The pain is still here. It is a different kind of pain, responsible to different nerves, reducible by certain shoulder positions, exacerbated by many more others. It is accompanied by numbness in my fingers and concomitant tingling followed on its heels by a burning so exquisite it requires all of my concentration to ignore. The pain shoots up the underside of my forearm, and chases up my triceps, eventually engaging my shoulder and my neck.
It awakens me in the larger small hours of the morning, the numbness and tingling subservient to a burning toward which none of the phalanx of pain medications prescribed to me over the years can approach. Sometimes I can find a position that lessens it and go back to sleep. Other times I get out of bed and try to find ways to occupy myself until the general unstiffening of my wakeful, upright body allows it to subside.
I am able to work now, unlike before. I work with animals, listening to their hearts and lungs, holding them, restraining them, pulling their conscious and unconscious bodies into awkward positions for radiographs and surgeries and keeping them there in such a way that within seconds, the numbness, tingling, and burning descend like a heavy, indifferent weight that thickens my flesh until I am permitted to allow my and the animal’s limbs to drop.
I have told no-one at work how much of my work causes me pain. It does not matter. I need the work, and the work needs me. Whether I work or not does not change how much pain I am in in the mornings. It does not change whether I wake up in the middle of the night. It does not change my tolerance for certain positions over others, nor does physical therapy or exercise.
Pain medications are largely ineffective. I take muscle relaxants at night which seem to help a little. I take prescription-level anti-inflammatories during the day which help a little, but cause a different pain in my stomach, my digestive system now thoroughly ravaged from a nonstop diet of varying doses and types of pain medications over the last 3+ years.
Complicating matters, I am a high-functioning autistic for whom interpersonal interaction is an energy-sapping practice at which I still constantly fail and self-berate. My ability to layer on pain meds is limited by the amount of anti-anxiety, anti-depressant, and anti-insomnia psychosomatics I require for normal-seeming functioning.
I am never going to be a person who doesn’t need to take medication. And it increasingly seems that I will never be a person who doesn’t have pain.
Momma Ape’s condition continues to appropriate the distinction of being much more severe than mine; after nearly dying this past Summer from complications from invasive, lengthy spine surgery, she has yet to recover her full strength, and postoperative issues persist. I do not lean on her any more. I am single again, and doubt whether I will ever be able to choose an appropriate partner, considering my physiological inability to read people and situations, and so I have no mate to lean on, either. I have friends, I have co-workers, but there is no-one, here, now, who sees me on the inside as well as the outside.
I am alone, staring down a long road of barely tolerable existence brightened only by my work with animals, work I have thrown myself into in order to avoid being alone with my thoughts. I wish I could work all the time, but my physical and emotional limitations won’t allow it. So I have come back here to try to keep the darkness at bay.