The Ugly Truth About Chronic Pain

Most of you won’t read this post.

Maybe I wouldn’t either if I wasn’t the one writing it.

I’m (not unexpectedly) in a post-Thanksgiving pain flare-up.

It’s not unexpected because holidays are arm-intensive occasions.

The more I use my arm, the more inflamed (etc., etc.) it gets, and the more it hurts.

Holidays = cooking, cleaning, lifting, wrapping, carrying, decorating, etc., etc.

If I keep using my arm once it flares-up, the pain builds until it reaches epic proportions.

It’s like a fire that begins with a few sparks, but then grows in strength.  It eventually wipes out everything in its path – me.

(I think, Dr. Painless is the only person I’ve ever met who truly understands those previous three sentences.)

It’s easy to say I should do less, or have other people help me, and/or many other well intentioned suggestions.

All of those suggestions are good ones, kind ones, and truthful.

However, the majority of time I’m on my own.

I don’t have anyone to help out.

If I don’t do things myself they won’t get done.

I could spend my life watching TV and “doing nothing” in an attempt to live in less pain.

But, is “doing nothing” living?

Truthfully, no one wants to hear about it when a person is in pain.

They don’t want to hear it hurts.

They don’t want to hear you’re having a bad day due to a flare-up.

They don’t want you to be cranky, regardless of how bad the pain is.

They don’t want you around them if you can’t pretend like everything is wonderful.

At the same time,

They get angry if you cancel out on a plan/activity because you’re in too much pain to pretend otherwise.

They get frustrated and angry with you if/when you CAN’T just suck it up and pretend like year after year (after year after year!) of pain is fine and dandy.

In fact, if you’re “always in pain” people seem to think you should be used to it.

What’s the big deal, after all.

How can one day in pain be any different from all the other days in pain?

Well, each day CAN be different.

You never get USED to living in pain.

There are days when you’re absolutely worn out from it.

There are days when you’re tired of “acting” cheerful and happy in your attempt not to be a burden to the people around you.

Most days in the life of a chronic pain patient are lived at a pain level “normal” people would consider unbearable.

(Have you seen how most men act when they “just” have a simple cold?  Now imagine what they’d be like with their dominant arm permanently tied to their side and topped with a giant dose of pain.)

Bad days are the days when your slightest movement makes you inhale sharply and gasp at pain’s intensity.

The last few days have been exactly that ….

Days of breathtaking pain.

I’m very frustrated and discouraged.

PT was a huge, gigantic,   sobfest   fail yesterday.

My brain keeps saying, “I give up.”

I give up.

I give up.

I give up.

I give up.

I give up.

But, how can I give up?

There’s no giving up when the pain is a part of your own body.

There’s no way to give up on it, walk away from it, take a break from it, or ignore it.

Other people can (and do!) give up on me, but I can’t give up on me.

So, I try to talk myself down off the sky-high, precarious, ledge of frustration and discouragement.

I remind myself:

•  A bad pain flare-up is “normal” for me during the holiday season.

•  It happens every single year.

•  It won’t last forever.  (How far away is January?)

•  I have fewer flare-ups than I used to.  (Focus on the positive!)

•  I know I’ve made a lot of arm progress in the last year, even if it doesn’t feel like it right now.

Still, I’m really feeling down in the dumps.

Debbie Downer Does December.


20 Responses to “The Ugly Truth About Chronic Pain”

  1. Jan's Sushai Bar

    Suzanne, I’m so sorry. I wish there were something I could do to help, even if it was just to give you a (gnetle) hug and a shoulder to cry on.

    • Suzanne

      Thank you.
      I’ve done a surprising amount of crying in the last 24 hours.
      So, not like me ….

  2. Denise

    I am not sure I could/would keep going at the level you do, with the pain you have. I’m sorry people get frustrated with you, it’s just not fair or kind or a true loving friendship. You sound so sad and I truly hope you feel better before January. Don’t try to be superwoman.

    • Suzanne

      Well, at some point the pain brings me to a screeching halt – as it has this week.
      It has a way of winning which makes me infuriatingly mad.
      And cranky.
      And sad.

  3. Jenny in MN now in AZ

    So sorry for the pain flare up. I hope this subsides quickly as possible.
    Sending a gentle hug.

  4. Julie in Michigan

    I hope you’re pain flare up goes away real soon. Hugs from Michigan!

  5. tonya cinnamon

    Lots and lots of hugs to you.

    Pain is its own devil in a different form.

  6. Amy

    This is how I ended up with other disabled people as my best friends. They don’t expect me to pretend otherwise and they don’t get mad when I have to cancel and vice versa.

    You’re more stubborn than I am, I stopped decorating for Christmas years ago, about the time I refused to buy presents* for anyone because it was too hard for me.

    * There are no children in our family of five, if we had any, we’d make effort for them. I proposed that we donate the money we would have spent to charities, it has worked beautifully for us. 🙂

    It is worth reviewing the things you do and asking if you *really* need to do them, some things are not necessary.

    My thoughts are with you.

    • Suzanne

      I am stubborn.
      Or unaccepting of my limitations ….
      Or both.

  7. Mj

    So sorry to hear you are in such pain and that there is no one to help. Although I do not have the pain you experience I do know what it is like to not have anyone to help in time of need. It’s very unfortunate that we don’t live closer to each other because I would gladly help with wherever you needed help. For some reason, I have an extreme compassion for people such as yourself and I get great joy out of helping.
    Hang in there!

  8. Karen in S.E. Texas

    Suzanne I pray that your extreme flare lessens quickly. As a fellow chronic pain sufferer, I do understand and am so sorry that anyone else in this world has to go through this.

    Gentle hug

    • Suzanne

      Thanks Karen.
      I know you understand in a way most people (fortunately) never will.

  9. Linda M.

    While I may not get on your website every day, I do check at least once a week, and always go back to read what I’ve missed. I can say that, no, I don’t know what it is like to live with chronic pain, luckily for me…. However, reading your blog has helped me understand what others are going through. I would like to think it has made me a more compassionate person. For example, my dad has been having constant back pain for over two years. I’ve seen great changes in his quality of life as walkIng any distance is difficult and painful. Thanks in part to reading of your struggles over the last few years I have a better sense of how frustrating it is for him–to not be able to walk into the venue to see his grandson graduate (we called the facility & they let him use an elevator and gave him special seating), to not be able to go to a gym because it was too far down the hall to the bikes, to have his life limited by something he can’t change…

    While I don’t comment often, you sounded like you might appreciate knowing that readers are learning to be better people from your blogs. I am so sorry you have to live with incredible pain and discomfort and frustration. I am grateful that you’ve decided to share your journey with others so that we might understand better.

    And, I have to say, I love, love your photographs!!!!! My husband is into thunderstorms, so I keep checking to see if you’ve caught any, because I think that would be an awesome picture. Too bad you live in Southern California, with few storms!

    Thank you for sharing your journey as well as your amazing photographs.


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