What it’s really like to live with Chronic Pain

 

A few weeks ago I shared that I suffer with anxiety and depression, but I never told you one of the reasons why. Today I’m going to tell you a little story about my life that many of you will not know. This is my story of what it’s really like to live with chronic pain, and what I do to help manage it.

A long, long time ago (in 1989), I was 4 years old and had a terrifying accident. Bits and pieces were told to me over the years, and sometimes I vividly remember details completely out of the blue. Today was one of those days when I woke up with back pain so bad that I had to have The Husband help me get up, and I’ve been largely couch bound for most of the day. In fact, I’m writing this on my phone because the thought of sitting at my pc in an extremely uncomfortable dining chair makes me want to cry.

The Beginning

We were at my paternal grandparent’s house that day. I don’t remember if we were living there or if we were visiting, but I remember it was a sunny day, the grass was really green, and there were yellow dandelions all over the yard. The house smelled like fresh brewed coffee, as it always did. I could hear the clanking of tools as someone was working on a car in the driveway. I remember there was a dog wandering around, but not particularly paying any attention to the many kids that were there.

That particular day, my younger brother AJ (who was 3 at the time), was jumping on a bed that was pushed up against the wall next to a plate glass window. I was worried that he would fall through, so I climbed up on the bed, and in all of my 4 year old wisdom with a healthy dose of bossiness, ordered him to get down. It didn’t help (as I was always quite a bossy child), so I tried to physically get him off the bed. That’s when I lost my footing and fell backward through the same plate glass window I was trying to protect him from.

What happened?

I remember the window shattering. On particularly bad days I can still hear the screams ringing in my ears. I can remember what it was like to lay on the ground wondering what the hell happened, and seeing my parents trying to free me from the wreckage. Behind the house was an old oil drum barbecue grill that we used for family reunions. I remember the glass from the window and pieces of rusted metal from the barbecue embed themselves into my back. I can remember that it hurt like hell, but I can’t describe what it felt like in that moment.

Then everything went black. I remember waking up in the hospital strapped to a board on a gurney. The lights were extremely bright, and the room seemed deafeningly loud. The doctors surrounding me, trying to figure out how injured I really was scared me. I was utterly terrified. Even with all the details that I do remember, I don’t remember the process of removing the debris. I don’t know how many stitches I received. I have a 5 inch scar on my lower back to remind me that bossiness sometimes comes with huge risks and life-changing events attached.

I’ve been told I was extremely lucky. The debris penetrated my back 1/8 of an inch from my left kidney, and 1/8 of an inch from my spine. I could have been paralyzed for the rest of my life, or I could have lost a kidney. I’ve been told that I lost a lot of blood and could have died.

Childhood Chronic Pain

As I was growing up, the pain never seemed to go away. There’s likely nerve damage in my lower back from the fall. Every day has been a bit of a struggle.  I’ve never been able to sleep comfortably, even though I’ve tested out several different types of mattresses over my lifetime. Staying in one position too long results in muscle spasms.They are bad enough that need someone to sit and rub my back for hours just to try to get relief.

Adult Chronic Pain

Now that I’m an adult, I am acutely aware of my limits. Normal exercise is usually off the table because I know that I’ll end up hurting myself. On bad days I can barely pick up anything heavier than a book, so usual chores have to wait. Even the short walk to Punky’s school takes several times longer than usual because I’m moving quite delicately. Sitting on the floor with Punky too long causes my back and hips to lock up.

Those days are the ones where I feel sorry for myself. I need extra support, lots of hugs, love, and family being gentle with me. Today is one of those days.

Being unable to do basic things several days a week has absolutely contributed to my depression. It’s hell being trapped in a body that doesn’t do what you want and need it to. It’s depressing not being able to get down on the floor and play with my son. It makes me feel like I’m failing him because his mom isn’t “normal”.

Do Doctors Actually Listen?

I’ve alerted my doctors that I have had a traumatic injury in the past. I’ve told them that I’m suffering from sometimes excruciating back pain. They’ve seen the scar and heard my story, but have never once taken me seriously. They label me as a pill seeker, a drama queen, and told me that if I “just lose weight” I’ll feel a lot better. I call bullshit on the whole thing. Why would weight loss help chronic pain that I’ve been dealing with since childhood?

Sometimes it’s not as simple as losing weight. When someone doesn’t understand, especially a doctor, it’s a huge blow to your self-esteem. Trust me.

Simple Exercises & Stretches for Relief

These days I do simple stretching exercises that I found through the NHS website to try to alleviate some of the pain and pressure in my back. The stretch that helps me the most from the list I linked to above are the knee rolls.

Other methods if pain relief I rely on is heat via a heating pad or a very hot shower, massage (I ask The Husband to massage my low back most nights), and when the pain allows, I do yoga here at home. This video is one that I use frequently to relieve my back pain through stretches by YogaTX, though I do modify it as needed. I also love this Hatha Yoga video by Melissa Krieger.

Some days it helps, other days it hurts. But I just keep doing it anyway.

If you’re not a chronic pain sufferer I hope that this post has taught you not to judge a book by its cover. If you do suffer from chronic pain, I hope that you realize that you’re not alone. You can commiserate with me because I understand.

Thanks for reading! As I find new ways to help alleviate back pain, I’ll write up new posts for you to enjoy.

2 thoughts on “What it’s really like to live with Chronic Pain

  1. Ben Smiley says:

    Amazing strength you have, I have chronic pain as well from a back injury. I deal with swelling every day that makes it hard to walk, some days I can barely get out of bed. So I understand how it can make you feel depressed and how it can keep you from doing things in your life you want, in my case music. I try to manage it through exercise and massage as much as I can but sometimes still need pain pills. I hope this article inspires and informs everyone who reads it.

    1. Amanda says:

      Thank you for the lovely comment, Ben! I hope you’re able to find daily relief so you can continue your passion in music.

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