It is amazing how pain can make you feel or act. And, there are many different levels of pain. Physicians give us a pain score to go by of 1-10 with 10 being the worst. I have chronic pain and have had them ask me on a scale of 1-10 what my pain level is and I’ve told them a 15! Now they really know I’m in pain – hopefully. Due to the diligence of some pharmaceutical companies there’s a lot out there to bring that pain level down – and I’m pretty sure we’ve heard on the news that our country has an epidemic of drug abuse. So, I want to say at the get go that not abused, taken correctly, not used just for a “high” but used as intended, these drugs feel like lifesavers to people with chronic pain. My problem is, there’s pretty much not a pain medication out there that does not make me nauseated plus doesn’t seem to work – I’m talking about everything but morphine (at least that I know of). But I digress.
This is my story of my battle with pain – and it is a battle greater than Gettysburg and my experience with deep depression due mostly to constant pain. If you’re not already taking something for depression, being in pain many times causes such depression that people need medication for that, too. I know everyone has felt some type of pain in their lives – just think of a dentist office trip, fall off a bike, or banging your finger with a hammer. God has given us those pain receptors so that when something serious comes along, if we feel pain, then we’ll do something about it. Imagine breaking a foot or hand, holding a hot iron skillet right out of the oven, getting too close to a fire and not feeling pain. That’s a catastrophe for sure. But that’s not the kind of pain I’m talking about. I’m taking about an 8-15 kind of pain that never leaves. Like the dentist is drilling on a tooth without Novocain – constantly, day and night. A pain like holding that skillet in your bare hand constantly, day and night. I think you get the picture. Figure out what your worst kind of pain is and imagine it never goes away and sometimes gets so intense you feel you’re going to die. That’s this pain.
After months and years of this kind of pain, it took an emotional toll. Most people turn inward because none of their support givers really understand and when we’re going through something, we want somebody to understand. Turning inward causes us to avoid people, eventually friends and sometimes family. That’s where deep depression comes in. It might be a beautiful, sunny day out but not to us with chronic pain. Beautiful days only make us feel worse because we can’t enjoy them due to pain. Sometimes a trip to even a friend’s home or restaurant just brings about more pain because they are not in their “safe” place emotionally and now not in the place where they are most comfortable and with the least amount of pain physically. That’s what people don’t understand. I love to have people visit though, it brings a light into the darkened world of pain and sadness. There is conversation you can have from the outside world and so, for a few minutes, I’m not thinking about the pain and even a minute or second of no pain is like paradise. Mr Pain is still there, but during this time it doesn’t seem as bad because there is someone there to help, at least emotionally, and that brings almost as much relief as morphine.
I see it as a part of me has died – that part that used to laugh and smile all the time. That part that enjoyed crafting, gardening and traveling – you see my picture. And for most people with chronic pain, you just know that those things will never return and that’s why they feel as though they have died. I know there are other things I can do, but what about those things that brought about the most enjoyment in my life? What about friends and loved ones that have forsaken you? It seems like you’re locked in a funeral home and can’t get out – there’s just death all around as I see others enjoying things I once enjoyed. Don’t get me wrong, I am not in any way jealous, as it were, of them. I just want to enjoy life, too.
I know this piece is going here and there but I’m typing it as it comes so bear with me, it will all make sense in the end. Pain does a funny thing – not funny ha-ha – to a person. When you are having to endure pain, it becomes all you see in life. Then that jumps over to the emotional side, so you have pain there, too. (And if you already have things going on in your life, then this is the kicker!) All of this together becomes like a super-duper glue that sticks to you and you can’t move. You’re frozen or paralyzed it seems. I mean literally you cannot move your body sometimes. You’re thinking in your mind – the brain part, not the emotional part – that you have to get up and “do” something, yet your body no longer follows the “brain” part of you, it is following the emotional and physical part only. You can read books, nothing. You can watch movies, nothing. Bottom line, there is absolutely nothing you can do but continue sitting and basically doing nothing. Not even eat – I lost 35 pounds in just a few months and till have a problem eating more than 1 meal a day. If you have never experience that, I pray you don’t. It seemed like I was at death’s door. Emotionally I was walking right through that door. You just cannot understand unless you’ve been there.
I’ve had many well-meaning people to make suggestions like Yoga, reading or listening to a book I can really get into. Reading is something I used to do, bury myself in, and enjoy. But when you’re in such pain that causes despair, you feel worthless to society or anyone, brokenhearted and miserable, it is very hard to lose yourself in a book. As for Yoga, I can only say “I wish.” I can’t turn my brain off long enough to go to sleep at night, and hardly sleep at all, or even pray, let alone meditate. That brings about more aggravation. Listening to a book is right there with Yoga, I start thinking of something else and off the brain goes and I don’t have a clue about what’s going on in the book being read to me. If anything is going to help me, it’s probably an action/adventure type movie. I have to get into something I enjoy it if I am going to watch it and there are not a lot of “Fast and Furious” movies out there – only 8, at least so far. 😊 I used to do crafts but that just brings about more pain because of the twisting, turning and getting up. There was really not a suggestion made that helped. I did do some blogging which took my mind away, kind of, but afterwards I always seemed exhausted and in more darkness. For that’s what’s it’s like, a dark, black tunnel with no light.
