Monday, June 19, 2017

12 Things I've Learned When Dealing with Chronic Pain

Pain is a strange thing.

Growing up, a certain amount of pain is as normal a part of our childhood as breathing is. Much like breathing, pain is involuntary and inevitable. We get sick, we break bones and skin knees, we get shots. And lets not forget not just the physical pain we experience but the emotional pain as well.

As children we sometimes don't know how to deal with the physical or the emotional pain we go through. Normal reactions are to panic, scream, and cry; maybe sometimes even lash out. We're scared because we don't know what's happening, we just know it's not a pleasant feeling and we want it to stop immediately.

The older we get, the more we come to understand pain a little bit more, the types of things that cause it, and we have more of a grip on how to manage it. For example if we break another bone, experience has taught us that we go to the emergency room, the doctor sets the broken bone, gives us a cast, and that cast is on for 6 to 8 weeks (or more) depending. Perhaps we're sick with the flu, we're prescribed and take our medication, a few days pass and we get better and then we move on lives.

Chronic pain isn't even on our radar so nobody tells you when you're a kid, or even an adult for that matter, that there is so much more depth to pain than we initially realize.

Before I got sick I was under the same assumption; I had sprained an ankle, gotten shots, and been sick before but those were all temporary and very one dimensional. Pain hurt for a little while, then it went away. I was terrified of needles and would throw tantrums anytime someone would even come near me with one.

Then I got sick and my whole perception of being in pain changed. Pain didn't just go away anymore; pain became apart of my everyday life. Pain became a part of me and who I was as a person.

12 Things I've Learned When Dealing with Chronic Pain

Here are a few things I've come to realize when pain came to permanently stay in casa de Kayla:

1. There's not just one type of pain. There's shooting, stabbing, burning, icy, aching, popping, throbbing, tingling, crushing, sharp, stinging, pressure, etc etc etc. Sometimes even a combination of one or more of the above! Over the years you learn how to distinguish between them all and become a master at describing what pain you're having, where, and when.

2. It is entirely possible to be falling down tired but pain can and does keep you awake, sometimes to the point of causing more pain on top of the pain you were already dealing with. It's painception! This phenomenon is also deemed as "Painsomnia" and is why I'm up at 3:30 in the morning writing this post.

3. Once you've been in constant pain for so long, it alters your mind and changes the way you think and perceive things. I can't plan anything without taking into account how I'm feeling, if the activity will worsen my pain, and if I have enough pain meds to manage things if my pain indeed does worsen. It can also make you think things you wouldn't otherwise normally think and even do things  you wouldn't otherwise normally do.

4. Chronic pain will most definitely 110% cause some degree of depression regardless of who you are.

5. That "normal" smiley face pain scale they show you in doctor's offices, emergency rooms, and hospitals is infuriatingly pure and utter bullshit.

6. No two people's pain tolerances are the same. My pain threshold for a broken bone could be way higher than someone else and vice versa, hence why #5 is a very big pet peeve of mine.

7. Once you reach a certain age dating is expected. It's also an inevitably difficult part of adolescent and adult life during normal circumstances. Add chronic illness and chronic pain to the formula? It's a physical and psychological nightmare of epic proportions.

8. After years of dealing with chronic pain you learn to become quite the award winning actor/actress! I've perfected my technique of acting normal and smiling through the pain even if I feel like crying that day. In fact, those who know me know if I'm abnormally quiet and moody, my pain threshold is reaching it's maximum capacity and I'm slowly starting to panic. 

9. Certain foods become the enemy. I learned a long time ago that there are certain foods that can spike my pain up several levels in a matter of hours, pizza, pop, and certain ice creams being just a few. Common sense dictates that I should stay far away from those types of foods as possible; willpower on the other hand is a bit iffy. Sometimes the pain is worth it. Sometimes it is not.

10. People are sometimes douche canoes. Whether they're just mean, uneducated, or good-hearted and just trying to help, you sometimes have to take what people say with a grain of salt. I'm by nature a very positive person (ask any of those close to me) but if one more person tells me I just need to be more positive and envision my pain going away, I'll positively snap.

11. Pain levels abnormally high for some reason and you have no idea why? Check the local weather for storm fronts and keep an eye on that moon! Weather is a more accepted explanation but I swear some people think I grew a third head right before their eyes when I mention the moon cycles. I usually can tell you within a few days if it's a new moon or a full moon by my pain flares. Who knew any kind of storms and the moon cycles had any bearings on your pain?

12. You will try anything and everything to get at least some form of relief regardless of what it might be (within reason). Doctor recommended you try acupuncture? Make an appointment. You read on the internet swimming in a saltwater pool could help? Track down the nearest saltwater pool. Your neighbor's cousin's daughter's orthodontist found a folk remedy involving toothpaste, an onion, and a single contact lense? Go out and get the ingredients!

I didn't choose the chronic life...the chronic life chose me.

It's a sad state of affairs when chronic pain sufferers like myself have to learn these things and deal with them on a daily basis, oftentimes rearranging our entire lives because of them. Whether you're a long time vet to the whole chronic pain life or you're new, you know where I'm coming from and, if not, you sadly will.

I vaguely remember being that little kid afraid of needles and throwing tantrums but that seems like it was a different life. Now when a needle comes near me I don't blink an eye unless they're taking blood. Then I just hope and pray they hit the vein the first time which 95% of the time never happens.

My advice for the newbies to this hard life: keep trying new things. 

While nothing has been the cure-all-end-all by any means up until this point many things I've tried throughout the years have helped ease my pain, if only slightly. It will probably come to a point where you're emotionally and physically exhausted and you just don't want to try anything anymore; push yourself to do just one more thing.

Always just one more thing.

What has chronic pain taught you? What would your piece of advice be?


Amethyst said...

I have noticed that storms cause flare ups for me, but have never noticed the moon cycles. Would you expound on how that works for you? I am genuinely curious.

XmasDolly said...

Baby Girl, this doesn't take a few minutes to read.... this takes a lifetime to take in. It really hits home with me to say the least!!! I'll be back to reread this one a few times I'm sure! BIG HUGS

Unknown said...

Darling, I'm right there with you! It was like you were describing my life!

Unknown said...

I have learned that when you have pain for so long that you literally adapt like after my 5th lower lumbar surgery the interns at the U of M wanted me to go to a rehab hospital for 8 weeks I had a 6 yr old at the time so no but they had a physical rehab person come in to see me & then the rehab hospital admin came in after she had watched me for awhile & she said to them "This is literally the last person that needs rehab she has already adapted her life to living with this she could teach you." I was shocked but then I look at how you adapt to living with the pain, how you know what you can and defiantly cannot do so you have to break it up or just let it wait until you are able. Chronic pain makes you stronger as it saps your strength but you do learn what you need for you to not give up on the living part.