Chronic Pain & Perspective

Hi, I’m Sarah. I have chronic pain.

No, that’s not like your occasionally headaches when it’s rainy out.

A normal 20-year-old’s pain routine might look something like this: you wake up, go about your day, feel a headache or soreness coming on. You groan, guessing at the cause. You take some over-the-counter pain medicine, lay down for a half hour till it works, then go about your day not really thinking about it.

My daily pain routine for the last year looks something like this: wake up in debilitating pain. Grab pain medication from the nightstand, take a huge dose of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Beg your liver for forgiveness. Once mobile, do the yoga everyone says is supposed to “fix your pain” but that really just makes you slightly more bendy and uncomfortable. Apply layer after layer of CBD, essential oils, and muscle soreness balms. Eat if you can. Alternate heat and ice, hoping it’s subtly hidden under your jacket more often than not. Watch the clock and take more medication on time or you’ll regret it. Repeat.

My calendar looks like someone in their 70s, filled with appointments and treatments and PT exercises and reminders to take my medication. My best friend has it worse, but we make quite the “chronic pain buddy” pair. Most of the time the days we can’t drive don’t fall on the same day, so we can help each other out. I don’t know what I’d do without her. Probably think I’m crazy and alone in this struggle.

This might be the point where you start to pity me, but you really don’t need to. Sure, it sucks to not be able to walk or load my own dishwasher sometimes, but my life is one of vibrancy and so much love I could burst. In some ways, chronic pain has made my life better, and made me better.

It means I don’t have time for bullshit. For people who are fake or shallow. For things that don’t bring me joy or success. It means I find out really quickly who is going to be a real, good friend and who is just focused on upping their numbers on snapchat. It means I had to get really good at asking for help, instead of giving it and wondering why I felt burnt out all the time.

If I could wave a magic wand and cure myself, I would in a heartbeat. That’s why I’m in various doctor’s offices for tests and treatment 4 times a week. But, going through this has forced me to become deeply intentional about everything in my life, and I could not be more grateful for that. I am more appreciative about my garden because I know how hard I’ve worked to keep it alive, and nurture myself in the process. I know how lucky I am to live in a place where everything is 10 minutes or less away, and to live in a time when I can work remotely and borrow library books without leaving the house (Alliance Overdrive FTW). I know how to prioritize my life and my time in a whole new way.

Hopefully it won’t take a chronic illness for you to learn these lessons, but if you have a chronic condition, leave me a comment about how it has affected you and your life for the better (or for worse — I’ll be happy to commiserate and listen).

7 thoughts on “Chronic Pain & Perspective

  1. Well written, thanks for sharing.
    My wife has RA and she has a very similar routine every day. I am currently waiting to be diagnosed with chronic joint pain that started a few months ago. So we can relate.

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    1. I hope that you are able to get a diagnosis and treatment! I know all the attention to the opioid crisis has made it difficult for people with certain conditions to get treatments and medications that work for them. I hope you and your wife remain relatively unaffected by it, but I’ve learned not to be too optimistic.

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      1. I appreciate it. My wife and I both do PT, plus every other thing they suggest. But we definitely wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the morning without meds.

        Cutting out, well at least down on sugar has been my biggest hurdle. Bad for inflammation I guess.
        My wife’s had RA for 7 years so she has been through a lot. The only good thing is I have her to help me through this, and we both actually get what the other one is going through. I never understood how much pain she was really in, but now I am starting to get it.
        Anyway, here’s to having a good day!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. My wife has RA, and her daily schedule looks a lot like yours. I just started getting chronic joint pain a few months ago and it definitely makes the mornings a lot harder then they should be.

    Sprinkle in some mental health problems for both of us, just for fun.

    Yeah, we are no longer morning people.

    Keep up the good work, it’s good that you are trying to raise awareness on the vast difference between pain and chronic pain.

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    1. RA is such a struggle! A classmate of mine had that in school, and it is difficult. I’m fortunate to have a partner that (at least right now) is fully physically able, but he had a severe back injury in his early teens so he has a framework for the kind of pain I am in. He’s been a lifesaver.

      Mental illness certainly doesn’t make it easier. I developed PTSD before chronic pain, but I definitely find it is easier to sink into depressive states now with issues like limited movement.

      Thank you for your comment, and I hope you are able to find treatments and therapies that make your mornings (and lives in general) just a bit easier! I’ve been lucky to have a physical therapist that has drastically reduced my daily pain. I wish all pain were that simple.

      Liked by 1 person

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