By: Jana Christian
I met my husband, Don, over the phone six and a half years ago. At the time, I was living with a woman who was an old friend of Don’s family. Don had called this woman and left several messages. I subsequently called him back to tell him that his friend was out of town. We talked and talked. I read him my poetry. We shared our histories. We cried. We ended up talking for four hours and made arrangements to meet for breakfast the next morning.
We met, we clicked..we meshed; we had so much in common ñ chief among those things was the fact that we had matching injuries. Ruptured discs at C5-6,C4-5, C3-4, C2-4, and L5-S1. Also, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and lots of chronic pain to boot. A match made in Heaven.
We had found our soulmate; someone to identify with, and we married thirty-five days later. Call me crazy, but that’s the way it happened. We couldn’t have found each other soon enough. Both of us were in a self-destruct mode, due to years of chronic pain, and had pretty much given up on hope.
My husband went through six doctors and two unnecessary surgeries before I met him — only to finally find out he had the largest herniated disc at L5-S1 that the doc had ever seen. At first, this last doctor accused Don of just looking for pain killers until he finally did an MRI and apologized to him with tears in his eyes..told Don he couldn’t believe he was even walking with such a large ruptured disc. His first surgery was at age 27. Since then, it’s been a never-ending saga of repeated surgeries, accusatory doctors and staff in emergency rooms..on-going agonizing pain with no relief, and finally acceptance. People just can’t understand. It’s not their fault..too bad they can’t walk in our shoes.
It is SO debilitating living this existence of constant pain 24/7 with another person suffering the same fate. Unless you have it, there’s no clear-cut way of explaining the way it alters your life. But I’ll try.
When someone says they’re in pain, just because they happen to be coiffed and buffed on the outside, does NOT mean you could ever get in touch with the pain going on inside their bodies. I wish people would have more empathy, but how could anyone know, if they’ve never experienced it?
I’m exhausted from feeling as if I have to explain my every activity to people who tell me “Gee, you look fine”. I tell them “You wanna see my X-rays”? That usually does it. One day out of seven you just might get a spurt of actual energy (don’t blow it), if you’re lucky. You race around and try to do it ALL, because for five days, your back and upper body have been useless, and now you feel guilty for not doing enough around the house.
Last week my husband and I cleaned six small windows. With his neck and shoulders (two shoulder replacement surgeries, two discectomies in his neck, and eight other surgeries), and my neck and arms (two Carpal Tunnel release surgeries last year), we had to hang low for three days, we were so exhausted.
I’ve been studying chronic pain for quite a while. I got a kick out of discovering the 3 “s’s” of chronic pain. SADNESS, SLEEPLESSNESS, and SUFFERING. I say they should add another ‘s’ for SUICIDE. Not much to look forward to.
My husband kills me. He drags his body around and tries to always be productive. He pushes himself to the point that it makes me crazy because I worry about his health, and angry, because who has to listen to him groan the next day? You guessed it. But as he likes to say, “I’m not giving in to this”. He works like a dog on our yard and garden, practically drags his hind legs, but dammit, he gets it done. He’s been such an inspiration to me, when I want to give up.
For months when both my neck and back were ‘out’, I couldn’t sit, I couldn’t bend, NOR lie down and couldn’t sleep for five nights in a row sometimes and was totally losing it. I took to my bed and wanted never to emerge. If not for Don, I might still be there. Pity party’s over.
Meantime, now instead of sleeping and watching the world go by, I try to make my fingers do the talking, tho’ I can’t type for long periods or very fast (used to do 90 WPM), but doing it piecemeal is better than not at all. I’ve started yoga, because the chronic pain manuals tell you to stay in constant motion, and if I’m not in constant motion, I can only think and feel PAIN, so that’s a new behavior I’ve been doing.
We are blessed with a TENS (Transdermal Electro-Neuro Stimulator) which gives some minor temporary relief, but we maintain our constant pain with prayer and marijuana (WHEN or IF we can afford to buy it) PRIMARILY (see attached article written for Marijuana.com). We used to use alcohol for pain, only to produce more pain in other areas..so that’s out. Then there were narcotics from our doctors..Closest stuff to heroin you can get, and guess what?? No relief, so what’s the point? Gives you an idea as to the intensity of the pain.
We’ve been to physical therapy with maybe some temporary relief..done the pain clinics, been on the traction table, been through surgery, had injections, heat, pain rubs, Reiki, not to mention hypnosis, all with few, if any, results. My plan at first was to just give up if there’s no relief. But today, I know there are people out there with a MUCH worse situation than my own. I’m working on acceptance now..acceptance that my condition IS WHAT IT IS. And acceptance of the fact that I’m my own best doctor, that my pain WILL get worse, that surgery is not an option I’m willing to try on my neck just now after the nightmare stories I’ve heard (the worst ones from my husband), and acceptance that I’m not getting any younger. With these truths in mind, I’m trying to heal from the inside out starting with my attitude. All I have is today, so I better not waste a minute of it.
Today we’re watching the birds in our back yard. It’s an activity which produces much relaxation, and a positive attitude. I’ve been making them my focus, as it’s an activity I can say is very productive. I try to rise each morning with the best outlook I can muster. Some days are a wash. Other days, I actually love life. I’m practicing an attitude of gratitude as I battle my way to freedom from pain..
© All content on this page is property of Jana Christian.