Archives for posts with tag: pain

…I just hurt, is all. Like… predicting a hard early winter levels of arthritis pain, here. Pain sufficiently severe to present a chronic distraction, to drive volatile moods, to aggravate me to the point of anger-driven anhedonia… the cluster-headache-pain of spinal pain. I hurt, and I’m fussy, and I’m irritable, and I’m… not at my best. The problem with the pain is less about the pain than the sabotage. No kidding; pain shrinks my world and limits my focus. Worse still…?

…You can’t see it. Some of us are pretty stoic about pain, most of the time. You’ve no idea what you’re up against when you interact with someone with invisible injuries like chronic pain. Was I terse with you? Yeah, well, I couldn’t stand up without my cane this morning, and every step hurts – except the ones that don’t require my spine. Breathing hurts. Moving hurts. Not moving hurts (actually more so than moving, over time anyway).

“Take something for it. Duh.” Uh-huh. I like that idea. So, after I finish ruling out the OTC stuff that may be problematic for some other health conditions and the Rx  non-opiate pain relievers I can’t have because of some contraindication or another against those, that leaves, generally, just opiates and cannabis. I’d rather not deal with the political and medical minefield of opiates, but if I could be without pain… then? Rarely. I dislike the sexual side effects, and yes, I said it; I’d rather endure my pain and still be able to enjoy sex than be 100% pain-free but not able to enjoy sex. So. Get over that with me, I’m human, and I’ve got a lifetime of experience with my priorities – the pain management options available to most of us are fairly shitty in one way or another. It’s a thing that some of us are entirely too aware of. Cannabis? Yep. Definitely. As much as I can, and it is my “go-to remedy”, but let’s be frank with each other; it’s not a perfect fix, and it is not appropriate for all circumstances (or all pain).

This is not a quantity of pain that is easily medicated away. Pain is a signal from our body about our health or circumstances. It shouts loud because it is supposed to. Drowning it out is a major task; our body would much rather we fixed whatever is actually wrong. It’s complicated, and it’s imperfect, and there are so few days in the year that I’m entirely pain-free that they become cause for real celebration. I hurt so much of the time, and have for so long (since around 1990), that I’m seriously bored of bitching about it. (Can’t people who actually know me somehow just also know that I hurt…? Like… mostly always? lol)

I plan my life as if there is no pain. I don’t know how else to do it, really. I still want to live my life. I still just fucking hurt. Sometimes I hurt too much to hike. Sometimes I hurt too much to party. Sometimes I hurt too much to do housekeeping or even to get dressed. This weekend, I filled my calendar with cool stuff I was seriously looking forward to doing, and people I am eager to see. By the time the weekend actually came, and with it the welcome rain and the autumn weather I enjoy so well, my pain had come back, too. This weekend ended up being less about going and doing, and more about connecting (with my partner) and chilling (at home). It was lovely. So worth it, in spite of my pain.

Fuck pain.

Autumn and winter are worst. Then Spring. I get some relief in the summertime heat. Most years I even get to put away my cane. It’s been in my car, unused most of the time, since May. Four and a half months almost pain-free this year… less than the year before, which was less than the year before that. I find myself wistfully remembering years ago, when it seemed like I only hurt like this in the coldest months…

I got into the elevator at the end of my day and ignored the tears that just started spilling down. I got into my terrifically hot car with a real “aaaaaaahhhhh” moment of relief; however brief, totally worth it. “Pain management”. lol It’s more like “endurance” if you’ve got chronic pain. It is an endurance test filled with well-meaning suggestions, well-wishes, and an utter inability to communicate what this experience is like to people who don’t have it; we all feel our own pain, and can’t feel someone else’s. I’ve had some amusing experiences with people whose most serious pain in life has been a hangnail, stubbed toe, or bump in the night, who don’t understand chronic, relentless, serious pain, and how it wears away at one’s enthusiasm, and will. “I hope you feel better soon! Have you tried…” Uh-huh. Yep. That too. Yeah, and that. No, it didn’t “work”… What to say when someone who really cares tries so hard to offer support and comfort? A weary chuckle and a reminder that “chronic” pain is… um… not going go away, really, probably ever. That’s when I gave up the Rx pain relievers; between the fucking hassles getting them, and the constant nagging about their use, the side effects, and the fact that this shit is fucking forever…? Nope. I actually still work for a living. I have shit to do. People are counting on me. I’m counting on me.

