I try to be positive in spite of my chronic pain. I don’t want to let it drag me down too much. But, sometimes it’s hard to see beyond the negatives. Right now is one of those times.
I’m currently in a deep pain flare. The pain is intense, and it’s been going on long enough that I’m struggling to remind myself that there will be an end to it; that at some point the pain will retreat enough that I can focus on getting back to my life.
I think this one is a particularly challenging one because just last week I was feeling pretty good. Not perfect, the pain was still there, but it was mild enough to ignore.
Truth be told, I probably ended up in this severe pain flare because of that ‘good’ week; I probably didn’t get enough rest. Okay, so I know I didn’t get enough rest, but I was having fun, and it felt so good – like I was a normal person. But, going to the pub three times in five days was arguably a bad decision.
Despite the distress I’m in, when I sat down to write, I was still determined to write an upbeat blog post. But after staring at a blank white screen for a while, I succumbed to the call of the ‘dark side.’
Besides, maybe always putting a positive face on things isn’t the best way to garner support from others. Maybe, occasionally sharing the darkness might help others understand what is going on, and how they might be able to help.
The following are the negative things that my chronic pain makes me feel – not all of the time, but often enough to be a serious factor in my emotional health.
12 NEGATIVE THINGS CHRONIC PAIN MAKES ME FEEL:
I have this constant feeling of sensory overload that turns ordinary stimuli into a barrage of sharp missiles that I’m powerless to defend myself against. I want to hide, but I can’t because I have responsibilities. I have people depending on me.
Every little decision becomes monumental, and I can feel the panic rising, as I try and fulfill my duties as a mother, and a wife, and a functioning, productive adult.
My ability to make decisions gets degraded because I can’t focus my mind on the problem long enough to come up with a solution, no matter how simple of a problem it is – the pain is just too distracting.
Even as I write this, it’s causing my pain to spike, as I try and form my thoughts into words that others will understand.
I don’t really know what this would look like, but I know deep inside that it’s something that I wouldn’t recover from and that terrifies me.
I also fear that the intense pain that I’m feeling to day is going to become my new normal; that this time, the pain won’t recede to a manageable level.
The lion’s share of my internal resources are being taken up just dealing with the pain, leaving me very little left over for coping with the everyday stressors that come with being an adult and a parent.Simple questions and problems can derail my entire day. Click To Tweet
And to make things just that little more difficult to manage, on top of my family and work responsibilities, I have medical appointments, physio exercises, and pain combatting self-care rituals to squeeze in somehow.
I can feel myself losing the battle to stay on top of my life. I’m no longer staying afloat; I’m sinking, and I’m losing sight of the surface. And each time that I come out the other side, I’m less able to make up lost ground.
I have dropped all of the balls I’m juggling, and I can’t seem to get them back up in the air.
Am I going to feel like this forever?
Will I ever feel ‘good’ again?
Will I lose the ability to be any kind of mother to my children?
With the exception of my children and my husband (who I love dearly and wouldn’t trade), I can end up going days without human interaction.
And often, even when I’m in a group, I feel separated because the pain makes me feel stiff and awkward, like I’m an interloper that has crashed the group.
Many of my friends have drifted away from me. I don’t know whether this is because I’ve become that tiresome friend who takes too much work to be around, or if it’s because I haven’t held up my end of the friendship because of the restrictions my illness puts on me.
I’ve noticed though that I get very ‘chatty’ with my health care providers because they are the main people I see, aside from my kids and husband, of course.
It’s getting harder and harder to find the energy to go out.
In addition, I’m very sensitive to a lot of noise, so the more fun other people are having, the harder it is for me to join in.
I’m a very social person. I thrive on laughing and sharing with others. But now, that same energy level that I love leaves me feeling depleted. It makes me gun shy to go out socially because I’m afraid of the consequences.
Often, I end up staying at home when my family goes out because I need the break – but, of course, then I’m alone again.
I see the people around me doing exciting things.I feel left behind. Click To Tweet
My pain comes with a lot of anger. I’m angry at everything, or at least it feels that way sometimes.
