Have you ever had an injury so bad that it kept you in bed for a week or so? One that came with non-stop pain and interfered with every element of your life, from your job to your personal hygiene? You may have broken a bone or had surgery. You feel as though it’s never going away, but you know it will. Give or take four to eight weeks, you will be healed and back to normal again. Imagine that this crippling pain didn’t go away though. Imagine if it clung on to you and made it self at home for an indefinite period of time.
Over the last three months I have been experiencing more and more pain related symptoms. Right now as I write this – the three pillows piled behind my back feel like large rocks pressing into my back. My back both throbs and burns and no matter how much I adjust, I can’t seem to shake the feeling that there are rocks behind my back. My neck is so tight and sore, for some reason I cant un-tense the muscles in it. It feels as though it is constantly straining just to hold my head up, even if it is rested on a pillow. Pain screams up my spine and ends at the top of my neck. My right knee is on fire, with pain shooting down my leg. I also have glass-shattering pins and needles on my right foot that worsen with the slightest twitch of my toes. Because my leg is in so much pain my muscles in keep shaking and cramping uncontrollably which then makes my pins and needles even more painful. My shoulders are aching from using them to type. They throb constantly, and god forbid I actually lift my arms to my head. I have a weird headache on the right side of my head, which somehow manages to shoot pain down my face and it feels as though tiny creatures are digging their way out of my eyeballs from the inside.
Today is not an unusual day, today is very much the same as yesterday and the day before.
Pain is such a temporary concept to most people, including myself, that we often don’t acknowledge that some people live in pain their entire lives (or a significant portion of). This is a fate I fear for myself. We often associate pain with injury and dismiss pain that comes on by itself. When I tell people my back hurts, they respond with “what did you do?” Nothing, I did nothing. My body just hates me. People often will invalidate pain that cannot be explained – “oh that’s weird *pretends nothing happened*” They don’t care that my pain is constantly between a 7 and 9.5 out of 10, because I did not break my leg or have spinal surgery. I do not have any bandages or bruising. My pain is invisible, that is why I need to talk about it today.
My pain rules my life; some days I lay in bed and cry because the pain is so horrible I can’t do anything else. It’s really hard. I try not to talk about it but some days it’s too much to handle. My pain makes it impossible to stand for more than 10 minutes at a time, otherwise my feet begin to burn and it feels as though I am walking on shards of glass. The longer I stand, the higher this pain spreads. My shoulders send shooting pains down my arms if I used them for more than a few seconds. Imagine my struggle of washing my long, thick hair whilst standing in the shower with these two symptoms. Because of this I can only manage to wash my hair every two to three weeks. Yes, you read that correctly. I wash my hair every 14 to 21 days. I am totally aware of how gross this is, but I am literally reduced to tears every time I have to wash my hair. Showers are painful enough without having to wash my hair and because of the pain and my fatigue, sometimes I can only manage to shower a few times a week. Now that is so embarrassing to admit but I can’t really do much to change it.
My pain makes it so much harder to sleep, which then makes my fatigue worse the next day. It’s a never ending, vicious cycle. Even with pain medication, this is still the case. I take 20mg of anti-depressants each night which is commonly used as a ‘nerve painkiller’ and this works to an extent. It probably turns my pain from a 9 to a 7 which is a huge relief but just not enough. By lunch time the next day this will wear off and I’m left hanging for the next dosage. Basically, these meds just help me get to sleep with reduced pain and allow me to have a semi-reduced pain morning. I’ve tried every pain killer under the sun and none of it works. I use heat packs and hot water bottles religiously but they can’t help much when basically my entire body hurts. Massages are a good temporary relief also and if I had it my way I’d pay someone to massage me 24/7 (any takers?).
My body constantly feels like it is run down by the aches and pain of the flu, even on my ‘great’ health days it feels this way. On my bad days however, if feels as though I have been run down by a truck. When I tell you I am having a good day, it probably means my pain is sitting comfortably at a 5 and i might have a small spurt of energy. My good days are more than enough to send the average person straight to the emergency room. The down side of my good days is that I will often take advantage of them and try and get some things done around the house, only to be rudely reminded the next day that every action has a very painful consequence.
It’s hard trying to imagine my life without pain because it has sadly become a constant part of my every day. I’m slowly learning how to function with the pain but it is a long and slow process. There will always be days that my pain is too high to manage anything, but the days in between are all taken as blessings. Invisible and unexplained pain is a very real thing, not all pain stems from injury and not all pain comes with visible scars. And for some people; like myself, pain is not temporary.