As someone who lives with daily, chronic pain, sometimes a flareup of that pain can shock even me. After decades of enduring it, I am often shocked when the flare arrives. I know that the pain has reached a crescendo when I can’t jog up the stairs like I always do. My children notice that the yoga mat isn’t out, or that my limp is back for a few days. My doctors have always trusted me with pain medication, because they know how deeply I despise taking it. It usually expires before I use it, and I have to drive to a medication disposal site to get rid of it. I get how lucky (if that is even remotely close to being the right word to describe it) I am that I feel that way. Not everyone can resist the relief those meds can bring and the ensuing life-altering addiction they can bring.
When I was first correctly diagnosed as an adult, it was a conundrum. I was grateful to finally know the cause, yet I was terrified because I knew that the infusions that were recommended for my type of condition were oftentimes worse than the pain. I did a lot of research about those meds and, as the only surviving parent of my children, I decided against them. I know several people who regularly get the infusions who have regained vibrant lives full of pain-free activity. I also know someone who wound up with lesions on their spine, and one other person with a cancer often associated with it. The latter individual will not be here much longer. So, onward I trudge with the pain.
There is no quantifying the number of times I have contemplated the conundrum of taking a day off to rest. The guilt is very real. When I don’t work, when I don’t write, I don’t earn. When I don’t head out for my walk or get on the treadmill, I feel guilty. Where this guilt comes from, I am truly not sure. I will say that the longer I “lounge”, the more intense my pain is. Unless you are surrounded by people who truly understand chronic pain, you will get a lot of, “Well, can’t you just take something for it?” This isn’t the kind of pain that ibuprofen or aspirin relieves. This is deep, bone-deep pain that makes every muscle ache, you wince as you walk up the stairs. I know that it will pass and that it’s possible that later today I will feel much better. In most cases though, I am alone with my thoughts and coping.
Fortunately, I have two children here with me who are kind, helpful individuals. All I need to do is ask and they help without complaint (well, in most cases anyway!). I continue to incorporate mostly healthy foods into my diet, and even though I incorporate rest when needed, I know that today, with an extremely bad flare of pain that showed up this morning, I will at least do some yoga. I will stretch, hydrate, and probably do more writing that I normally do. What is that saying? This too shall pass? Or was it Gandalf saying, “You…shall…not…pass!” Whichever it was, I know that in the end, I will be OK. I am grateful for what I have, and that is the fact that although the pain is deep and persistent…so am I.