Sunday, January 12, 2014

Because it's painfully real ...

     This afternoon as I reached for my pills, I was angry. Like, want-to-punch-people angry. I thought back to a year ago, when I was looking forward to getting my own kayak, and spending time kayaking around the Savannah waters with Adam and Addison. I got to do that a few times, and then my life changed drastically.

     It wasn't one single incident. It was several, "Holy shit my back hurts" pain. I went to the doctor, I did physical therapy, then I finally got an X-ray and was told, "You have arthritis and degenerative disc disease." Okay, I can live with that, it's manageable. Then one day last summer I couldn't take the pain anymore. My entire body was wracked with spasms, (and I mean my ENTIRE body), and the pain was too much even for me, a total badass, to endure. I went to my doctor and after blood tests to rule out certain things, finally had an MRI. Bulging discs, protruding discs, bony growths on my vertebrae, well ... yuck. I started seeing an orthopedic surgeon, who also ordered a cervical MRI since I was having numbness in my arms. Oh boy, a pinched nerve, and a bunch of disc problems.

     The other day I counted I've had 13 different needles in my back or neck since last summer. You know what they've done for me? Jack and shit. But yet I still am holding out hope that soon I may become the Erin I used to be.

     I've only counted a handful of times I've felt sorry for myself. I'm 39, not 79. On the outside, I look good. I may sometimes walk slowly, slightly bent for pain relief, but for the most part, you or anyone else would never know of the pain I feel daily. That's the thing with chronic pain - it's not always visible, so it may be tough for others to understand. It seemed like every day Adam would come home from work and say, "What's wrong?" Some days I just smiled and thought, "Bless his heart." Other days I probably snapped, because my chronic pain is every single day. Some days are better than others. I almost feel normal again. Other days I am on the couch, moaning in pain.

     The thing that bothers me the most about chronic pain isn't the pain itself. It's that I feel robbed of being the person I used to be. I used to get dressed like a normal person, put on make-up, and feel, well, normal. On a recent morning as I was getting ready for a doctor's appointment, I thought, well geez, here I am putting on make-up and good clothes, when I really should just show up looking like what I usually look like - comfortable and most likely not-matching clothes, no make-up, and depending on what sort of pain day I'm having, showered or non-showered. But I still have pride.

     Is my pain fixable? I don't know. I do know it seems like it will take forever. With every injection, I hold out hope that this will be the one that helps, that slowly turns me toward a pain-free life. So far, no luck, but I refuse to lose my positive attitude, because if I lose that, I give up, and I'm way too stubborn to ever give up. I have friends who also live with chronic pain, and like anything else in life, having that empathy and understanding of what that other person is going through is similar is entirely therapeutic. Thank you Jennifer F. and Sharon P., for always answering my questions and being there when I have had questions or just needed to talk.

     I will not give up hope that someday soon I will be back to the old Erin. The Erin who didn't have to buy bags of dog food from Amazon, because I am lifting those bags at the grocery store with no problem. The Erin that has to pick up Addison from school or sports and tell him, "I'm having a bad pain day, I really need your help." The Erin who doesn't have to plan her days around when she takes her pain pills and when she has to drive. The Erin who doesn't have to plan when I can leave the house because of that day's pain level. The Erin who doesn't even remember the words chronic pain.

     My hope is by writing this, if you know of someone in chronic pain, just be a bit kinder, a bit gentler, more understanding. Chronic pain may control our life, but it doesn't control us.