It’s hard to see even the tiniest speck of light in this dark tunnel sometimes. Sometimes the darkness made me want to throw the computer out the window in anger, which is another emotion. Why? Why do I have to be in pain all the time? Why don’t people understand how it just plain hurts so bad? Why do my friends avoid me? Why do people just walk out? Why has my life been changed in so many negative ways? Why can’t somebody do something? The answer – I don’t really know. I know, God has a plan because things happen for a reason. I was told that many, many times but telling me that never took away the physical or emotional pain. It doesn’t take away the sleepless nights. It really doesn’t answer the question. The only one I can give to myself is not really an answer to all the whys, but it is that in heaven there will be no pain. That is my only hope. Actually, the only thing that would help sometimes, outside of a cure, is a hug. Hugs are a wonderful dose of pain medication, whether they are long hugs (the best – like long-acting pain meds) or short hugs, they all help. At least that helps me. For other chronic pain sufferers, it might be an action as small as a squeezed hand, or really looking into the eyes and listening to what is being said. But please don’t say you’re sorry. We already know that and if you could do something you would. Sometimes it’s a small gesture or help with something difficult that brings a tinge of light to that black day. Even asking if there is something you can do, not just physically but emotionally, I think helps most people.
You may be wondering why I’m traveling down such a dark path. First of all, I had a treatment yesterday that brought my pain, at least for I guess a day, but I’m praying longer, down to a 3 or 4. Yes, I’d like for it to be 0 but I’m old enough to know that my body is disintegrating and that’s not gonna happen – not until I reach heaven. So, I am able to type this out without trying to do so through tears – and I don’t mean one or two, I mean a gully washer of tears. It’s still a little hard but I thought if this just helped one person feel better and know they are not out there alone, that’s a purpose, If it helps one caregiver to understand a little better and have a touch more compassion or even energy to keep going on, it’s a purpose. Or if it helps even one friend or loved one that’s about to walk away not to do so, and see how much they are needed, and causes them to stick it out with us, it’s a purpose. If someone can see better through the eyes of the one in pain and you won’t give up on them, or not be as compassionate, or leave them alone for someone else to care of, it’s a purpose and will be worth traveling down this path.
The Bible tells us that God does not give us more than we can bear and when we are having to endure something really hard, it is either because of sin or because there is a lesson to learn. I kept reading that verse and then began to not believe it – emotionally. I know I keep differentiating emotional and physical or logical thinking parts of the brain, but they do separate, it seems. So, seeing it as a lesson to learn, and it might be sin I needed to get rid of, or just learning a lesson to be used later in some way you better believe I began to confess everything I could think of I had ever done and would do – every day! However, everything began to be just a mist and I couldn’t see anything but that pain. It was constantly there for me. People would try to encourage me – and I say try because their words never got through the pain. I would say to myself, and them sometimes, you don’t get it – and they didn’t. I read verses that said God was with me, walking with me, right beside me, all the time. It felt like He had let go of my hand and I was on this iceberg of pain and floating away.
Of course, now that I’ve shut the door of death and turned back around, I can see that God was never on a different iceberg, letting go of me, and that His Word is true for me, too. That’s a huge lesson, so maybe He knew it was going to take something really big in order for me to learn it. Now, it might not be the only lesson from this experience, and He might show me later there is another lesson I learned through this experience, but I just don’t realize it right now. The mist I talked about, I saw it slowly being burned away (like fog) by the only sun that could accomplish that which was God’s Son shining through and blowing that mist away. How sweet that was. Now, I see Him. I see brightness all around – not physical brightness but like a brightness of peace. And this is an experience only one who knows pain that has been removed can experience. It is unexplainable to anybody else.
So, that was what my journey of pain was like. There will still be days of depression for one reason or another and days of pain, but I pray not like before. I know without a doubt that others suffering pain have a story they could tell. Maybe one that feels different than mine, but believe me, if you’re reading this and are in pain, I know about your pain and what it does and can do to you. I would give you encouraging words like “hang in there, this too will pass” or “you’re strong, you can do this.” While all of that is true, you don’t want to hear them right now because they just don’t work. I wish there was something I could, really do, to ease your pain, whether emotional, physical, or a mixture of the two at the same time. The only thing that helped me was I have a friend that suffers with chronic pain. I hate she has it and wished it would go away for her, too, but it just helped to know there was at least one person in this world who understood. So, I leave you with, hoping my story helps to blow away a little mist and you can see there is somebody who understands and knows – me.