Chronic Pain Has Become More Difficult Than the Mountains I Climbed

Since I woke up this morning, this day has felt odd. The skies were angry and storms passed through every hour, darkening the sky to a night time gray. The rain was heavy, furious as it fell, creating a calming yet aggressive presence on our tin roof. The winds sliced through the trees bringing branches down to the ground.

Along with the storm, I felt restless. A void in my heart. I was mourning. Grieving. but what? My body ached with every storm that approached and my heart longed for the island, where thunderstorms stopped the hectic day-to- day hustle and everyone stopped and watched the rain fall. It was peaceful. Cherished. Needed on that small island for life to continue.

Abe was not himself today either. A massive golden retriever who doesn’t mind storms or their fury, paid special and close attention to me today and lowered his head on my leg in a caring and faithful manner. He must have sensed the uneasiness. The restless. The void.

I showed my body some much needed loving kindness and compassion today, allowing myself to meditate early in the morning listening to the rain fall and twice more as the day progressed. No matter how much love I gave, my nerves were angry. Like a stubborn child who refuses to cooperate, they continued in their tantrum. Every response in my body supported my decision I made yesterday (with great hesitation) to file for short-term disability with my job that I had not been able to return successfully to in 29 days.

Then I began to think, short-term disability? Wow. This was the first time, hands down, without a doubt this disease had forced me to stop working and file for a disability benefit. I felt defeated. I felt betrayed by my own body.

Why was it doing this to me? Why can’t determination and perseverance lead me back down the road to where my career waited?  

If willpower alone was enough, I would have a different story today. I would not be the girl in physical therapy, not being able to connect her brain to her foot to tell it to move. I wouldn’t have pushed with all my might, only to see no strength come from my once powerful legs. The legs that took me wherever I wanted to go.

A sudden crash of pain that came out of nowhere beckoned me back to my bed this afternoon and I laid in the fetal position, willing myself not to throw up. Taking a rationed amount of pain medication, I listened to music that soothed my nerves and I began to type out words on my keyboard.

I was mourning Me.  

I was mourning the body and the person I used to be before complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). I typed line after line of words that sounded like a eulogy. In remembrance of a friend, my best friend I had lost. I cried.

Losing who I was and my strong body is the hardest thing I have ever done.

And then tonight, as I climbed back into bed and opened Facebook, it showed me my memories. A chill shot down my spine. There it was. Five years ago today. June 21st, 2011. Hiking one of the tallest peaks on St. Croix. I sprained my ankle. Those pictures of me at the top of that mountain, smiling. Proud that my body climbed the steep terrain while motivating a group of 20 children, convincing them this was fun. We were leading an adventure camp after all.

That 30-year-old smiling girl did not know that day would be the day that changed the rest of her life.

kelly hiking on top of a mountain

Even though I feel I have “lost” part of Kelly, she is still in my soul keeping me going.

There will be no adventure camp in the Caribbean tomorrow.

Instead, I have the most important trek of my life in front of me, something more difficult than the mountains I climbed, the waves I surfed and wind I kited.

Tomorrow, I will fight through this pain and continue my physical therapy by walking robotically in the pool and putting my feet in a bucket of uncooked rice to desensitize them. I will then continue painful spinal sympathetic nerve blocks every week. I just keep going, holding onto the hope that sometime soon, I get to be me again.

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