Lately I’ve been struggling with chronic pain in my joints. I’ve dealt with migraine pain before and I’ve had car accidents but in those situations I’ve had some sense that there would eventually be a reprieve from the pain. I don’t really know what’s causing this and I don’t know when it’s going to end. I don’t know a lot of things, but when people ask me what chronic pain feels like, this is what I have to stay.
On Again Off Again
For me, the pain comes and goes. It goes and I get hopeful and I get optimistic and I end up left feeling like Taylor Swift. I feel very let down and like that brief window of comfort was a promise that was not kept. I get excited about the reprieve and start making plans and then the hope of more comfortable days gets ripped away and I feel jilted. I want to be in a relationship with the feeling that my knees aren’t giving birth through my kneecaps all the time.
I’m Fine (ok I’m not)
At a certain point, I get tired of listening to my own whining. So when you ask how I’m doing, I will probably tell you I’m fine. I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m faking it because I really am tired of talking about it. I feel like that scene in When Harry Meets Sally, like I’m faking it and I hate it but I also hate whining about it. I am not a pity party planner.
One of the “joys” of chronic pain is finding the things I used to be able to do that I can’t anymore. I feel like a fish bumping up against the glass of an aquarium, discovering its edges through trial and error. It’s incredibly frustrating being unable to project from one day to the next what I’m capable of and what I can accomplish. Chronic pain is perpetual disappointment. Remember how far you used to drive? Nope. Remember high impact activities? Nope. Remember standing for long periods? Nope.
I am an independent woman. I don’t like asking for help at all. Chronic pain means sometimes I need to ask for help. When I find the edges of what I’m capable of, sometimes I have to call in reinforcements to get things done. I feel like a bother. I feel weak. I feel needy. I feel embarrassed that I am always asking for help but I know I need it so I ask. My awesome partner bears the brunt of it most of the time and never complains. For that I’m grateful.
The worst part is when I do finally ask for help, the nature of invisible illness is that people don’t always believe it. I seem fine. Most of the time I say I’m fine. But if I say I need something, I really do mean it. I’m not being lazy. It’s not that I don’t want to do something. It’s that some days, I simply can’t. I know I used to be able to, but unfortunately, that doesn’t mean I can do it today. Chronic pain is feeling like nobody believes you.
Comparison might be the thief of joy, but chronic pain is the thief of sleep. Whether it’s a dull ache or something sharp and stabby, it’s impossible to sleep with the constant nattering of my body. I can’t sleep and then I’m tired the next day trying to function and the fatigue amplifies the pain. It’s like a pyramid scheme that bankrupts you with crippling sleep debt.
Physical numbness would be a blessing, but dealing with chronic pain means I’m not able to feel the full range of emotions. I’m too tired to process joy. I’m too achey to feel happy. Chronic pain numbs everything but pain itself and it’s frustrating.
Ain’t nobody got time for chronic pain. Being uncomfortable greatly erodes my frustration threshold. I am testy and antsy and irritable. I don’t wait well with others. I am seriously cranky and bless my family for putting up with me when I get that way, all snippy like.
No Heels Allowed
I used to wear really pretty, sexy shoes. I wore delicious high heels that made me seem much taller than my five foot two frame. Now, when I wear them I’m like a drunken adolescent moose. I can’t do it anymore. I look like I’m staggering. I’m exploring a whole new world of flats and I miss my peep toe stilettos like the deserts miss the rain (thank you, Everything But The Girl, for that apt expression.)
My pain feels like a bear hug from a cactus. It’s like a thousand paper cuts on top of mosquito bites with salt on every wound. It’s an ache that nags like a child who won’t accept “I don’t know” as an answer. Sometimes it makes it hard to breathe and I feel suffocated by the way it takes over my body.
So that’s what chronic pain feels like. That’s what my chronic pain feels like, anyways. It hurts a lot, but it feels better knowing someone hears what I have to say. I don’t know why it’s there and I don’t know how long it’s going to last. Until then, let’s just say I’m fine, but please believe me if I say I’m not.