I must be really stressed, these days, because lately I’ve been having an incredible amount of pain all over my body. I think I may have overdone it, driving so much over Thanksgiving — sitting behind the wheel of my late-model Plymouth minivan has a way of doing a job on me… my hips, my knees, my back, my shoulders… But then, I’ve been having intermittent and increasing pain issues over the past few weeks. This last spate is just an unexpectedly intensified version of what has been happening for quite some time.
I’ve had various pain issues for as long as I can remember, with some dramatic spikes in the discomfort over the years, so it’s not something new for me. But this pain is different from the tactile defensiveness I had when I was a kid. It’s in my tendons and in my joints with a vengeance, and it’s really disconcerting to me, because I have not been expecting it. These days the pain is spiking at a level that I haven’t been at in a number of years. What a bummer! And here I had thought that I was getting to a pain-free state. I really did.
This most recent “spate” started some weeks ago, but I didn’t pay much attention to it, because it wasn’t getting in the way. Plus (so I thought) I had other things to think about, than the chronic pain that’s been dogging me ever since that car accident in 1988 (when I was hit from the side by a speeding sedan) that not only scrambled my brain and made it impossible to understand what people were saying to me, but also threw me for such an emotional and behavioral loop that I quit working and started drinking heavily all day, and I almost irreparably screwed up my life — were it not for the presence of people around me who cared about me and were willing to take all my b.s. with a grain of salt…. and hope for better times.
But nowadays, this body-wide pain is “digging in” and making itself really noticeable. I try to get my mind off it, I try to think about all the stuff I have to do each day, I try to relax and “breathe into it,” but it’s starting to make me crazy… showing up in the background of my life, interrupting my thought processes, encroaching on my peace of mind, and reminding me of days gone by when there was no escaping this generalized, terribly non-specific pain that seemed like it would never go away. I become so nauseous, when I think about this being here and never giving me a break. I have gone through months and months and years of persistent pain that showed no signs of abating, and when I think back about it, and I remember what it’s like to be there, I start to feel really ill.
Which makes me feel like a wuss. Because I have dealt with this before, and I’m determined to do it again. But with some kinds of pain, it literally feels like it’s never, ever going to end. It messes with your mind. It screws up your brain. Even more than it already is. Add chronic, debilitating pain to a mild traumatic brain injury, mix liberally and spread it out over weeks and months and years, and you’ve got a potent cocktail for being driven to the brink of sanity.
Back in 1988, before I could put two and two together and had the information that tbi — especially car accident head injuries, or whiplash — can cause an onset of pain and aches, I went to all sorts of specialists to determine the nature of my condition. They came up with nothing other than that it might be an autoimmune condition like arthritis, and I needed to just go on meds, reduce my stress, get plenty of rest, and stay out of the sun, in order to get better. I think I completely forgot to tell them about my car accident. I didn’t think it had anything to do with anything, and I can’t recall them ever asking me about it.
I did all the stuff they told me to do to address my pain — AND I spent a lot of time (and money) going to specialists who could tell me not one substantive thing about what I was going through and what I could do about it. 20 years ago, I spent my holiday savings (that was supposed to go to presents) on an expert located half a day’s drive from my home. I took a day off work, corralled a friend to drive me down, and I spent a very unfulfilling day with a gentleman who had a bunch of gizmos and a rich pedigree of education and experience, but who could still do precious little for me. He couldn’t even confirm or deny what was going on with me. I can’t speak for the others in the very long waiting line of decrepit and suffering folks… I hope he could at least help some of them. Or just one. Anything.
He didn’t do much for me, other than to tell me that he couldn’t tell me anything definitive about my condition.
So much for my holiday presents fund. So much for my day out of work. So much for the next three years of my life, which I spent chasing — in vain — a plausible solution for my condition.
I eventually just quit going to specialists, because they would tell me, “Well, we took a lot of blood from you, but we still can’t tell you anything specific about your situation. But here are some drugs to help cut the pain a little bit.”
When those drugs won’t work, they’d give me something else.
When those would work sorta-kinda, but they would tear up my stomach, the docs would give me something to cut the pain.
“What will this do to my stomach? Will it protect it?” I asked.
“No,” they told me, “but you won’t be in so much discomfort.”
“So, let me get this straight… I’m taking meds that are going to eventually eat a hole in my stomach, but this other pill will keep me from feeling it… and eventually I might have a hole in my stomach, but never even feel it?”
“Something like that,” they told me.
