It’s been years since Chronic Pain ruled my life. Since doctors appointments, prescription refills, medical tests and procedures, and fear about what was next demanded all of my mental capacity. I am sometimes amazed to find I have made it through nearly an entire day without my chronic pain crossing my mind… an achievement I would never have believed possible four years ago. But even with the progress I have made, I sometimes still wish people knew what a feat it was that I even show up for work on some days. That they would understand the accomplishment it is for me to get through an entire workday, then a workweek, even when I feel like I am taking those days just 5 minutes at a time.
See, I made a deal with myself years ago that I didn’t want to be the person always talking about pain. It had invaded my life and integrated itself with me, but it didn’t have to BECOME my life. Making that realization made a huge difference in the quality of life I led, and has helped me change my mindset and accomplish things I never thought would be possible for me again.
This being said… There are times I just want people to understand. There is an old joke I once heard about a woman in labor where her husband was offered the chance to be connected to a new machine that transfers a percentage of the pain of child labor to the father of the baby. He manages 10%, then 25%, then 50% without any pain. The doctors crank the machine up to 100% and both man and wife go through a completely pain free delivery. After the baby is born, the doctors are just astonished at his tolerance because most men never make it over 20%. When they arrive home with their newborn, the mailman is dead on the front step.
Sometimes, I’m kind of wish this pain machine was real. For the doctors that don’t believe. For the people who don’t understand. For those who judge because they can’t see. And often, it isn’t something you could ever see… rather, habits and behaviors born from it. For me, even without my pain being what it used to, I can still see the signs when I look for them. How I cannot sit still for more than a minute or two at most without shifting. Constant stretching. The stash of emergency medication I never leave home without, just in case one of my killer migraines show up. For the additional stash of OTC meds and pain patches I keep on hand to help pain from taking control. How I go to sleep every night with special pillows for my neck, back, and knee support, as well as a heating pad for my low back and an ice pack on my neck and shoulders.
As you know… no such pain transfer machine exists, nor will it likely ever exist. We have our families, trusted doctors, and friends who can see it, and that is usually enough. If you are struggling with pain, take pride in the accomplishments you make every day. No one else may realize what landmark you may have achieved… but you know. That is what matters.