It’s been over 5 years since I last wrote a piece on what it means to live with chronic pain. I have good news.
I still have fingers with which to write about it.
In this time, I have completed an undergraduate and graduate degree as well as had two stints in the professional workplace. As a result, I have experienced pain in different contexts.
If you haven’t read the first post, please find it here.
I am angry and this calmed me down
A theme in my last post was a sombre nature. I pointed out that there are many things I feel I have lost because I have been in pain for so long. Whether that was friendships, self-confidence or time. These are all true. Yet, I noticed something else – I was really angry.
I hated being in pain.
When you’ve hurt your back or your leg, it’s easy to feel frustrated because it limits you and prevents you from enjoying your day even when you don’t have any obligations. It’s draining and if it lasts for a few weeks, you simply cannot wait for it to leave.
Therefore, it may be surprising that I have taken a while to admit that I have been chronically frustrated at my situation.
Let me explain.
My first approach to being in pain was that being angry was only going to waste my time. It was something that I needed to simply accept and move on with. This was greatly inspired by stoic and Buddhist philosophies.
But this pain was nagging at me like a small child who would simply not stop crying. As composed as you can be, eventually, you just become a little bit annoyed…
…especially if this child is actually 30 years old, is perfectly capable of living an independent life but simply doesn’t. And cries all the time.
This anger grew into chronic frustration. I wouldn’t be foaming at the teeth every day (if I have but simply haven’t noticed, I do not have any friends because they didn’t warn me) but most of my journal entries would be the same – I’m annoyed that I have to push through this pain, otherwise I’d simply never get anything done. Who wants to do that? There’s no glory in a battle no one ever witnesses you conquer, is there?
Throughout my undergraduate and graduate degrees, I chose to explore these topics. I wondered what anger has done for people in the past and whether anger needs to do anything at all in order to be free from criticism.
I realised that my chronic frustration was simply a reflection of chronic pain. It isn’t always a productive emotion and sometimes it is. That is perfectly fine. In that time, it motivated me to learn how to swim, to take up programming and to pursue these topics in the first place!
In many respects, it has transformed the way that I approach my life. Frankly, I’m not sure I had any choice at all! I am fortunate enough for my chronic pain to not shackle me to the bed every day.
The Talking Problem
When we think back to cavemen and women, we think of very rudimentary communications. “Run”, “Hot!” “Sad!” “Unregulated capitalism is ruining our environment and making the poor, poorer.”
Well, a struggle I’ve come to admit is … I’m basic.
Yes, I love Starbucks as much as the next person and, being a 24-year-old male, I now have an interest in the gym and “lifting heavy, grrr”.
The way I talk about pain hasn’t changed much! There’s little nuance to the situation – and trust me, I try to find it. But at the end of the day, it comes down to the same few things. I’m in pain and it’s tiring. I don’t like it and I don’t know how to change it.
The problem isn’t necessarily how I express myself in my head but more so to other people. It’s difficult to express the gravity of chronic pain to those who have never experienced it. The fact that the feeling is never old but the experience just grinds away emotionally and physically.
How do you tell co-workers friends “I’m in pain… all the time” and for it to mean something to them? I have no idea but I’ve been in this situation for 10 years now and I’m not sure it matters much as I thought it did.
My friends and family
One goal I had for this post was to make sure that sadness and disappointment was the primary theme. I don’t want to make the reader sad. There’s enough of that to go around.
The exact way I communicate the problem doesn’t matter because directed compassion from family and friends reduces the importance of helping others be empathetic. Even if others may not be able to step into my shoes, they can still help me get to my destination.
And they do.
Living with chronic pain hasn’t changed that much over the past 10 years. It continues to be a physical and emotional grind, but I am remarkably fortunate to have built the friendship groups I have.
To those who are reading – thank you.
To end on a positive note, I’ll talk about some of the key milestones I’ve experienced…
- I’ve learned how to swim and now regularly do 2.5km a few times a week
- I’ve completed 2 degrees to a high standard without dying
- I’ve stopped using the walking stick
- I’ve started weightlifting
That’s probably it. But we’re all about improving slowly here anyway…
And with that, I leave you all. I hope you enjoyed this uneventful update on my life. Back to regularly scheduled programming.
(At the rate I’m going, it’s once a year but we will ignore that.)
As always, thank you for reading!
FaceBook: Improving Slowly