Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Why I'm Blogging About Pain

Some of you are probably wondering why I'm doing this.  I, more than anyone, am wondering why I'm doing this.  I'm usually a very private person.  If you're one of the five people I confide in, you still only know about 70% of the really important things in my life.  I really like my privacy.

I started this blog mainly as a writing exercise.  I used to be good at writing but I really never do it anymore, and there's a huge difference between journaling and writing for an audience.  So I started putting silly posts on here just for the practice.  And then I decided to write about some real things.  And then I had a post about chronic pain that I was really proud of and I decided to share it.  I'm not going to just write about pain, because even I think that would be boring.  But while I'm going through this, it's going to be a big part of this blog.

When I feel good, I'm out doing things.  I clean the house, and walk the dogs, and do some shopping, and sometimes I work or rake leaves (don't laugh Greg, it happened once).  I usually blog when I'm feeling sort of crappy and I can't sleep because my body hurts and my brain decides to take off and start writing things.  So a lot of it ends up being about chronic pain.

I don't write this stuff to get people to feel sorry for me.  The thing about chronic pain is that it's very awkward.  It might make you feel awkward to read my posts about it.  It makes me feel awkward to write them.  Every time I hit that publish button I have a major vulnerability hangover.  The real reason I ever talk about this and share all of these things that make me feel like I've just posted nude photos on the internet is because I want you to believe me.

Living with chronic pain is a constant battle of trying to be normal and pretending to be normal all the while hoping that everyone knows we're not really normal and believes that we're in pain.

We have to convince our doctors and surgeons and pharmacists and lawyers and employers and coworkers and family members and friends.  And sometimes it feels like putting on an act because I don't want to show the truth to any of them.  I want to pretend that everything is fine because that makes me feel better.  I want to hide my pain from all of these people and somehow power through and make myself be ok by pretending that I am ok.  But then there are times when I suddenly really need them to believe me.  I need them to know that I've been suffering for the past few "I'm fine" months, and that I can't pretend anymore.  I need them to believe that I really can't do the things that I'm saying I can't do, that I'm not trying to get pills because I like the way they make me feel, that I'm not trying to get settlement money because I think it's my lucky break.  I need to be believed.

I think the reason this matters so much to me is because I'm an expert at faking sick.  In elementary school, there were kids who would go to the nurse and get sent back to class because she knew they were faking it.  I could walk into the nurse's office on any given day, weakly stammer "I don't feel good" and she would respond with "You don't look good honey.  Come lay down while I call your mom."  Any and all acting ability I may have has been used to convince authority figures that I was sick when I really wasn't.  It's practically a way of life.

So now I have the world's best excuse to not do anything I don't want to do ever again.  I have a neck injury with the x-rays to prove it, and I have chronic pain that makes doing anything on a consistent basis really damn difficult.  I am allowed to be a loser.  But, because I've only been actually sick about 20 times in my life, and fake sick about 300, I don't believe it myself.  I doubt my every symptom.  I'm constantly questioning the amount of pain I'm in and wondering if I'm making it up.  When I have a few good weeks in a row, I start wondering why I ever stopped working and I think that I must have invented this entire problem.  I assume that everyone around me thinks that I'm a total fraud and then I start to believe it too.

And then the pain comes back.  And it's so bad that I can't do ANYTHING.  I can't cook dinner; it's hard enough to sit up long enough to eat it.  I can't clean the bathroom; I can barely take a shower.  I can't walk the dog; I can hardly go up the stairs.  And physically it's completely awful.  There's no way around the fact that pain sucks.  But mentally, it's a huge relief.  Because I believe myself again.  I know that it's real and that I wasn't just making it all up this whole time.  I remember that I've felt this way for most of the past three years and that that's why I can't work.  I'm not just trolling my family and friends.  I believe myself again.

So this blog, in part, is to remind myself that this is all real.  It's not an elaborate scheme to get Greg to financially support me and also cook dinner several nights a week.  I actually feel really super guilty about that situation.  It's not to get settlement money or drugs (both of which are massively overrated).  It's not to get the comfiest chairs at parties or to get to go home from work whenever I want.  It's an inconvenience at best and a life-ruiner at worst.  And I wish it had never happened and I could just be normal again and take the occasional "sick" day to go shopping at Ikea.

Some of my posts also turned out to be helpful to other people.  I realized that maybe I had the ability to let people who are suffering know that they aren't alone.  I've also had what I hope is the unlikely misfortune of having several really terrible doctors.  So maybe I can help people with bad doctors know that there are better ones out there.  Maybe I can show doctors ways to be more helpful.  Maybe I can help the family members and friends of people with chronic pain to understand what it's like and how they can help and how to talk about it.

Maybe I can make something good out of something bad.  And maybe I can use that English degree I paid for while I'm at it.

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