People try to encourage you and tell you that things will get better. “Once the divorce is finalized, it will get better,” “Once you get over him, it will get better,” “Once you get approved for disability, things will get better,” they said.
Because my divorce is finalized, I got over HIM, and I got approved for disability and things just seem to continue to keep crashing downhill. You think you hit rock bottom, but then you realize that there is a new rock bottom to hit. You think you can’t sink any deeper, but the ground keeps crumbling. Just when you think you have reached a bit of hardened mud and its starting to firm up, a storm comes and it turns into a mudslide.
I start to get stabilized on my meds, then my back gets jacked up even worse. I start to get that under control and then the pain and other meds for my back start to mess with the meds for my bipolar and that stabilization is gone. I start to get evened out and then the back gets messed up again. It’s this ridiculous cycle that just doesn’t seem to break.
So what advice am I given? Try something different. If the same ways of handling the situations are not working, then do something different. So, I do. But, of course, that somehow backfires and I’m back at square one.
Chronic pain is something that unless you have it, I don’t think you can truly understand it. I know that I didn’t truly understand all the effects of it until it happened to me. Not only have I had to make adjustments in my life to try to help in the stabilization of my bipolar, I have also had to make a lot of changes in my lifestyle because of my back injury. I’m talking major changes. Those changes not only affect you physically, but emotionally too. Many don’t realize that.
I went from being someone who lived on her own, worked full time, ran a few websites, blogged for other organizations, kept active and could manage on my own. I could carry bags of groceries and laundry baskets up flights of stairs on my own. I didn’t need to have a steady stream of ice packs and full supply of Icy Hot on hand. I could do yoga and was still as flexible as I was when I was actively cheering and dancing. Now, a lot of days I can’t even bend down to pick up my 5 lb dog. The weight of my own purse is sometimes too much. I went from a wardrobe of all heels and platform shoes, to having to wear flats and gym shoes. I could stand and walk around festivals and parks, walk to and from the train and bus stops in ice, snow, mud, etc. Now, my balance is off because of my disc resting on my nerve and the subsequent weakness in my left leg and I limp around. I can’t stand for any sort of long period of time, I can’t sit for long periods of time, I need to lay on ice several times a day (which kind of puts a damper on going out places since you can’t just pull up a couch or recliner and lay on ice at most places.) Whenever I do go, I have an ice pack in my purse, a tube of Icy Hot and instead of smelling of the nice perfumes and body sprays I used to love, my signature scent is “Icy Hot.” If I do go out, its for very short periods of time and when I get home, its back to ice. Sometimes, depending on where it was or how long I was out, I could be out of commission for the entire next day or next several days. Weather changes…… you better believe that those affect my body too. When older people used to say they could feel that it was going to rain because they could feel it in their joints or injuries, I used to think that was something that only happened when you got to be “grandparent” age. I never dreamed that in my early 30’s, I would be experiencing that myself. Sometimes, its just easier to not go out at all because the fear of slipping or falling or tripping, or not knowing if there will be a place to sit produces so much anxiety.
What is the result then of someone who used to be really active and always out and about suddenly becoming a “homebody” or “couch potato”? DEPRESSION. Well, when you have a mental illness, such as bipolar disorder, and one in which your brain is already wired to be on the more depressive side, this just adds fuel to the fire. So, I either get super depressed and sink into a hole, or I get antsy and get cabin fever and don’t let my back fully heal before I start going out and about………BAD IDEA! I then end up hurting myself worse and I’m back at square one. The times that I do go out, I try to make the best of it. I try to suck up the pain. I get tired of always feeling like a party pooper, or a Debbie Downer, so I can only imagine that those around me are not too thrilled, so I slap on a smile for the time being and just know that my body will be revolting against me at a later time.
The funny thing about it all is that people get frustrated when you are unable to go out because of your physical injuries, so when you do make the effort and attempt (knowing you will be paying for it later), people then think that you really aren’t in pain, or that your injury isn’t as bad as it really is because you made the decision to risk the down time that would be the inevitable result because you just couldn’t stand to sit alone anymore and wanted to be around people because you were going insane cooped up inside.
How many people who suffer from chronic pain have noticed a huge decrease in the number of people who keep in contact with you? People don’t want to sit around and relax all the time, or take it easy. Hell, YOU don’t even want to do that all the time, why would others want to consistently do that also? They don’t. Slowly the phone calls decrease, the invites come to an almost screeching halt. And the invites you do receive, well, you can’t always accept because you can’t walk or be on your feet for as long as the event requires, or you can’t carry the necessary things. You end up spending more and more time alone.
For me, its driving me crazy because I WANT to do the things I used to be able to do. We get tired of being alone, but it is just a natural result because in your mind, why would anyone want to pass up opportunities to be active to hang around someone who can’t. You watch as everyone else’s lives are moving forward, they are doing new and fun things, and you are stuck with your ice pack and Netflix Queue just begging for someone to come keep you company for a little while because you are tired of your mind running circles because you have nothing else to think about.
This isn’t a post that is meant to be whiney, while it may seem that way, but it is there to give those that do not suffer from chronic pain a little bit of insight as to what goes on in the minds and in the lives of someone who does suffer from chronic pain. Mine happens to be my back, others have other pains, but its still the same idea. Don’t you think we WANT to be able to go out and do the things we used to do? Do you think we like living with this? HELL NO!
And another misconception I have been finding out is that people assume that if you have chronic pain, that means that you are bedridden and aren’t able to venture out at all. That is NOT true. We CAN venture out, HOWEVER, we are MUCH MORE LIMITED than we were before. We can’t do the things we used to do, and when we do engage in activities, we usually end up needing a recovery period after. Things that used to be so easy to do were very much taken for granted. You learn that real quick once you are hit with chronic pain. Just being able to sit up and jump out of bed in the morning…. THATS a thing of the past! I have to sit up slowly, hold on to something when I go to get out of bed in case my left leg has cramped up overnight because of the way I have slept and gives out on me. I can’t even count on my hands the number of times that I have gone to get out of bed and landed right on my ass because my leg gave out. Or the number of times that I have sat up too quickly and the pain surges faster than a brain freeze all the way up my spine and to my brain causing me to yelp. The days that my disc is so inflamed I cant even sit up because the weight of my upper body is too much, so I have to crawl around the house. No one sees that. They see a picture of you out one night (a night you chose to venture out for an hour or two and then were in bed the next 2-3 days on ice because of it) and think you are magically healed.
NOT TRUE. But, these are the things that you encounter. These are the realities. These are huge adjustments to many people’s lifestyles and ITS NOT EASY!!!!! We are all guilty of making quick judgments and opinions without knowing all the facts or not thinking about the situation in its entirety. I have done it. I’m not perfect. We all jump to conclusions. But, I do know, that the things that have happened in my life have made me stop to think a little more, judge a little less, and jump to conclusions a little slower.
Chronic pain is not something that can be predicted or planned. One day you can wake up feeling good and that gives you a false sense of reality in which you can easily overdo things and then be back at square one the very same night. Sometimes, you can go several days, or weeks, without any pain. Relish those times! However, just because there are some good days, doesn’t mean that the pain isn’t real or that there is a miraculous recovery. An injury is still an injury. Depression is still depression. We may be suffering from a very deep depression, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t laugh at a joke or smile from time to time. Chronic pain is the same. We don’t need to be “strapped to a bed” to be someone who has chronic pain.