Finding a Place to Stand After My Life Was Turned Upside Down by Chronic Pain
“Give me a place to stand and a lever long enough and I will move the earth.” – Archimedes
Chronic pain took the place of the earth and turned the lever on me. I have been dislocated. First, pain took my vibrancy. Then my job. Then my career. Then my house. Then another house. Then my mental health. Then my financial stability. Then my faith. OK, I still have my rock-solid marriage and my intact family. That’s what they say really matters. Then it came for those too.
14 years into the journey I sit at my desk a divorced 50-something man living alone and struggling to work full-time. Today I am at work but the mental fog is tremendous. Every little ache in my muscles and joints, even the “good” soreness from exercise, seems to signal danger to my brain to shut my mind and body down. It is like the good pain adds cumulatively to the bad pain and my brain doesn’t know the difference. I don’t have to drive myself today. I can dabble, even slack off – do all the self-care I want. But I can’t even manage to get peace in that. Incessant random images from the past flash through my mind, all of them related to loss and accompanied by a wrenching pain.
I spend most of my free time alone, in part because there is no one to disappoint. I can’t plan very far ahead, so why set others up for disappointment? I’ve convinced myself and others that I don’t get lonely – that I am my own best company, that I actually enjoy and choose to be alone. But then I don’t want to turn the light out at night because then I’ll really be alone, even if just for a few minutes before I fall asleep.
So now I’m willing to admit I do get lonely. But I partly don’t want to be with others because they have the things I’ve been robbed of – financial health, mental health, children, grandchildren. It’s painful enough to feel my loss. I don’t need to see it in relief of their happiness. Happy for them? Sure, I guess. My best friend calls to report on his extensive family vacation with three grown children. I listen, I affirm him. He knows me best – but even he can’t see how this twists the knife into my back.
I read how the happiest people have six hours of human interaction each day. Fat chance.
I date. I meet nice women online and start relationships. But at some point the disclosure comes – not just the pain but the whole condition and the loss it has caused. And I pull back. I feel insufficient, even if they won’t say so. I feel inadequate, after all the hard work and sacrifice in my life.
I drink too often. It blunts the pain for a little while.
So when pain and depression have taken everything from me, how do I find a place to stand? A fulcrum? A lever? I don’t need to move the earth. I just need some relief, and for my body and mind to be able to go through one hour in peace. I need my mind to quiet down.
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Thinkstock photo via Viktoriia Khorzhevska.