The most difficult thing about chronic pain

I found the most difficult thing about chronic pain was that it turned me into something I didn’t want to be. Perhaps my personality type would always have meant that I was going to be super-organised and highly motivated but chronic pain resulted in me becoming very tense and angry as I attempted to control factors that I thought would minimise the pain. I lashed out at those I loved most and this only made me feel guilty that I was not the mother and wife I had dreamed I would be. This grew into a deep sadness about myself. As time went on and the pain only grew worse I felt trapped as all my efforts to overcome it were useless and the medical profession seemed to be at a loss to help me.

When I look back at myself now I am amazed that I managed to do as well as I did. I know that inwardly I was putting my children’s and husband’s needs before my own while all the time I was longing for someone to come and nurse me. Perhaps the pressure to keep caring for my family kept me grounded. I simply did not have the choice to cave in to sorrow. And anyway I did so love them! I did so want to care for them!

Certainly by the time I presented at the first Pain Clinic – after about 18 years of increasing pain – I think was showing the psychological strain of trying to rise above my condition. I was confused about what was wrong with me and I seemed to be hovering perpetually on the edge of break-down.

stretched to breaking point

stretched to breaking point

 

Recently I watched a program called *The Secret World of Pain, a documentary produced in 2011 by the BBC program ‘Horizon’. The thing that most stood out for me were the last 2 pain sufferers. One was crying almost continuously, as if begging for pain relief. The other was holding back a lake of tears but when she experienced pain relief she opened the gates little by little so tears could flow.

In an instant I recognised myself and what can happen to humans who are subjected to relentless pain from which their minds are unable to rest. When you are the person in pain it feels as if you are being heroic by not crying too much and yet the tears you do release seem to be too much for others to cope with. I’m not talking about feeling emotional after only several months of pain – in 1989 when one side of my lower back and leg first became inflamed I was the very picture of optimism. I soldiered on with 5 young children, a husband whose work was demanding and a faith that God would help me sort it out.

But when the pain has gone on for ages, when the pain is often strong and causes sleep deprivation, when no treatment seems to alleviate it and others have exhausted their efforts to help THEN it is extremely difficult to maintain emotional equilibrium. I have cried in all manner of ways– sobbing quietly on my own, hysterical crying, a few tears filling the eyes or sliding down the cheeks, crying in the morning, crying in the evening, crying at anytime – even in cafes because I’ve been beyond caring how I look or how it makes others feel.

And then I stopped crying (well almost)! Because it didn’t change the pain. And sometimes it even made the headaches a lot worse. Also, why cry, when the people who love you can’t do anything more to help. It seems better to spare them some of the agony. But at the back of my throat there was a hurting sensation as if I was holding back a river of tears.

I didn’t want to have the pain but I didn’t have a choice. I simply had to learn how to be a loving person as well as carrying the pain at the same time. My secret is that God kept speaking to me as I would read the Bible in the mornings – somehow I was able to draw strength through spending time with him as my friend. It wasn’t that he spoke to me a lot about dealing with the pain, rather that he was able to concentrate my mind and energy on other thoughts, hopes and plans. I still felt like I was pleasing him and this gave my life such meaning and purpose. And by daily experiencing his close presence it didn’t feel as if I was alone while in pain or that he didn’t care about the pain.

Nowadays he has given me so much to alleviate my pain that I can never be grateful enough. And I haven’t lost the love of my family as I have seen happen tragically to others when they have been overtaken by the misery of constant pain.

There is a time to cry and a time to refrain from crying. There is a time to push through for medical help and a time to wait. But there is always a time for meeting with God. And God will give me what I need today to deal with this day.

Two pale-headed rosellas enjoying the blue berries on a dianella.

2 pale-eahed rosellas enjoying the blue berries on a dianella

Look at the birds … your Father in heaven feeds them day by day (Matthew 6:26)

 

*  The Secret World Of Pain, a BBC documentary which can be watched at

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75wkm9NTOb8

 

Previous Post
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: