It’s hard to imagine what it’s like to be in pain all of the time before it happens. Having a parent suffering from chronic pain, I tried, many times, and failed. It was as though my mind was unwilling to court such a scenario, even in my head, because it seemed like the most awful thing that could happen, and even imagining it was too much to handle. As depressed and angry as I get about constantly having to remind people that I need help, I don’t blame them for it. I’m jealous, in fact. I wish I could go reabsorb into my life and put this out of my head. I don’t want to dwell on it. I wish I didn’t have to.
Imagine your life is a TV screen, one of those old tube screens, where the corner would gradually turn green if you set it up too close to a speaker. That green spot in the corner is like chronic pain. When it only takes up the small corner, you can still enjoy the shows on the TV. It’s slightly annoying, but manageable, and sometimes you even forget it’s there.
But what if there is so much pain that the green spot fills half the screen, or more? You can’t see a lot of the show. You can hear things but without the visuals they don’t make much sense. You can’t follow the plot with so much information clouded from view, and after a while, it gets to be too much effort and you just want to turn the damn thing off.
That’s what my chronic pain is like. My pain fills a significant portion of my field of view, no matter where I am or what I am saying, doing, or thinking. There is no action, no observation, no thought or impression not crowded by that shadow. Sometimes it is small enough for me to pay attention to the world around me and experience being in my life, and I’m so grateful for those brief periods of respite. Other times, it is so bad that all I can do is lean back, close my eyes, breathe, and wait.
Yesterday morning I was so tired of this whole business that I wanted to flush my pain meds down the toilet. The last few nights have been awful. I awoke several times in the night to shooting pain from some sleeping position or another where my shoulder was pulled forward. I’m shivering, covered in sweat, and anxious from wild, traumatic dreams, all side effects from the pain medications. (The medication bonus pack also includes headaches, nausea, dizziness, a sour taste in the mouth, general muscle weakness, and disorientation that I try to pass off as occasional flakiness.) I just wanted to stop the whole thing. I feel like I’m on a roller coaster that never ends – it just keeps whipping me up and down and around, and I’m stuck in it and can’t get off.
Many days, I can’t tell where the discomfort from the pain medications ends and the pain begins. The pills just take the edge off. I have no idea how much because I don’t dare stop taking them, for fear of being completely incapacitated – of having the green take over the whole screen and shut me out of life completely. On days when I am late taking them, usually because I ran out of the house without them, not thinking (see disorientation, above), the pain takes over pretty quickly. Friday night I was driving home from a meeting, seven hours after the last dosage, my pain having devolved into unremitting agony. All I could do was scream, at the other drivers, the traffic signals, at God, for making me so miserable. I got home, sat down on the kitchen floor, and sobbed.
A few minutes later, tired of myself, I got up, took the meds, put an ice pack on my shoulder, and laid down to breathe, and to wait.