Life with chronic pain is like being cold all the time. Taking a pain medication is like standing under a hot shower. The water washing down you giving your cold skin temporary warmth just like a pain killer temporarily takes away some (if not all) of your pain. It is fleeting, but that momentary respite from what has become your norm is oftentimes all that you are living for.
That is why people get addicted to pain killers. What is not to get hooked on? You say if I take this little pill a couple of times a day I won’t feel this mind numbing, nausea inducing, unrelenting pain. Um…yes please.
When I take stock of the years of unending pain arthritis has so kindly given me I marvel at the fact that I’ve been able to avoid the trap of constant, chemical release from pain. If you’re new here, let me give you a bit of back story. I was diagnosed with arthritis at the tender age of 10. I was, we now know, symptomatic from a much younger age. Today, as I approach age 37, I mark over 25 years of constant, daily pain. It has run the gambit from the simple low level joint pain that can be ignored or lived with to pain that flashes suddenly and hot like lightning leaving me dizzy and nauseous and making those who witness the attack reach for me in fear of all of my 5 feet 9 inches crashing to the ground.
Point is, me and pain, we are old friends.
Though my dear sweet mom has been right there through all of the highs and lows of life with Rheumatoid Arthritis, she has never really understood the day to day pain. Until recently. Right before Christmas she was laid out with blinding back pain. Or what I’d call Tuesday. Poor Mom. She has zero pain tolerance so she’s been pretty much nonfunctional. Now, on week three, she’s finally moving around, resting with a heating pad and getting better. But now, she gets me.
What does she get you ask?
She gets that pain is a lot more than just pain. I heard you all just say “Huh?” so let me explain.
Pain is physical yes. You’ve all felt pain. Pain from an accident or surgery or a headache. Chronic, daily pain is a whole different animal though. Being in constant pain is like having static pumped into your brain 24/7. You can try to tune it out. You can pretend you don’t hear it. You can function but it wears on you until, even though it has changed, your perception of it has, and it is suddenly unbearably loud and you would do anything to make it stop. Chronic pain is like that. It picks at you and wears on you until you can’t function. That’s how chronic pain wears you out mentally.
Chronic pain also steals your energy. Sometimes, you’re just worn out. You can’t sleep well, because you can’t stay in one position very long because, well because PAIN. So you toss and turn and never really sleep. That is one kind of tired that chronic pain gives you. You can function on this kind of tired. You can go to work, catch a cat nap at your desk and go to bed early and try to get caught up. But there is another kind of tired. I don’t know how this one really works, but sometimes, that damn chronic pain sneaks up on you. It will go from being a dull ache and then magnify to terrible pain. When it does this, your body flips a switch and suddenly….BAM…you are done. You have nothing left to give. You just went from feeling okay and thinking things like “I’ll clean house when I get home from work.” or “I’m going to call the boys and go out for a beer.” to thinking things like, “Would anyone care if I just slip down under my desk and sleep until next week?” or “I wonder who can come pick me up because I don’t think I can even walk out to my car I’m so tired.”
Chronic pain can make you feel like your limbs are wrapped in concrete. It can make you aware of things like how many pounds that warm winter coat weighs because suddenly it is too heavy for your aching shoulders. It can make things like a hot bath as addictive as the strongest street drugs.
Life with chronic pain is like being in a tiny boat in the middle of a stormy sea. You are sort of okay, but that could change at any moment. You spend your life praying for clearing skies and bracing yourself for the wave that will sink you.