I’m so not saying I hurt more than you do! I’m not saying my pain is worse than… anything. I’m just saying, frankly, in clear explicit terms that chronic pain is a thing I do deal with. Daily. You, too? I’m sorry to hear that. “Have you tried…” (jk jk lol)

What I am saying is that it is not possible to sufficiently well-medicated to truly stop hurting, only to get medicated enough that I care even less about the pain in the background, for a while. Shit. That sounds bleak. Don’t be sad. Sometimes it helps a lot. Sometimes it helps enough. Right now, today, nothing helps; it is the beginning of autumn, and I go through this every year… and…

I’m glad. I mean… it’s a fair trade. It could be worse. I’m still walking.

In 1986 I broke my back. It was pretty bad. My spinal canal was more than 60% occluded by a piece of vertebrae that had broken off from the impact, and gotten jammed into my backbone. There was real concern I would not even walk again. I was kept on a backboard for a couple days, very still, and partially restrained while we “worked out the next steps”. I wasn’t allowed to roll over, ever, without calling for nurses, who would ever so carefully roll me onto my side, re-secure my body so I couldn’t roll forward, backward, or move much at all, and put supporting pillows here and there to try to make me comfortable. I was heavily medicated. My back was broken in two places. My wrist was broken, and I had a head injury. I was not in the best shape for decision-making, but I had a good medical team. My surgeon offered me an option; a somewhat experimental procedure that could result in staying on active duty, being able to walk, and fully recovering from my injury, with some lengthy convalescence…, or, well… some less than perfect outcome in that basic “still walking” context. I took the deal. I absolutely did. (If he’d told me I’d be facing a life time of pain, would I still have made the same choice? Well, sure; we don’t know what we don’t know. I’d never known a lifetime of physical pain of this type or magnitude, and would not have been able to imagine what it might be like.)

I was in the hospital for months, then recovering on active duty long enough to be certain that I needed more time. It was going to be two years before I could “go back to work”, but that was in some rosy optimistic future I couldn’t yet envision any differently than “a full recovery”. Arthritis? That’s something that happens to old people, right? I worked hard throughout those two years of convalescence – and I returned to active duty feeling pretty fucking triumphant, no kidding; I was lean, strong, fit, and flexible. The pain came later. About a year into being back on active duty. Something definitely felt wrong… I kept going back, appointment after appointment. I wanted a diagnosis, and then I wanted to be treated, and I wanted to recover.

“Well, it looks like you’ve got a touch of osteo-arthritis…” I got my diagnosis. Shortly afterward, and feeling fairly heartbroken about it, I also got my discharge. That “touch of arthritis” has continued to spread over the years, commandeering my spine and my experience one joint at a time. I’m still walking. I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful for the hikes, for the downtown shopping on foot, the strolls through gardens, the slow dash to a meeting… all of it. It could be so much worse in some way. Most of the time, it’s just pain. It’s mostly manageable. It is… what it is. We age. We feel pain. We are mortal creatures.

I live my own personal Little Mermaid allegory. lol

But fuck. I hurt. Damn it. Sometimes I’m so fucking tired of hurting, and I forget myself, and end up taking it out on… maybe you? People. People who matter to me. People who couldn’t have known. People who have things to get done and need something from me. People who want to enjoy my company. People who have never hurt. People who, also, always do.

In spite of my pain, I feel very appreciated. 🙂 I could do better at demonstrating that. 

…I try “not to bitch”. (My results vary.) I do my best to manage my pain without making it anyone else’s issue. (Again with the varying results.) It doesn’t always work out well. This weekend, my Traveling Partner reminded me gently how much better a shared journey can be, when each moment and step is taken from a fully present place, in a completely authentic way. We talked about the pain. I’m glad we did. It stopped feeling like a shameful secret. It stopped feeling like a weakness. It’s just an experience.

Suddenly I’m not sure whether to post this one. Too many words about an experience no one likes to have (pain)…

…It’s time to begin again. I’ll go try some things… maybe I’ll feel better soon. 😉

Well, it’s not yet “officially” winter, but it is clear that my arthritis finds it season enough to deliver the full measure of winter-level arthritis pain. I woke with it during the night, 3 or 4 times, only to return to a restless sleep after discontentedly struggling with pain for some little while. My quality of restful sleep was… meh. I don’t know. Not enough. Fuck pain. I want to “lol” about it and move on from the moment, but it’s got me feeling angry with the world and just generally fairly aggravated just now. It’ll pass. I remind myself, again and again, it will pass.

