Have you ever pulled a muscle? Had a twinge in your back? A really harsh knock that leaves a bruise in an inconvenient place? Experienced a nagging headache that won’t go for a couple of days?
Horrible isn’t it. You feel a bit vulnerable and wobbly and delicate until it gets better.
Now, imagine it never got better. Imagine that the next time you experience a pull, twinge, knock or headache that it will be there forever. It will also affect the joints and muscles around it so they will be a bit of an annoyance too sometimes. The fit, healthy you who could just go stand at a concert for several hours, carry three bags back from the shops, open the fridge or oven door without bracing yourself in a specific position… that you is gone. And it is never coming back. You will feel a bit vulnerable and wobbly and delicate forever. Welcome to the world of Chronic Pain. I’ve been living here for well over a decade… and the next person who says to me ‘but you’re so young, wait till you get to my age!’ will get a very un-holistic response.
I have yet to discover this thing they call ‘acceptance’. I have always been an active person, however, at age 30-something, I encountered various professionals who said things like I may never climb, ski, canoe, or run again. Several years later, I realise that I have defiantly, continually, and often inconveniently, charged head first into brick walls, body slammed boulders and fallen hard onto concrete floors. All metaphorical, but resulting in severe physical and psychological scarring, a process that has led to a gradual awareness: In order to live as full a life as possible, I need to maintain certain balances. And balance – physically or metaphorically – as it transpires, is not my strong point. It is however, something I’m learning…
I’m living a life where all too often, I want to give up. Not die. Just lay in bed until a magic spell or pill makes it all better so I can have my life back. Some days I wake up and everything hurts. Think about that for a minute: I’m a 41 year old woman, waking up with a day of work and stuff planned, and my very first awareness, not even a thought, just a blurred awareness is “E v e r y t h i n g h u r t s”. Its hard to specify which joint / muscle / tendon / finger / hair follicle is worst because it all feels heavy and tired and bruised. I have to work out what body parts can move where, and which bit of my body I need to move first. Sometimes I’m lucky and it’s just the usual spasms and numbness – I know what they are and I know how to work through those so they’re fine. The unusual and new pains can be daunting. I’m exhausted before I even get out of bed at least 2 days a week, sometimes 7 days a week. There are times that I resent, hate and fear my own body. But I keep on living for those times where I’m proud of it for not giving in, and even better are those times when after 6 months of emptiness and gruelling ups & downs at the gym, suddenly, part of me will feel a wee bit more flexible, more stable, or just a little bit stronger.
I wish that the pain showed up on my body as bruises, the centre of bad bits being darker then becoming lighter further from the epicentre. I wish it was visible so I could pinpoint exactly where the ‘trigger’ or worst points are, because if I could identify and solve those, then the rest would calm down, right? I guess I just wish for some sort of significant change that would enable me to feel a bit more in control. Some days I’m just so very sad as carrying my exhausted, heavy and tired body is the heaviest cloud imaginable. I resent it, I feel broken and part of me is still angry. I go to a classes to help mobilise, strengthen, and stabilise my core. It’s all fine until someone says ‘the idea is to hold the pose dear’ or ‘stretch a little further, you can do it’. That’s when the rage of injustice boils inside me and it’s all I can do to stop myself flying at the poor well-meaning person and releasing all my years of anger and pain in their face. And then I cry.
I eat a healthy diet. I do pilates-based exercises most days. I walk a lot. I have a social life, a creative mind and I get 8 hours sleep a night (subject to pain interruptions and inconveniences obviously). My logical brain knows that there is no magic pill, or spell, or wand, or treatment. I don’t want sympathy, but I would like understanding. I do struggle sometimes, and unless you recognise the look in my eyes, the wobble in my legs or the way I hold myself when I’ve been standing for too long, you won’t know that I’m struggling, because my body looks just fine, no bruises here.