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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Dealing With People Who Just Don't Get It

Each and everyone of us who deal with chronic pain has had to deal with people who just don't get it. Each and everyone of us has been told that if we just got out and walked a couple of miles, all of our pain issues would vanish.  Each and everyone of us has been told by a well meaning friend that his/her aunt, mother, sister, father, brother had chronic pain cured by taking some vitamin or seeing some sort of new age healer.  And, each and everyone of us has wanted to punch those well meaning friends right in the kisser!

I have said it a thousand times that until you have lived with chronic pain, or any other chronic condition for that matter, you really don't know what it's like.  Believing that it is possible to have pain that never ends just isn't something you can grasp, until you have actually experienced it.  I know that until I developed this debilitating condition, I wouldn't have thought it possible.  I know that there were times prior to my experience with chronic pain that I would roll my eyes when people started talking about their never ending pain.  I thought they were probably hypochondriacs at best, and drug addicts at worse.  You know that thing they say about karma being a bitch?  Well, they were right!

Those of us with chronic pain quickly learn which people we can trust, and which people we can't.  We learn that with some people, we can be honest about how we feel, and which we stick with a smile and those lying words: I'm fine.  We learn that some family members, who see the struggle that we go through day in and day out, still don't believe that we are honestly suffering from anything.  And, we learn that some friends will be there for us more than those we call family.

We suffer loss as we watch friends and family drift away from us.  We know that it's hard on them to try and include us in their live's, only to be told that we are too ill to participate.  We wish that they understood that even though we may not be able to attend the family gathering, that just being asked is often all we want from them.  We wish that friends would be willing to come sit with us and talk for awhile, instead of always finding reasons why they can't.  And, we wish that they would remember the times we were there for them before we were struck down by this cruel enemy.

We also learn that we have to protect ourselves, because those we love are frequently the ones making us worse. We know that people get tired of hearing about our aches and pains, or our latest doctor's appointment.  But what they don't realize is that this has become our existence, and we don't have anything else in our lives. We learn that some people are toxic both to our self esteem and our physical health, and, with heavy hearts, we shut those people out of our lives.  It may be that they are grateful that they don't have to deal with us anymore, while we mourn their loss like a death.

I have been blessed by meeting people online who are not only living with the same thing that I am, but who truly understand.  We are there for one another in good times and bad.  We cheer on one another's victories, and listen with heavy hearts to one another's losses.  We don't always have the same illness, but we get it.  I may not ever meet these people anywhere but in the virtual world, but they have shown me more love and understanding than many people I know in the real world.  And, for this, I am thankful.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

That Elusive Silver Lining

I have been living with chronic pain for the last 15 years. At that point in my life, if you would have told me that I was going to reach a point in my life where pain was my constant companion, I would have told you you were crazy!   I was mother to three small boys, a wife to a man to with a progressive neurological disorder, and I thought life was pretty good.  And then one day, I bent over to pick up a piece of paper, and life was never the same. For three years, I endured physical therapy (which didn't help), epidural injection after epidural injection, and I did everything the doctor's told me to do, praying all the while that the next thing would work.

After many doctors, and three long years, I finally found a doctor who knew what was wrong with me.  The doctor was quite honest about the surgery I was going to have.  He explained everything in detail and made sure that I understood the risks as well as the benefits.  One of the things he told me was that there was only a 50/50 chance that the surgery would work.  I told him that I would take my chances.  When you live with pain for any extended length of time, you become willing to do anything if there is a ghost of a chance that it will give you relief.

Well, I had six good months.  At the end of that six month period, the pain returned with a vengeance.  I had to leave a job I loved.  I felt like a failure as a mother.  I worried about how I was going to take care of my husband when I couldn't even take care of myself.  I fell into a very deep depression, and even attempted suicide.  I spent two weeks in a mental health care facility, and I thank God for that everyday.

One of the things that I dealt with at time is feeling that I didn't know who I was anymore.  I wasn't the bread winner any longer; I wasn't the proverbial soccer mom that I wanted to be; taking care of my husband and my home became more and more difficult.  So many of the things that I saw myself as were snatched away from me, and there was nothing there to replace it.  I felt that I was simply drifting in the ocean, with no shore insight.

In time, I learned to let go of the person I was in the past.  I had to acknowledge my grief as I said goodbye to the person that I lost.  It was an extremely painful process, but I'm here on the other side.  Of course, there are still days when I want my old self back, but I realize now that there is only a slim chance that I will go back to the way things were.  I am learning to love the new me, and to accept her limitations.

I have noticed that I can be very short with some people.  There are days when my patience is non-existent.  I now have a tendency to say exactly what I'm thinking.  Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't.  I have developed a much thicker skin, and I count that among my positive changes.  Before all of this, an unkind word could devastate me.  Now, even though words do hurt, I can usually let it go.

We've all heard the old saying that every cloud has a silver lining. I had begun to believe that none of the clouds around me had been fitted for there silver lining.  And then I decided to count my blessings instead of lamenting all the bad things that had happened to me.  I realized that I had reserves of strength that I never realized I had.  Anyone who lives with chronic pain knows how strong you have to be in order to survive.  I still have a family who loves me, and for the most part, understands what I'm going through.  Each of us has a silver lining, even though we may not be able to find.  No matter how elusive your silver lining may be, keep looking for it.  You'll be glad you did.