A quiet evening in late autumn, spent quietly.

Last night I relaxed quietly after work, just sitting, enjoying the fireplace. I left the Giftmas tree dark, and without the merry colored lights it seemed a more somber, still, and serene moment of calm contentment, aside from the pain I’d spent the day in, and which lingered through the night. I took medication for that, even took an Rx pain reliever. It helped some.

I sit here staring at my monitor, still feeling sort of put out and aggravated by being in pain. Shitty start to the day…

…I can’t help notice that I’m not improving things by focusing on the pain, itself, and letting it lead the morning. I had unrolled my yoga mat and taken advantage of a few reliable postures to ease stiff joints before my shower, and I left my mat out because yoga actually helps, and maybe I would want to do more of that healthy stuff to cope with my pain…? Maybe…? I chuckle quietly to myself, aware of all the many verbs, and how much effort life requires to live it skillfully…

I head for my yoga mat, to begin the day again. 🙂

Fucking hell, this is some real shit, right here.

I woke early – 3:38 am – no alarm. Had to pee, not an uncommon mammalian or primate thing at all, it happens. I wasn’t awake enough, quite, to realize that this moment would cascade into other small unpleasant experiences, like dominoes toppling, each less comfortable than the previous moment leading to it. Having to pee was easy to resolve… then it was all about my sinuses draining… then I became aware of the headache… my pounding heart… the breathless feeling… Why the hell was I “holding my breath” like that in the first place??? Right. Pain. I’m betting it was actually the pain that woke me, because as it turned out, I really didn’t have to pee that badly, certainly not badly enough to wake me from a deep sleep. It is, perhaps, habitual to immediately head in that direction if I wake during the night, at all. lol

Fuck, I am in so much pain, already, today. It’s not yet actually even time to begin the day. :-\ The world is quiet, and there is no sound of traffic, or the existence of humanity beyond this keyboard, and this monitor, right here. It is just now 4:30 am, on a Saturday morning. I could be sleeping… if I were not awake. I hurt too much to feel sleepy. I may as well begin the day… for some values of “beginning”. I made coffee. 0_o

Realizing, after the first sip, that coffee does not, in any way, address pain, and pain being, in fact, the issue at hand, I drop an ice-cube in my coffee and let it melt on my way to the shower, and chug it before I step under the steamy hot water…

…A shower, some yoga, and yes, actually, another shower after that… and generous application of medical cannabis (both as a topical balm, where I can reach painful places, and vaporized)… I make coffee number two, and sit down to write, hopeful that I may find adequate relief without reaching for an Rx pain reliever. 5:52 am. Still far earlier than today needed to begin. lol Fuck – how is this much pain even a thing? Is this really fucking necessary? I know I have arthritis – what fucking help is all this pain?? What could it possibly be telling me that has any value, at all? Damn. Well… the coffee, the yoga and the shower eased the headache pain. That’s something. No headache. I pause to sip my coffee and appreciate that for a long moment. I do not have a headache, right now. Nice. I’ll take it.

Next? Distraction. Cognitive trickery – totally fair game, and a worthy practice. 🙂

Yesterday was lovely. I did not shop. I did not buy. I chilled at home, mostly just looking out onto the deck, sipping coffee, or tea, or reading a book. I’ve been somewhat disappointed since I moved in to see creatures so seldom. I mean, I’ve seen bunnies, chipmunks, squirrels, a rather large raccoon, but birds have been fairly rare, aside from seeing them fly by now and then. The one squirrel visitor who seemed to be regular was only interested in the bird seed I had hoped would be, you know, for the birds. lol I switched to putting out a small dish of whole peanuts, on an irregular basis, and an ear of dried corn in a hanging feeder that the squirrel could more safely get to. I haven’t seen the squirrel back, but the dish has often been quickly emptied, and the cob stripped far faster than I had expected, fairly often. Yesterday, spending hours just watching (and hours that are generally spent in the office, far away), I finally got to see how things go, here on the deck. Apparently, things don’t get going until around 11 am, in the late autumn.

