Two Different Worlds
When living with chronic pain, you know that there are two different worlds that you live in. The one you show the pulbic, your friends, your employer. Where you put on a brave face and act and work like everything is normal. You continue working even though your back feels like it has been painted with acid, or when carrying your purse in the store causes you shoulders to cramp and make you feel sick. And you focus on whatever you need to do you feel better… taking something for the pain, leaving the store early, or just focusing on making it through the next minute. Next five minutes. And keep quiet, hoping no one notices.
Then there is the one you keep at home. The life where pulling out your heating pad, taking a ridiculous number of naps, icing your neck, lying in a weird position on the floor, all of it is normal. Here you can make yourself comfortable, and you don’t have to force yourself to focus on the task at hand, you can do whatever it takes to get through the pain.
Chronic Pain: The name of my shadow
I am extremely fortunate that my pain isn’t nearly as severe as it used to be. I don’t have to take severe pain medication anymore, I can manage with over the counter medicine for the most part. I can usually get through the full day of work without incident. I can now tackle a full day outing without it (majorly) interfering with my day, and I have been lucky that I have been able to take on as many commitments as I have, such as the duties with the Pit Bull Rescue and my new exercise regimen.
Even with all of the success I have had with my chronic pain, it still sneaks up on me from time to time, most often in the form of muscle tension migraines. In the past, these would come on so fast and violent, that I would start vomiting before I could take anything for it, and would often have to go to the hospital to get medication to get the migraine and vomiting under control.
Now when I feel these coming on, I can usually take a prescription and stop the migraine in less than 30 minutes. During this time, I usually try to find a quiet place to relax. Sometimes I can do this before going into work in the morning, or email my office and let them know I will be in an hour or two late. Sometimes I am lucky and it hits late morning, and I can take my prescription and use my lunch hour to lay down through the worst of it. No one has to see me suffering. And I can keep this world a secret.
Until last night, when these worlds collided.
My company took a trip down to Sioux City, IA to the Hard Rock Casino for an evening of food, drink, music and merriment. The whole group rode down in a party bus with complimentary drinks, followed by an incredible (and overwhelmingly large) meal at Main & Abby, the on-site restaurant. We then went our separate ways to either watch the Rick Springfield concert (he sang Jesse’s Girl back in the day) or hit the tables.
If I had been paying attention, I might have noticed how tight my back and neck were getting during the night, but it wasn’t until the headache started pounding in a matter of minutes that I realized I might have a full blown migraine to deal with. And as luck would(n’t) have it, I didn’t have my medication on me! Climbing onto the party bus with a feeling of dread, I took as much ibuprofen as I could do safely, and closed my eyes, trying to focus on a peaceful, quiet place somewhere else. But the party bus is where I was, and it certainly was not quiet, with the windows open, wind roaring, and everyone shouting to be heard. Paired with the bright neon lights that continued to flash and change colors, I quickly realized my situation was going to go downhill fast.
I made it almost all the way home, but as they say, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Just 5 minutes left of the ride, and I had to give up and head to the front of the bus and empty my stomach in front of everyone. It was horrible, the pain from my migraine like a knife ready to split my skull, the unsteady nausea, and incredible feeling of humiliation. The LAST thing I wanted to do was vomit in front of my boss. His wife gets migraines often and was very sympathetic, but it really didn’t lessen my frustration or anger at myself. I should have read my body’s warning signs, and I shouldn’t have forgotten my medication. I wish I would have made it home before getting sick. Le sigh….. such is life.
I made it home, and waited until I was sick again before taking my medicine…. been there before and did NOT want to waste one of my meds due to poor timing. Then went to bed with a heat pad under my shoulders and an ice pack on my face. The meds did their miracle, and all I woke up pain free but full of embarrassment. I hadn’t had nearly enough alcohol to even be drunk, much less get sick, but I’m sure it didn’t help the situation. I know that my co-workers know I don’t carry on that way.
Still, I am so mad at myself for letting my chronic pain get in the way of my life, as well as for allowing it to rear it’s ugly head in public. It serves as a good lessen to remember how lucky I am that this is no longer a common occurrence for me, and not to forget the shadow always waiting behind to pounce.