Living with chronic pain is like being on a rollercoaster. For some it is a constant uphill battle, waiting for the drop to gain some relief. For others, they are flying down the hill figuring out how to manage it. The rest are travelling between the loops of pain flares waiting to see what comes next. Regardless of where you fall, you know what true accomplishment is and what it feels like to be at your lowest points. So, like me, you find yourself being the optimist and the pessimist in the most polar way thanks to pain.
1. When you are having a good day everything is sunshine and rainbows.
On days when you wake up in less or minimal pain you basically cry of joy. For most, this is the moment that helps you through the others. You become the sweetest, chattiest, and adventurous person you were before the pain. You find yourself on such a mental high the littlest things are amazing. You push yourself, often beyond your limit, but if you can make it around a third of the park, you begin to notice how truly colourful the world is. You notice the birds play songs, that the sun is bright and warm- and even though the heat hurts your hyper sensitive skin it is okay because we live in such a beautiful place.
2. When you are having a bad day you realize how horrible and sad your situation is.
Some days making it out of bed and to the bathroom on your own, or being able to sit up for long enough to take your pills and finish the glass of water is an accomplishment. Other times it’s focusing on a conversation for 30 seconds without thinking about how much your body hurts. Your primary caregiver, or doctor even, thinks this is something you want to celebrate (let’s be honest sometimes you do), but this also makes you want to cry. The fact that all your energy for the day is now gone doing something everyone else does multiple times a day without thinking twice is heart breaking.
3. If you are lucky enough to be in a period of minimal pain THIS is you one true life accomplishment, devaluing all others.
Getting your pain under control is the most amazing feeling (for those yet to reach this point – it is coming I promise)! This however, is one of the hardest concepts to understand if you haven’t experienced it. Basically, nothing will ever be as rewarding as relearning how to walk after 3 years of being in a wheelchair or hopping around. This makes it impossible to celebrate your own, or others, achievements since they don’t compare. I was not able to find overwhelming pride in getting into university, good grades, grad school, awards, getting a new place- all because nothing tops walking again. Many, like myself, find this frustrating.
4. But- things others take for granted put a smile on your face.
WEARING JEANS, sitting at the table for dinner, being able to stay awake long enough to see someone open the present you got them, only take an Advil, seeing your doctor for the first time in weeks at the grocery store (not their office). Skipping, walking on sand, WALKING IN GENERAL, showering without crying, being able to wiggle your fingers or toes, cooking a meal for yourself, seeing the happiness in the eyes of others who see you happy for the first time in a long time. These are some of the best things to happen to those with chronic pain.
It’s hard to grasp the idea of seeing the world so differently. It’s true that being in constant pain really does change you. Whether your condition is flared or if you are in a period of management, you are both a pessimist and an optimist. Like the pain – I don’t think this is something that will ever go away. Sometimes I see it as a blessing, and other times as a curse, simply because I don’t think I will ever be just one.