A beautiful Steller’s Jay stopped by for a peanut… or… several. lol

I watched the jay coming and going for quite a while. Then, a female jay joined him. Then, a pair of robins stopped by, not interested in the peanuts, but feeling safe to check out the soil in all the pots for tasty things. A hummingbird snacked on each remaining blossom in the garden, which is to say, some nasturtiums in the hanging baskets, and some blooms left on Baby Love, a miniature rose that doesn’t appear to give a damn about the season, and blooms almost year round. A small woodpecker visited a tree just beyond the deck, and the hawk I often hear circling overhead took a seat in a tree top within view. I sat, delighted, for an hour or two (or more…?).

I sat long enough, aware, and patiently observing, to begin spotting dens, nests, burrows, and bowers.

It was time well spent. It was just at the moment I first considered getting up to go “do something” that my last visitor came around.

…my squirrel visitor is nibbling on my tarragon…

I sit quietly, sneaking an occasional picture, hoping not to startle the squirrel, who still seems very shy. Eventually, my wee visitor makes its way to the corn feeder, first checking the empty dish for peanuts (the jays got them all).

…I’m glad to know for sure the squirrel knows the feeder is there. 🙂

The sinking sun was already beginning to change the color of the forest beyond the deck. I smile to myself to see that I’ve used the word “forest”, even now that I can so clearly see it’s really only a strip of trees, a bit of grass, and then the backs of all the houses another street over. lol Those Big Leaf Maples really provide a dense wall of greenery in spring and summer, quite delightfully private.

There are things to love about this place and time. It is worth being here, now.

…And… It’s worked. A bit of distraction, lingering on the recollection of something quite pleasant, looking through the pictures, sharing it with you, in words, here… I don’t hurt as much. I’ve had a chance to benefit from the yoga, the shower, and taking medication. My consciousness isn’t saturated in information to do with pain, or sensations of it. I can move on with the day, and maybe fairly comfortably. It’s not magic. There are verbs involved. My results vary. But… today it is enough, and I can begin again. 🙂

 

 

I woke in pain.

Damn it. A sentence that short doesn’t do the moment justice. Rainy, chilly, autumn days, and colder night-time temperatures, and here it is time again for my arthritis pain to become a serious shot-caller in my day-to-day experience. Damn, this sucks. I woke hurting, couldn’t roll over because my spine was locked up, rigid and aching, from my waist to my shoulders. I laid still with the pain for a few moments, taking time to be aware that I was able to breathe “comfortably” – for some values of “comfort” – and confirming fingers and toes move, and that I felt sensations in extremities.

Time for the winter practices, already? Yeah, looks that way. I slowly, with great determination, begin moving the bits and pieces that do seem pretty mobile. I flex fingers, arms, toes, feet, legs. I stretch anything that stretches. I find adequate leverage to roll to my back. I pull my knees to my chest one by one, and begin working on arching my back some small bit. I push-pull-rock and get rolled first to one side, then the other. Repeat all the motions on each side. Eventually, I am able to roll to my right side, push myself up on an elbow, pull myself the rest of the way using the arm on the other side, and a firm grasp on the edge of the pillow top of the mattress. Sitting up! Yes! It feels like triumph.

I sit for a few minutes, ignoring the tears – a combination of pain and relief, that spilled over as I sat up. Mornings like this one, I am “painfully aware” (lol) that one day I won’t be able to easily live alone; I’ll need help with basic things, at some point. Aging is a thing. I am definitely living that process. I sigh, and the sound fills the otherwise quiet room. Maybe a shower will help?

The long minutes lingering in a hot shower leaves my skin reddened in places, but my spine is a bit more flex-y, as a spine ideally would be. I don’t hurt quite so much. I can dress, with care, and anything to do with standing is as easy as ever, and that means – coffee. 🙂 My coffee this morning even turned out wonderfully well, and I am enjoying it with a smile that has no trace of the pain I woke in. Oh, I still hurt; it’s that sort of day. It’s more manageable now, is all, and that is enough.

