mind, in your heart.

[00:28:15] Mandy Mercuri: I think it's so often we're very much lost in, in our thoughts, in our automatic pilot kind of mode of operating. And so mindfulness provides a little opportunity to just check back in with kind of what's happening. And through the program that I, that I'm teaching, the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, it's quite a detailed course that really kind of explores the techniques.

[00:28:40] Mandy Mercuri: It explores learning a little bit about different formal mindfulness practices in terms of meditations, but also gives the participants an opportunity to explore. Like natural way of reacting to events. So, you know, that's sort of dig a little bit into their stress reactivity and in doing so [00:29:00] potentially, you know, find alternatives with a little bit of a, a space to pause and reflect on what's happening.

[00:29:07] Mandy Mercuri: You probably have a much. better opportunity to respond to the things that are happening around you, rather than just that sort of knee jerk reaction which can be, you know, really freeing for people. And I've, I've seen, I've been really lucky to even see that on the first course that I've done, just the changes that people have been experiencing has been really.

[00:29:29] Mandy Mercuri: Beautiful to be a part of.

[00:29:30] Amy Squires: Yeah, I would imagine. So is it a little bit like you know, I've, I've heard of mindfulness and I like to, you know, practice being mindful. I've never done a course is it a little bit, and this is just how it sounds to me, so correct me if I'm wrong, kind of an introspective examination of your attitude or your approach to life

[00:29:50] Mandy Mercuri: situations?

[00:29:52] Mandy Mercuri: Yeah, I suppose that, that, that could be one, yeah, one way of putting it. I, I like to just think of it as just like checking in with what's happening, like what's [00:30:00] happening right now. Like we can do it right now. You can just you know, take a little breath and feel into the body, feel what sensations are present.

[00:30:08] Mandy Mercuri: Hmm. Very often. Yeah. Because we're so trapped in thinking, we forget we even have a body. So just noticing sensations in the hands or the feet, you know, it can just be. Take only a, a breath or two just to be mindful of the fact that you've got a body that's got sensations, that's it's not just all thinking in, in our heads.

[00:30:29] Mandy Mercuri: So. Yeah. Coming off autopilot, I guess. Yeah. I mean, we, as humans have got this beautiful evolutionary adaptation of the autopilot. Like we can actually be doing things without thinking about them. So we can walk and get ourselves a coffee and be. Constantly thinking and not even noticing we've gone from one room to another.

[00:30:51] Mandy Mercuri: And I think mindfulness is just a great way of being more present and aware of what's happening as it's happening.[00:31:00] And, and it's a muscle, like it's a concentration muscle. So it, you know, formal practice like meditation gives you the opportunity to, to build that muscle. You know, if it's something that you're not used to doing, then, you know.

[00:31:12] Mandy Mercuri: Spending moments of concentrating your awareness on one thing like the breath is, is a great way of building a muscle like you would go to the gym and, and, and, you know, pump your irons. You need to also for things like awareness, you know, continually practice to develop strength of awareness.

[00:31:30] Amy Squires: Yeah. So, I mean, just on that note of autopilot and doing more than one thing at once, even I think taking a minute to.

[00:31:40] Amy Squires: You know, just not do something, not scroll, not tap the TV or listen to the radio and just, just literally sit and do nothing. Just be quiet.

[00:31:51] Mandy Mercuri: Yeah. There's a lot to be said for that. Yeah, definitely. And it's just something that we don't. Do much. I think there's a, a very heavy [00:32:00] societal expectation to be doing, to be achieving, to be producing, you know, like it's just, we're driven to be always doing something.

[00:32:08] Mandy Mercuri: So to take a moment and just pause and breathe and sit in some silence. For many people will seem like a total waste of time. I can't do that. I've got too many things to do my list My list is too long But I often find that taking those little breaks those little mini breaks to check in and to breathe actually Provide me with enough sort of energy and to, to go on and complete tasks rather than sort of push through and keep going.

[00:32:40] Mandy Mercuri: So, yeah, and I

[00:32:42] Amy Squires: read somewhere recently. I don't recall where, I'll have to think about that, but I had read somewhere that taking that time and doing nothing results in more productivity and creativity because you're just letting your brain, you know, think and get to those areas of your brain that where the [00:33:00] creativity lies, you know, and where you're just not.

[00:33:03] Amy Squires: Mindlessly looking for something else or trying to take in new information, but just accessing what's kind of already there.

[00:33:09] Mandy Mercuri: Yeah, totally. And you only get to figure that out when you give it a go. So I really encourage people to, to just try it. Yeah, and to be open to that possibility of it being productive and not a waste of time.

[00:33:24] Amy Squires: , even just the rest that's in, you know, not not doing, yeah, must be extremely beneficial.

[00:33:31] Mandy Mercuri: Yeah, and it's a way of also allowing the nervous system to just calm down a little bit, you know, you've probably heard of the, you know, being in the stress response, that sort of fight or flight mode, you know, it's something like a really deep, long exhale can help to soften the nervous system and bring it more into that rest and digest mode, which is where we access a lot of our critical thinking and problem solving.

