What a Good Day Looks Like to Someone With Chronic Pain

In my ongoing battle with chronic pain, I have good days and bad days. Though my “good days” might not be what “healthy” people consider to be good days, my good days are incentive for me to keep getting out of bed and keep focusing on what is important in my life.

A good day for me usually starts with a good night’s sleep, a night when I don’t remember seeing 1, 2:13, 2:35, 3:23, 3:54, 4:02, and 5:09 a.m. on my alarm clock, a night during which I don’t stumble to my cupboard of medicines trying to figure out which pill will get me through until morning.

Following a good night’s sleep, a good day begins with me lying in bed trying to figure out if I my pain level is really at a manageable level or if am I still dreaming. Once I break through the fog of sleep and realize that indeed my pain is manageable, I start to imagine what the day could look like and my mind conjures up images of grandeur: a long walk in the park, a shopping trip at the mall, the big house project that has been on my “to do list,” or I even get so crazy as to contemplate dusting off my old running shoes from my former pain-free life. Simply daydreaming about a day without pain and its limits on my activities is the most exhilarating part of a good day.

Although I allow my mind to wander with the possibilities of the day, I usually end up with a much more conservative plan that includes the most basic tasks: making the bed, showering, paying bills, emptying the dishwasher, wiping off the kitchen counters, watering my plants, vacuuming the living room, putting away laundry, making dinner, waiting at the door as the kids get off the bus, eating and cleaning up dinner, helping the kids with piano and homework, and enjoying some time with my husband at the end of the day watching our favorite crime drama. If I am feeling super energetic, I might even venture to the grocery store; however, a grocery trip usually ruins a good day, so if I can put it off a little longer I will.

My good days are very much a balancing act of needing to tackle responsibilities to keep a household running while needing to remain vertical and functional as long as possible. During the course of a good day, I always have to be mindful of the painful consequences of pushing myself too hard or doing too much. If I vacuum one room, I’m fine; if I push myself and vacuum two, my arm, shoulder, and back will ache for an undetermined period of time. If there is nothing pressing on my calendar, I might ignore my body’s warning signals to stop, and get done what needs to be done. Conversely, if I have an appointment or lunch date scheduled the next day or one of the kids has a ball game in the evening, I proceed with restraint. My pain level could become unmanageable if I overdo it and send me to bed, missing important moments in my life and in my kids’ lives as well.

Undeniably, life with chronic pain is a balancing act. Even on a good day, I might require a mid-day nap or trip to my cupboard of medicines to complete these basic tasks. But I will choose to be thankful for my good days, even if only for the opportunity to daydream of pain-free possibilities.

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