I sip my coffee and think about the phone call with my Traveling Partner last night, sharing his autumn and winter travel plans with me. I think, now, about how those may/can change my own plans. I smile. The physical distance doesn’t change much for me; we talk regularly, and the specifics of distance are irrelevant in our digital experience. We see each other when circumstances and choices permit it. (Sure, I will miss him; I always miss him when he isn’t near me, but that doesn’t have to mean drama and bullshit. lol) I was planning to discuss my reluctance to plan regular visits down once the roads begin to freeze, or snow becomes a concern (even though I have chains, it’s just not my preference to tackle long drives in icy/snowy conditions); his plans are such that it just won’t actually be a concern. lol Win and good. Convenient. Stress-free mutually beneficial planning for the win! 🙂

First coffee finished, I make a second, and load a great set, from a favorite DJ who does a regular live cast on Facebook, to get me moving, and hopefully provide additional relief of my pain, and a bit more freedom of movement. Movement hurts, but it helps, too. Hard not to dance to great music.

I spend coffee #2 grooving in my chair, writing, and chatting with my Traveling Partner as we get our mornings started. A promising beginning to a leisurely Sunday. I open my “to do list” and frown at tasks I know I am not going to be able to do with any ease, and scroll through prioritizing the tasks that will be more easily handled today. I smile when I get to the line that says “get enough rest” – that’s one I can check off right now. 🙂

No idea what the day holds, but I’m here. You’re here. There’s an entire day ahead to make something of – and that’s enough. 🙂

I remember being in pain yesterday, in the afternoon. I woke in pain this morning. One nice thing about unreasonably hot, wildfire-dry, summer weather – those long hot dry days are just about ideal for minimizing my arthritis pain, no Rx required.

I love autumn. I love crisp cool mornings, colder nights, and warm afternoons. I love the shff-shff of fallen leaves, disturbed as I walk through them. I enjoy the short days, the long nights, the late sunrises, the early sunsets. It’s so exquisitely lovely, all of it, that every year as it returns, I am surprised all over again that with it comes pain. Rather a lot of pain. Everyday pain. Waking up in pain. Yoga to ease pain. Enjoying long walks – that also hurt. It is what it is. I’m glad I am able to walk. To stand. To dress myself. This morning, I find room to be amused that another autumn comes, and again I have forgotten that I am always in this much pain. There will be other mornings, colder mornings, on which I no longer find humor in the moment. I’m not in any rush to reach those mornings. I take a moment to appreciate the morning, shored up by perspective on how much less pain I am in right now than I could be.

I have friends who hurt, too. Family members. Loved ones. Pain is part of the human condition. We feel. We experience sensations. Sometimes, feelings are unpleasant. Sometimes sensations are painful. We easily lose sight of the pain of others, living out our own experience of pain. I know it happens to me. When I hurt, and can’t imagine hurting more than I do, it’s way too easy to forget that there actually is more worse pain than what I am in, myself – and someone else is feeling that. Yikes. Talk about perspective. It’s true for you, too; someone else is in worse pain. Possibly more often. It’s something to remember when we face the world, hurting; we are not alone. We may feel alone with our own pain, but we are not alone in the experience of being in pain, generally.

This morning, I am in pain. I’m not bitching. I’m just noticing it there, reflected back at me when I attempt to ignore it, each movement in my spine resulting in mild nausea, and a chronic almost irresistible desire to flex, twist, move, rock – all of which hurts, but the movement may, over some minutes, ease the pain somewhat. I look at the calendar and frown. Not even October? Shit. I feel inclined to say it seems earlier this year – but I say that, and feel it, every year. lol This year, I commit to caring for myself in a reasonable and rational way (still, and, again). I take a deep breath. I let it go. I get up from my chair and do some more yoga. It helps.

I abandon my writing and take another hot shower. Lingering in the hot water, I catch myself daydreaming about the heated seat in my car and the 45 minute commute to work enjoying it. Oh, Autumn, you are so beautiful and so cruel to me! I laugh about it, because this morning I still can.

I make a mental note to myself to be kind to people; I can’t tell what kind of pain they may be in, or how hard they are having to work at being decent to people, themselves. We’re all so very human. We are interconnected, and our shared experiences color the experiences we don’t share. Being a jerk to someone can so easily become the experience that blows their day – just as a moment of kindness can turn a bad day around completely. I consider the woman I most want to be, and commit to be more her today than I was yesterday. I give a mental shout out to the friends who seem to have really mastered “self” and “have their shit together” in all the ways that matter most to me. I find myself thinking about old-fashioned thank you notes.

The morning moves on. I sip my coffee. I scroll through my playlist absent-mindedly, unsure whether I actually want to hear music this morning. Pain, coloring my thinking, changes my decision-making in subtle ways; something to be mindful of as the day goes on.

It seems like a good time to begin again. 🙂