After talking with some trusted confidantes and thinking long and hard about how little good these advanced meds had done me — some of the side effects were things like malaise and short-term memory loss and disorientation… at a time when I was doing contract work in a number of different locations and could not afford to forget where I was(!) — I decided to discontinue my medication regimen. I resisted being “non-compliant” with all my might, but I was left with no choice, ultimately. I wasn’t getting better, I was feeling worse. It was impacting my quality of life in pretty scary ways. And I just didn’t have the money to cover all the testing that was required every month, since I was unable to work full-time in a job that gave me health insurance, due to my pain issues.
Ironically, I met someone at that time who was suffering from fibromyalgia — a condition which involves a whole raft of really difficult and distressing discomforts. This person had to sell all their furniture (since they couldn’t sit/lie on it and they needed the money) and go on partial disability. I knew I was in a lot of pain, but their condition was utterly crippling. That great degree they’d earned from a great university… the good job and the cool apartment they had… their whole shootin’ match was in the process of disintegration because of their “fibro” issues.
I did learn a lot about chronic pain, in the relatively short period I knew this person. And I learned — perhaps most importantly — that no matter how bad I may feel like I have it, there is most definitely someone out there who has it a whole lot worse than me… who I may be able to help in some small way.. and who I can probably learn from and gain some knowledge from. I learned alot about chronic pain, at that time. Even if my condition was far less disruptive than theirs, what I learned about stretching and rest and nutrition, was priceless. And I believe it really helped me, when I incorporated it into my life (I quit smoking, started eating right, made a priority of getting ample rest, and I changed shoes, so I’d have better support and less impact when I walked). Even if they were still in terrible pain – and eventually moved across the country in search of a health solution — which they found in Chinese medicine — I was able to adapt my life in ways that eased my pain considerably.
Here I thought I was in the clear… I have been relatively pain-free for over 10 years now, with intermittent flare-ups that come along when I haven’t rested properly, or my eating habits SUCK (not often, but it does happen, now and then). I don’t do much dancing, as my knees can’t take it. And I do sometimes feel it in my elbows and back and hips. But I count myself fortunate, that I haven’t been wracked with agony the way I was from 1988-1992.
Now, I have that sick, sinking feeling that comes from the pain that radiates out from seemingly every nerve in my complaining body, wearing me down, tiring me out… I try not to pay much attention to it. I try not to think about it. Some days I can even forget that it’s there (till I move, of course). But then it rears its ugly head, and I’m back “in the hole” again. Sheesh!
Currently, the pain varies, from day to day. A lot of it is across my lower back, around where the tops of my pelvic bones can be felt. My hips and glutes are tender, too — tho’ moreso when I make contact with something around me. My thighs feel like they have hot knots of burning rope tied tightly around them, and my shoulders and elbows are taking turns giving me twinges and pangs.
My neck is a mass of knotted muscles that complain bitterly when I stretch them. My fingers are stiff and tight — they ache when I flex them, and they complain when I extend them.
My skin feels like it’s being peeled back from my bones, and my clothing is hurting me terribly. The feel of fabric on my wrists makes me crazy — it feels like someone is wrapping a rusty choke chain tightly around my wrists… and twisting. Hard. I normally push/roll my sleeves up to my elbows, because this sensitivity is nothing new. I’ve had it since I was a kid — along with pain on the tops of my thighs and behind my knees. But these days, the pressure of the fabric on my elbows is really bothering me, so I have to put up with the chafing of the fabric on my wrists.
I’m sure this isn’t sounding really great to you, right now, but I have to tell you what it’s like, so I can report back about what I’m doing — so you can see how well I am able to bounce back. It’s all about the bounce, baby!
Here’s what I’m planning to do:
Try Arnica — a homeopathic remedy that’s recommended in some places for muscle aches. I’ve used it topically for bruises and achey muscles, and I picked up some little pills to take. I’m to dissove 4 pills under my tongue, 4 times a day.
Take hot showers — this always helps me. I’m bringing a towel to work, because they have showers here, and I may need to warm up.
Get plenty of sleep — don’t rush out of the house, first thing in the morning, but do some work at home. Make sure I have plenty of time to sleep.
Cut out the caffeine — Ouch! But what choice do I have at this point? I need to cut back, anyway — the 3-5 cups I’ve been drinking each day over the past week may have something to do with my pain and my difficulty sleeping.
Pray — to whomever is listening… they got my butt out of some serious trouble in the past, so I’m pretty sure someone out there is listening. Even if they aren’t, I’ll feel better.
I suspect that this pain stuff is leftover stress from the long Thanksgiving holiday I was just on. That’s what I’m hoping, anyway. With any luck, good rest and reducing stress will help me get back to some semblance of okay-ness.