Monday was the five year anniversary of the accident which left me in chronic pain. This has been with me for half a decade, but it feels like it just happened.
I am one of the more fortunate ones who deals with chronic pain, because my pain doesn’t completely stop me from being able to function. I’m able to work part-time and can generally go out and do things when needed. Of course there are more at home days than out of the house days, but compared to some people I know dealing with chronic pain, my situation isn’t the worst.
I’m unfortunate in that my illness is invisible and that I still mentally feel like I should be able to do the things I used to be able to do. When my pain is controlled I tend to revert back to my old self – mentally, at least. I may never be back there physically.
This hit me like a ton of bricks just yesterday, when I had one of the worst days since this accident happened and the pain started.
Before The Pain
Before my accident, I was about as independent as they come. Having had to grow up quickly, I was never one to ask for help from anyone unless I was desperate. Add to that my impatience, and I just did things on my own most of the time. If something needed to be moved, I moved it. If something needed to be fixed, I fixed it. It didn’t matter what it was, I did it.
I have never liked the idea that my partner had to do things for me just because he was a man. I’ve never liked the thought that if someone broke into our house, he’d have to be hurt first because of what’s in his pants. Or that he has to do all of the physical labor because I’m just a meek lil’ lady. I’ve never liked it and always fought against it.
Now that I’m injured, though, I have to let that part of me go just a little bit. Now, I still walk on the outside when walking our dog because A. It’s easier since my husband is usually the one holding the leash (our dog pulls on his leash often and I cringe to think of how bad that would hurt), and B. Why should he get hit by a car first just because he’s a man? But, there are some things that I physically cannot do anymore and it’s very hard to keep that in mind.
Impatience & Stubbornness
The office in which I work is closing down at the end of the month. As such, I’ve been given permission to take any computer home with me that I want, which is awesome.
I park in a parking garage (usually on the 4th or 5th floor) and work on the 4th floor of our building. This means that whatever I want to take to my car has to be lugged down hallways, elevators and sloped parking garages. Because of this, the plan was that one day within the next few weeks, my husband would come up to my job with me to help me take some of the items out to my car.
Being that it is me, and that I am beyond stubborn, I went ahead and pushed myself too far. On Monday, I was asked by my boss to throw a large box away when I left. I agreed to do so, but then thought, “Hey, I can just throw a computer in that box and take it to my car. It won’t be that bad!” Instead of waiting until my husband could come help, I did it all myself. Now, I didn’t need this computer that day. I’m actually getting it for my mom to use. That didn’t matter; I saw the opportunity and I took it.
The thought process behind this was, 1. I’m a grown woman who should be able to handle a computer and 2. Why should my husband have to drive all the way out here to do something I obviously can do myself?
There’s a reason why I didn’t tell him what I was doing before it was done and that is because I knew that he would be against it and he would stop me. That’s because he’s not impatient and he understands my limitations more than I do. Due to my impulsive nature, my husband is my voice of reason. He would’ve made me think about the consequences. Deep down I knew I was overdoing it, but once I get it in mind to do something, I go for it without pause.
My body was giving me little hints throughout the entire process that I was making a big mistake, but I ignored them all. I ignored the twinge of pain when I tried to lift the box and the bigger twinge when I placed it onto the rolling chair. My pain often comes on suddenly but generally subsides if I stop what I’m doing. This lulls me into a false state of confidence that I’ll be fine.
So, here I am pushing a rolling chair with a very heavy box full of computer parts down to my car. Each bump I hit sends the box in danger of falling off, so I have to reach out and pull harder on it to get it to stay where it is. The entire time I’m pushing the chair with my left hand (the good side) and holding the box with the right (the bad side).
The worst part is that I forgot where I parked, so I get to the 4th floor of the parking garage and go all the way down to the next floor before realizing that I actually parked on the 5th floor. I turn around and fight gravity and bumpy pavement to the elevator and do it all over again on the 5th floor.
I can tell that I’m in more pain than usual when this is all through, but I figure that if I can get home to my medications and heating pad, I’ll be alright. Wrong.
The Next Day
I woke up the following day in misery. My normal day-to-day pain is a pretty consistent 3-4 on the pain scale, but yesterday it was much closer to 7 or 8. Pain was shooting from my neck to my elbow all the way down into my middle finger. This isn’t a rare thing, but the intensity of it was. I hadn’t been in this much pain since recovering from surgery.
My husband, bless him, was wonderful. He had the day off from work and would come in occasionally to check on me while I slept (he’s an early riser and I’m definitely not). At one point I woke up in excruciating pain because I was laying on my right side. He walked in as I made an incoherent noise of pain. “Aw, I’m too late. Sorry, babe.” He said, because he usually checks on me to make sure I’m not doing that exact thing.
I then was stuck on the couch for the remainder of the day and nothing I did touched the pain. I took my medications, I used my heating pad, I did my stretches – all of which generally are helpful, but they did nothing for me. I would move and the searing pain would shoot into my hand. I wouldn’t move and it would do it anyway. A full day of being basically bed-ridden all because I had the audacity to move a computer.
It was while sitting on my couch wincing in pain that realized what this injury has taken from me and I began to cry. For the first time in five years I cried over what was and what will be and how my life has changed.
This injury and the resulting chronic pain has not just taken my ability to work full-time and get more money and benefits, it’s taken away a good portion of my independence. It’s taken my ability to be a good employee, friend and spouse.
It’s taken so much away from me, but at least I can say that it hasn’t taken my tenacity or positive attitude. It hasn’t taken my desire to be a good person and to overcome obstacles. It hasn’t taken my will to live or my ability to enjoy life.
If I’m honest, it’s also given me a few things: It’s shown me how strong I can be and it’s made me much more empathetic. It’s also forced me to slow down and take life a day at a time instead of always focusing on the next day, week, year or longer.
Chronic pain is not just physical, it’s mental, too. It takes more than it gives and it can leave you both physically and mentally exhausted.