[00:33:55] Mandy Mercuri: And so when we're just sort of rushing and fired up and in that stress [00:34:00] response, you We can often yeah, be really reactive and, and, you know, potentially do and say things that we might regret because we're just operating, you know, in a threat sort of system.

[00:34:10] Amy Squires: Whereas... We make a lot more mistakes that way, I think, you know?

[00:34:13] Mandy Mercuri: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I, I, I tend to be someone that does, like I said, try and sort of, you know, get a lot of things done and sometimes I can do the multitasking and you sort of think that you are being very effective, like, oh, look at me, I'm cooking whilst doing this whilst doing that. But I'm also, I. I, I'm pretty sure my family would agree, like, I can be quite clumsy.

[00:34:38] Mandy Mercuri: And so I think it's when you, we try and push all of these different things into happening at once that we can tend to, like you say, make mistakes. You drop things, you spill things, you yeah, we're not focused on one thing at a time. That can, that can happen. And

[00:34:53] Amy Squires: I mean, you know, yes, of course, we can multitask, and I'm sure everybody in the world does it.

[00:34:59] Amy Squires: You really can't [00:35:00] focus on more than one thing at a time. You know, it's, you just, you don't do your best work. You can't cook the best dinner while also, you know, trying to absorb information on, you know, your favorite podcast. Or, you know, you're not learning. So, it's a bit of a, You're just not giving it your full attention, I suppose, the attention that it might deserve.

[00:35:22] Amy Squires: It really it just aligns with, I think, I've really taken, anyone who follows kind of my business, it really follows that approach of a proactive and not a reactive approach, I suppose. You know, even when it, when it came down to you taking the, the tablets, which of course, you know, these medications are, It's often necessary, depending on the type of illness that anyone is dealing with.

[00:35:46] Amy Squires: But there's just more that can be looked at holistically. That's not to say that don't take, you know, your medical professional's advice, but it is to say you need to explore a much more proactive approach than what currently [00:36:00] exists in the current medical model, which is just let's react to these things when or after they happen.

[00:36:06] Amy Squires: And not really get to the root or not really address what's actually happening in your life overall.

[00:36:14] Mandy Mercuri: Yeah, and I think when you do start to take that proactive approach, what it also does is build in a lot of confidence. And you know, there's been studies that sort of show that when you're confident about, you know, managing your own health, you can, You see benefits in terms of the way you, you know, your general well being because you feel Empowered and I think like learning a lot of these pain management techniques for me gave me that sense of oh, okay This is me my body my sort of lifestyle and I can make all these changes That will will influence my pain and and then you're not reliant I'm not reliant and I must go and see this practitioner or this doctor or or whatever.

[00:36:53] Mandy Mercuri: It's putting yourself in the driver's seat, like, is a really important thing for managing overall your [00:37:00] general health and well being.

[00:37:01] Amy Squires: Yeah, you just have some tools in that toolbox of what to do, you know, and it's not the matter of, and I've seen this a lot, you know, I'm, my script is almost out, what am I going to do?

[00:37:11] Amy Squires: And, you know, how am I going to get through the next few days if I don't have this, or I can't get an appointment for? Weeks or months, you know, depending on where in the world you are, or my doctor isn't necessarily, you know, taking me seriously, you know, you have tools in your toolbox to kind of get yourself through another challenge and move forward and find the right sort of practitioner that suits What is your going through and what your body

[00:37:39] Mandy Mercuri: really needs.

[00:37:40] Mandy Mercuri: Yeah, and that's why I'm kind of passionate about sharing my story and, and, and trying to put this pain management information out there sort of in the world because there's so many people living with chronic pain and, and maybe like I was sort of trapped in that medical model thinking that there was just one solution or one person that [00:38:00] that they needed when I kind of tend to think that the person living it has got the best experience, the best understanding of their, of their pain and of their life.

[00:38:09] Mandy Mercuri: So, you know, giving them the tools to, to start working on some of these things is going to, yeah, see the

[00:38:17] Amy Squires: best results. And people really don't experience pain the same, you know, pain in my arm would very likely feel different to the pain that you have in your arm, even if it's in the same area and the same muscle or nerve might be damaged.

[00:38:31] Amy Squires: I'm sure we don't feel that identically, you know, so being able to as an individual. Acknowledge it and recognize it.

[00:38:40] Mandy Mercuri: Yeah, yeah, totally. Yeah. Which is why you know, the pain management clinic that I went to is, it followed the biopsychosocial approach to, to pain care, which means, you know, it's, it's very much about the person and their, you know, their What's going on inside their bodies, which is the sort of bio part.

[00:38:56] Mandy Mercuri: But it's more than that as well. It's also like, how are they [00:39:00] dealing with pain in their family and their social connections, or, you know, what kind of thoughts and beliefs and underlying kind of You know, purpose do they have in their life, that kind of thing. Like it incorporates so much more than just, what's going on in, inside their, their body. It's really quite complex and individual. And if we don't take that approach to that one person, then, you know, there's just no, there's just no one size fits all with pain. It's so complicated. Mm

[00:39:30] Amy Squires: hmm. The individualized proactive approach. It's something that I really advocate for.

