I wrote the following the other day to a couple of old friends who happen to also be living with chronic pain. We 3 have recently kind of formed a little support group of sorts for each other as we deal with what it is we each live through. As I wrote this to them, I just typed. I didn’t read it back or self edit or anything. Now, for this blog post, I have taken that initial spewing of emotions and cultivated it into something more. Edits here, additions there, grammatical fixes everywhere. And now, I submit to you, the following…
I don’t know what I want or what I’m looking for. To never bring up my chronic pain publicly feels like I’m not being true to myself. Like I’m sparing others from having to take a second and remember that it’s not all rosy over here for me. Or, more probably, I feel like, yes, I actually have brought it up enough already. I should be mindful that it’s not all about me and no one has to keep hearing about it - they know already. God forbid I upset anyone else because I keep talking about how much my situation stinks. I wouldn’t want that. Of course.
And that leads me to the realization that I really don’t want my writing to be all-pain-all-the-time because… what’s the point in that? It keeps me focused on it, and I get people to remember for a second what I’m dealing with, then they mindlessly (or genuinely, I don’t know) give me a “caring” or “sad” emoji before they continue scrolling on their merry way, soon to be distracted by a funny cat video 4 posts away? So what?
No one gets it. No one could. Okay, not no one. My husband and daughter get it probably as best anyone could without being in my shoes directly. And I feel like you both get it, too, as you manage your own chronic pains and conditions. Anyone who’s lived with severe chronic pain knows what it’s like. But still. As I’ve said before, pain is a very personal experience. A very lonely, isolating experience. You know what it’s like for you. I know what it’s like for me.
Still, the fact remains… I fancy myself a writer and one of the best ways I know to get my emotions out and to put everything in order for myself is through the process of writing. It helps me. But I just, I guess, I also want to affect people with my writing as deeply as I can to let them know exactly what it is I’m trying to convey. And people everywhere with chronic pain - I want others to know. You are not alone in your solitary journey. To live vicariously through my words so my co-sufferers realize they’ve got a compadre in me. Or for those not in a similar situation, to know what it truly means to live this way.
This is not to say I want everyone to actually feel my pain. But just to understand enough about how this shift in my daily life experience has changed me and what it takes for me to get through a day. How I want to keep as active as I can, but how difficult it is for me to just stand up and walk down the hall. How when I say I’ve got chronic lower back pain, what I really mean more times than not is that it’s my legs that burn with searing, radiating pain. But that my legs also often go all pins and needles as my (literally) tethered nerves try to sort out exactly what’s going on after a big adjustment of position. How so much of my brain space is taken over by this situation I find myself in. There’s no escaping it. And therefore, because of all this, how so much of my brain space is absolutely not dedicated to interacting with people and their own problems (or joys), their passionately felt soap box speeches, their rhetorical questions that yet still seem like an answer is in hot demand.
Or even just polite, casual conversation. To gather with and be amongst friends and chime in on a conversation about whatever. My brain isn’t there. I’m exhausted. Happy to be amongst friends, of course! But simply not able to contribute meaningfully to any friendly banter going on. Everything else seems so trivial and like someone else’s thing to deal with. Not mine. I’ve got my own thing and it’s just about all I can handle, thank you very much. And, no, I don’t want to talk about it either. I don’t know what I want, like I said at the start of this whole thing.
And the funny thing is, it’s not that I’m even consciously thinking about my pain, my pain at any given moment. I honestly don’t feel like I’m sitting around feeling sorry for myself all that often. Especially at work. I love my job and my coworkers, and my chair there is as comfortable as I can get. I’m on the phone all day and my mind is distracted. But at home on weekends and evenings, all I’m really able to do these days is sit around. What else do you expect me to do but think about it? So when I get to writing and considering why I am the way that I am… this is what I come up with.
Anyway… I also don’t wish for others to only “get” the bad parts of what I’m dealing with. As someone who likes to write, I of course want others to be affected by my words no matter what my subject matter and the emotions surrounding it. I want to evoke all emotions as they apply to whatever I’m writing about. It’s just that, right now, this is the big news for me and what I don’t necessarily want to focus on in my writing, but what is choosing me as its writer.
Phew! I’ve been wanting to blog about this, and tried to with my last post earlier this month. But I don’t think I did justice then to what I want to convey, nor do I feel like I could ever do justice to it. How do I choose just the right words and put them in just the exactly right order to make my readers understand what I want to say…to feel what I’m feeling… All of it?! The frustration, the anger, the bitter sweet nostalgia for all I used to do and no longer can? The way I feel so incredibly disabled in a way that I never have before, even though - to the outside world - I have been disabled all my life? But that label has never stopped me before, you see. I’ve walked, jumped rope, skied, shot hoops, hiked, traveled both by myself and with others, attempted roller skating, ran, driven (and still drive a regular automatic transmission), carried a pregnancy, given birth, raised a child, and on and on and on. My being disabled by Spina Bifida has very rarely, if at all, resulted in my feeling disabled.
But now. Now! I am the very picture of disabled. I am quite literally not able - sidelined, hampered - from doing physical activity of almost any kind. Even just standing in one place. Even just getting out of bed, or rolling over while I’m still in bed. Anything I do causes or exacerbates pain. Period.
Sitting or resting is the closest I can get towards pain free. But I assure you, it is not pain free. Getting up from a seated position is probably the activity that causes the most pain, followed by an ease up of said pain as I walk it off a bit. But continue that walking activity too much (like, 2 +/- minutes) and the pain and leg numbness ramps back up again. It just always is. And always keeps me down. Physically and mentally. Sigh…
I’m sure this feeling of disabledness I am dealing with is a very large part of why I fight so much against it and against receiving help of any kind. Mind you, I do ask for help, and am asking for more and more of it every day. But please don’t ask me if I need help. No! I’ve got this. I’ll let you know if I need anything. But, please, let me be the judge of this.
Okay. I’ve written enough here. I’m just going to hit “Send” and get it out there. I’m writing to you since I know you can relate. And I’m considering turning this into an actual blog post. But first and foremost, to you both. Before I do something dumb, hit a wrong key, and lose it all. Yeah. Okay. That’s it. Thanks for “listening.”
Editing to add, and sharing again today, June 16, 2022. Tomorrow is my spinal cord detethering surgery. One more day of pain. Then, of course, pain and discomfort of post surgery and a long recovery. But then, little by little, the feeling of relief. Finally. Literally intensifying for about 18 years. Last 3+ years being the absolute worst and something not able to be ignored. Thanks to all who have seen me through this and will be there through my recovery and beyond. I don’t have the words to thank you enough. I don’t have the brain space to write a whole new post. I just want to share this again. All this pain is soon to be gone, as I can only hope that surgery will go well and do the trick. Thank you all again. It’s a long road ahead. Physical therapy to help me rebuild what I’ve lost, as much as it can be rebuilt. Here’s hoping. So grateful to and for you all. Overwhelmed that our community would even think to start a GoFundMe for us. And what an amazing outpouring we’ve seen already. Thank you all. We love you and feel so humbled to be among your beloved community.