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If You're Wondering If Chronic Pain Is 'Really That Bad'

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Recently, I was out one evening getting dessert with a couple of long-time friends. One of them, who also shared with me that she has an autoimmune disorder was asking questions about my chronic pain condition. After describing what my pain was like, our other friend cluelessly turned to me and asked, “Is your pain really that bad??” I informed her that it was. And although I care about this friend, I also had to resist the urge to take hold of the back of her hair and guide her face into her dessert that was in front of her.

This experience sparked an idea inside of my noggin. I wanted to come up with a few analogies that healthy individuals might be able to relate to (as far as humanly possible) of what this chronic crapshoot condition feels like for those of us with persistent pain problems.

The pain I feel in my hands, forearms, lower back, hips, knees and feet is a lot like the “tickle” you get in your tummy during really raunchy labor pains. It literally takes my breath away and makes it almost impossible to walk or think about anything else other than the pain itself – at least not until my pain meds kick in. Even then, I’m still in pain, but the pain is on a more tolerable level.

Have you ever bashed your knee on the leg of a table? Well, now, if you bash your other knee to match, multiply the pain by at least 10 (or higher if you really want to play the pain game in full force), then dip a crusty old towel in liquid nitrogen and staple it three inches above and below both of your knees. Then include a dozen or more staples in each of your kneecaps for good measure. That should offer your knees the nice, delightful, achy and pain-filled stiffness that I enjoy each and every day. Now, do the P90X plyometrics exercise session. Do it with a relaxed smile and look cheerful so as not to trouble others around you with your issues. That is how my knees feel all the time.

Now, squeeze your fine feet into a pair of shoes that run at least three sizes too small and wear those bad boys around for a good, solid 24 hours. (At least.)

Once you’ve done your time, pry those things off of your barking feet. Now, allow a rambunctious toddler to stomp and trample till his heart is content atop those hurting hooves of yours. Said toddler will be clad with cowboy boots and spurs (motivators) in case his horse (your pinched feet) wear weary on him. And don’t harness his energy in, now. Let him have at it and live his dream so you can live our nightmare. We spoonies want you to experience the full thrust and throttle of throb that is only possible through a chronic condition. Isn’t it exhilarating?! Yeehaw!

Now it’s time to work on your lower back, hands, and forearms. Hunch over for nine hours straight while removing noxious weeds from the freeway median. Do you feel the refreshing 80 miles per hour “breeze” of the cars, trucks, and semis blowing past you? I’ll get back to that. For now, let’s work that nice, lengthy, nine hour shift.

Get into your hunching position. There will be no standing upright or stretching for relief of any kind.  That would be cheating, and we spoonies don’t get to cheat. There’s no ripcord of relief for us. Now, unearth those weeds! No gloves are allowed. As for the steady stream of vehicles blowing past you in both directions, you might feel a bit windburned; perhaps somewhat sandpapered. The sun might scorch your skin, too. It comes with the territory.

So, nine hours later. Don’t straighten up quite yet! We have one final parting present. You’ll be delighted to have a cinderblock crash onto your lower back from 10 feet above while you’re still bent over from your nine hour shift.  Fiddle dee DEE! So. Tell us. How do you feel? How’s your back? A little achy? What about those hands and forearms from all of the weed-pulling? Do they feel like they’re on fire? Well, take heart. You’re not done yet!

Hip! Hip! Hooray! Your hips! Let’s place those in a vice. One made with slightly spiked, frozen metal compressors. We’ll tighten those treats up just until the bones in your hips and pelvis start to crumble into a powdery defeat. Then we’ll cement it on that setting forever more. Now try walking around without looking like you have something crammed up your tailpipe. It’s a bit of a trick.

Ahhh. Migraine. We saved the “best” (beast) for last. This is not a bad headache. Oh no! A migraine is where you’ve sat in a completely dark room for 24 hours with a host of sick, unhappy babies and toddlers while they’ve screamed their lungs out of their chests. Where some unfortunate heavy metal music has been blasting on a subwoofer at max capacity right behind your melon. Once you’ve been released from this cacophonous hell, your eyelids will then be stapled to your forehead and you will be forced to look at the hot July afternoon sun for the next several hours. A searing hot ice pick will then reconcile with your retinas and in one fell swoop, a wrecking ball sent from Satan himself will plunge its way into the left side of your skull. Then the right; then the back of your skull and forehead for good measure and equality. You’ll be offered a warm and “refreshing” vomit-filled toilet to rest your weary head in and fill your nostrils and lungs with. Ahhh! Feast on the foul fragrance! That should get the nausea brewing to sufficiently qualify you for having a migraine. Otherwise, it’s just a “bad” headache. Even still, a glass of cold water should do ya! Now get to work and be efficient! And no calling in sick for a “bad headache.”

Ya feeling pretty good? Would you like a Tylenol? That and a little manning up are all you need, right?

Pack all of these afflictions together and it is a wicked brew, Mr. Magoo. You feel like screaming, don’t you? You’d probably give up all you own for an epidural or maybe even a personal anesthesiologist, wouldn’t you? So would we! And some heavy drugs. Kind of like what they give to the elephants in the circus when they’ve been badly injured.

Is it really that bad?? Yes. It is. And we feel like this all the time. All the time.

And whether or not people choose to believe that our struggling is real and really rampant, does not change the fact that it really exists. Because it does. And it is diabolical. So please have some class and don’t question our integrity. It is bad enough just living like this without the hurtful comments and judgements from others who really know nothing of how it feels to live in agony day-in and day-out.

Getty Image by SonerCdem

Originally published: May 1, 2018
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