[00:39:36] Amy Squires: So. Yep.

[00:39:37] Mandy Mercuri: Yeah. Me too. Definitely. I wish there was more people out there advocating for it as well because, you know, unfortunately there's still a lot of myths and you know treat practitioners treating with just that biomedical approach and so you know, if I had have found the pain management clinic 20, 20 years earlier, who knows, you know, [00:40:00] I could have avoided it.

[00:40:01] Mandy Mercuri: Many years of of suffering and I'm sure there's many people out there as well that have had conditions and been sort of tossed around the washing machine of the biomedical sort of system and, and haven't even heard of these kind of things, like, it's crazy.

[00:40:17] Amy Squires: Well, I mean, and hopefully we get a lot of people listen to this episode and become aware and can share it.

[00:40:22] Amy Squires: And, you know, I just hope my, my wish is really that more doctors and practitioners will just take a holistic approach. You know, I, I aspire to be a doctor, as you know, in, in, you know, the traditional sort of Western. Medicine, but I also just really want to bridge this gap and I'd love to see more doctors take that approach.

[00:40:46] Amy Squires: I just, yeah, it's a big dream of mine. So hopefully together we can raise awareness and help others spread the, you know, just that awareness. Yeah, just yeah.

[00:40:56] Mandy Mercuri: Get it out there. And definitely just sharing stories as well is so important, which is why, [00:41:00] you know. And success stories. Yeah. You know, people who are living it.

[00:41:02] Mandy Mercuri: Yep. Yeah. Podcasts like this where people can sort of share stories and it's often, you know, that might be the one thing that someone hears that might think, oh, okay, I heard that person's story and it's sort of similar to mine. I might make a different choice or investigate a new thing, so.

[00:41:21] Amy Squires: And even getting the people who want to take this approach on the track to finding the right practitioner or the right GP, you know, they may not have one.

[00:41:30] Amy Squires: When I was growing up as a young child, I certainly didn't have access to a GP who took a holistic approach. It was very reactive, and he didn't always necessarily listen, but I found one who did and that made a huge difference to my life as well as, as you, you know, with sharing or finding the practitioners that you now work with.

[00:41:48] Amy Squires: So,

[00:41:49] Mandy Mercuri: yeah. Yeah. And I've also been really fortunate just recently, I've started working with a company that do this. It's been amazing. So they're called Norwood Days, they're a digital health [00:42:00] company, they support people living with chronic pain by providing them this kind of information, this kind of multidisciplinary biopsychosocial model of, of pain care.

[00:42:10] Mandy Mercuri: And it's been great to be working with them and sharing this kind of information with people so that, you know, people living with pain can have accessible and affordable multidisciplinary care and the holistic care, which is going to be the best thing, you know, for them. So. We're fortunate to be sort of working with them and, you know, shout out to those guys are doing great work.

[00:42:32] Mandy Mercuri: Yeah. Do they have a website? Yeah. It's moregooddays. com. I'll I'll link that. I love the title because, you know, we were talking about how you, it's, you know, cram everything into those good days and, you know, suffer on the bad days, but they're taking that approach there with this, with more information about pain, how pain works and you know, different techniques that they can do, then, you know, we're all entitled to have more good days.

[00:42:55] Mandy Mercuri: Thank

[00:42:55] Amy Squires: you. Yeah, and you don't have to cram it all in then, because you've got more of those days where you're feeling like [00:43:00] Getting up and going. Yeah, you're able to do so. Mm hmm. So what I've been doing I've been sharing links at the bottom of transcripts on these episodes. So I'll share theirs Yeah, and I'd like to share yours as well.

[00:43:11] Amy Squires: If anybody wanted to take part in the course that you offer. Mm hmm How can they do that? And yeah, I'm just finding more information

[00:43:18] Mandy Mercuri: on mindfulness Yeah, yeah, well, I mean, I've got a website, which is sort of newish. It's, and on there, there's some information about the benefits of mindfulness, a few links to some, you know, research, if that's kind of your bag and also details of upcoming courses.

[00:43:35] Mandy Mercuri: At the moment, I'm just doing them in person. I'm in Melbourne, in Australia but hopefully in the coming years, I might try and do a few online, so. Yeah, I'm happy to reach out, you know, have people reach out to me and have a chat. I'm always up for, you know, hearing from people. So my contact details are on the website.

[00:43:55] Mandy Mercuri: Perfect.

[00:43:57] Amy Squires: Well,

[00:43:57] Mandy Mercuri: thank you very much for joining. Thank [00:44:00] you for having me.

[00:44:00] Amy Squires: I've really enjoyed sitting with you today and hearing your story and getting to know you a little better and more about mindfulness.

[00:44:08] Mandy Mercuri: Yeah. Well, thank you. Thank you for the work that you're doing and keep it up and I love hearing you know, the stories from other people and different practitioners.

[00:44:17] Mandy Mercuri: It's great information to share, so good on you. Keep it up.

[00:44:22] Amy Squires: Thank you. I appreciate it. All right, everyone. Thank you very much for listening. Thank you, Mandy Mercuri for joining me today and we will see you next time.


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