I’m mostly angry at the pain and how my body has betrayed me, but sometimes that manifests as just plain anger.
I think the anger is a expression of the frustration and hopelessness that I feel as I try to claw out some semblance of my normal life from this chaos the pain has left me in.
I’m struggling to hold on to the old me, and a part of me knows that I have to let her go. She wasn’t real anyway, otherwise why would I be in this situation today?
And it makes me ANGRY.
The anger coupled with being overwhelmed, exhausted and in pain robs me of my patience. The smallest divergence from what my frantic mind has latched onto as the route to getting through the day can be catastrophic; it makes me explode because I’ve got nothing left to process the change. This change could be something as simple as one of my children crying while I’m trying to cook dinner.
I can’t transition easily because transitioning takes emotional energy, and I’m depleted.
I snap at my kids and husband out of the blue for no reason. I don’t mean to. It has already happened before I’m even aware that it’s building inside me.
I believe that this is closely related to the almost constant state of being overwhelmed that I find myself in on a daily basis.
My volatility leads to my next big negative emotion:
I have a crushing sense of guilt at all times.
The list of things that I feel guilty about is almost never ending and is certainly not helping me heal.
I feel guilty that I’m damaging my children because of my volatility and my inability to engage with them.
I feel guilty that my husband has to take on extra housework that I should’ve accomplished. I work part-time or not at all; housework should be my responsibility.
I feel guilty that I miss the birthdays of my friends and family.
I feel guilty that I can’t put 100% into my job anymore.
I feel guilty that right now I’m writing about the terrible things that I’m feeling rather than going to the pool with my children and my husband.
I feel guilty that I feel guilty…
I don’t want my life to be about my condition. I don’t really want to talk about it all the time. But, at the same time, when I’m struggling to keep it together, just every now and then, it would be amazing if someone would acknowledge that they can see that I’m struggling.
It happens, sometimes, and it’s empowering to have my strength acknowledge. Because, I’ll let you in on a secret, I don’t feel strong any more. I feel weak. I feel like if I could just suck it up a little better, I could get passed this.
There’s another side to my invisibility. It’s about believability. Because my illness can’t be seen on an x-ray or MRI or any test result so far, it sometimes feels like maybe nobody believes me.
If my condition had visible symptoms, perhaps people would remember that I can’t do all the things I used to. Or rather I can, but at a pretty big cost sometimes.
Of course, the fact that my pain is unpredictable doesn’t make it easy to know what I’m going to be capable of handling.
And perhaps if I was better at asking for help…
I’ve always been an industrious person. It used to be rare to find me doing nothing. Now, I do a lot of ‘nothing,’ and I feel lazy.
I often find myself surrounded by a house that needs so much attention, and my ‘to do’ list goes on forever, but I’m not even attempting to tackle any of it. Instead, I’m curled up in my bed with my sleep mask on trying to block out the world and the pain.
Or I might be on the couch under my afghan because I can no longer participate with my family, but I want to be near them so that I don’t miss out on everything.
I feel lazy.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
The above list feels pretty devastating when I read it over. It brings tears to my eyes.
I know that I’m overwhelmed by these feelings sometimes. It makes me cry. It makes me into a person that I don’t really like.
The good news is that it’s not all the time. So, eventually I can recognize it for what it is: my brain trying to process an assault.
I know that once this pain diminishes, and I know it will, I’ll be able to see the sun shining. Once I can see the sun, I’ll be able to swim towards it and find the surface.
So, I will keep fighting for ways to conquer the pain. I will keep reminding myself that this is temporary. Before long I’ll have forgotten how I terrible I feel in this moment – at least until the next go round. But, of course, then I can use this triumph as proof that I’m strong enough to do battle with the pain and come out on top.
If you’re interested in where my pain journey started, you can read about it here.
Thank-you for staying with me until the end. Just being able to verbalize and share my darker emotions makes me feel a little bit stronger.
And perhaps a little less isolated, because I know that my voice is being heard.
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