When Chronic Pain Made Me Unable to Sit
All sorts of things can go wrong with these bodies of ours. But still I feel somewhat embarrassed that I can’t sit down.
It’s not easy to explain to others, especially since neither I nor the doctors know the exact cause of the problem. I have had fibromyalgia for 24 years, and I fractured a mid-back vertebra (T12) falling from a horse 14 years ago. Since then, I have had varying degrees of nerve pain in my hips, which would come and go. But the past five years it has been intense and unrelenting. It seems to have been triggered during a year when I was underweight and lacked sufficient padding. But despite gaining weight since then, it has not diminished.
I have lived with a problem knee for most of my life, and expected I might lose my ability to walk, or at least to walk with ease. But I never imagined I’d lose the ability to sit. So often this affliction seems surreal, absurd.
Of course, embarrassment and the absurdity of it are the least of my issues. As you can imagine, my activities are severely curtailed. These past several years I have not traveled, attended a meeting or movie, nor any other sort of event. Occasionally I’ll go out for a short lunch or coffee with friends. But I must sit on a special cushion and clench my glutes the whole time to minimize the pain. It hardly makes for a leisurely outing.
Due to my knee problem, time standing or walking is limited, too. So between these afflictions, I am unable to work. I do my best to take care of the housework and cooking and run short errands for my husband and myself. But most of the day I’m supine on the sofa or bed, online or reading, meditating or just being. I recline on special air cushions, but still must shift and turn every 10 minutes or so to manage the pain. Although the pain is focused in the sitting bones, it is also active in my lower back, thighs and every other part of my hips. The days often seem very long.
Pain — it should be so simple to treat, or at least mask over. Give it time, take medication, try acupuncture, electrical stimulation, massage, etc. Of course, I’ve done all that, and nothing touches it. I put most of my faith in time, but at this point — five years in — I am accepting that this may be my lot for the rest of this body’s life. I’m 54, which is not so young, but thoughts of another 30 or forty 40 like this are often distressing, frustrating and depressing.
I know I am not alone. No one wants pain or disability. But we have what we have. I have not given up hope that somehow, someday this problem will diminish or resolve. But I am at the point where I also must accept that this is where I am right now, with no foreseeable end in sight, and do my best to shift my attention to appreciate all that is good in my life.
The first thing I can do is release the shame of having an unusual condition with no sound explanation, and the guilt of not being able to participate in life as I once did. Bodies do what they do, I did not cause or ask for this. And I am replacing old values with new, narrowing them down to what really matters each day for me: learning and loving. I have certainly learned a lot from this ordeal, most importantly compassion and patience, both with myself and others. And I continue to explore and learn something new each day. I have especially enjoyed spiritual exploration, which both intrigues and comforts me. And nothing can stop me from loving.
I love my husband, cat, my few friends and family members. And I love the world. I just can’t judge anyone anymore. I know we all struggle, and I love and admire all of us for that. Because I can’t get out and be of service as I’d like to, I spend a lot of time praying for or sending loving vibes to whomever comes to mind, whether it’s a close friend, someone I hear about in the news, our country or the whole world.
Someday I may sit up again with comfort. That would be glorious. I often dream of this, both in sleep and waking life. But this vision is beginning to seem less and less likely ever to arrive. That will be OK, too, as it must be, should reality offer me no other option. And so I will continue to toss and turn, and love and learn. As long as I can do that, this is still a beautiful life.
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