When You Can Hear the Fun but Are in Too Much Pain to Join In


Top 40 hits pounding, friends laughing, beer cans cracking. It was the true college experience — happening right in my living room.

Oh, how badly I wanted to be in the living room.

But here I was, alone, listening to the faint sounds of the fun I had planned on a better day.

Lying tortured in my bed, I faded in and out of consciousness at the command of my aching body.

Sleep offered reprieve from the pain, but there was no reprieve from the loneliness. The burning desire to get out of bed and join in. The desperate realization that there would be no way to cover the stretch of 20 feet between my bed and my friends. Not under my own strength.

Still, the urge to rise bombarded my brain each time I awoke, crashing like waves against the walls of my groggy mind, shaking me from dreams and pulling me back into the vast ocean of reality.

I focused. I bargained and begged. I said, “Open your eyes.” Ow.

The beat of the music pulsed.

My mind willed my body to oblige, “Sit up.”

Ow. Ow. Ow.

A chorus of laughter rang out, and my endless negotiations continued, in a world utterly invisible to the chortling, chuckling, giggling outside world.

“Stand up.”

Success. Hope grew as my legs struck the ground.

Immediately the world faded to black.

My body collapsed back into bed.

My eyes shut.

Heavy.

Exhausted from the journey up and down.

The darkness enveloped me.

The music and laughter a taunting lullaby.

I drifted away.

Sleep muted the throbbing pain in my abdomen.

But pain persisted.

The sharp stab of loneliness penetrated even my sleep. I could imagine my friends, clinking glasses and spilling drinks, singing along to songs they don’t know the words to and telling stories embellished with new details… I could imagine them making memories. Growing further away from me as the world fades to black.

My body won this battle. My body won most battles.

I can think of a hundred instances like this. Concerts, classes, gym plans, hell the first year I dated my boyfriend he spent half of our “dates” hanging out in my living room waiting for me while I took a “quick pain nap” to be able to walk without passing out. To this day it feels like a miracle to me that I emerged from two years of sleeping through most social engagements and still had friends and a boyfriend who continued to invite me into their lives. Though I am fortunate to now be in remission, these moments still haunt me as though they happened just yesterday. Others in my life can commiserate, but can’t truly understand the loneliness of a chronic illness.

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