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When Chronic Pain Finds Its Way Into Every Part of Your Life

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Pain is like sand.

When you go to the beach, sand gets everywhere. Between your toes, in your socks, in a shoe that was at the bottom of a bag you didn’t even open. Several days later, after you’ve gone home and cleaned all your stuff, you pick something up.. and out falls the sand.

Chronic pain is like sand. And everything finds its way into your life.

If your back hurts, it doesn’t just stay in your back. Just like if your knee hurts, you compensate and use the other leg more… But then next week, your other leg hurts for taking on to much stress. If you have a migraine, it doesn’t just hurt, it makes you dizzy, you can’t go into bright room… just like sand, it gets into more bits of your life.

When you tell people you are in pain all day they just think of it as that. That’s all it is, your leg hurts and that is where it ends to them. They don’t understand how that pain enters almost every single facet of your life. They can still work with a headache, they broke an arm once and yeah, it hurt, but they still did X, Y and Z.

Chronic pain, however, is like you take a trip to the beach every day. More sand adds up, more of it gets into the strangest places, until before you know it, your living room is covered in an inch of sand. It builds up. The pain doesn’t just hurt, it exhausts you, it steals all of your energy before you even head a chance to use it. Worst of all, it’s persistent. When you get sand in your clothes you can’t ignore it, you feel it scratch and grit between your toes.

Chronic pain doesn’t like to be ignored.

Chronic pain is jealous of your life. It wants to be part of every action in every minute. It demands to be felt.

So next time you tell someone you’ve been in pain all day, and they ask you why you didn’t do things anyway… Don’t feel bad. It isn’t your fault the sand had gotten everywhere in your house, the sand is clogging your Hoover when you go to clean, the sand is in your hair when you try to brush it, when you try to go out it takes hours to make sure the sand is out of your clothes and by then you don’t even want to go out. You’re using all those precious spoons shoveling sand out the window.

It’s not the best analogy in the world. I considered glitter. Glitter gets everywhere, but sand stuck in my head more as I used to live near a beach break when I was a kid, and it really does build up fast. I find it infuriating when people talk about my pain — they accept I’m in a serious amount of pain but then seem confused why I don’t do more… I’m trying to do as much as I can. Sometimes I will be on the sofa on my side, my hip will hurt so much and as each minute goes by the pain increases inch by inch, but I know flipping to my other side will cause a sharp pain to lance down my entire body. I can be trapped between two pains and I can lose hours on that. Just stuck in fear of more pain and the pain increases.

Sometimes you have to choose your battles, sometimes you have to use the spoons you reserved for a friend and use them on your sand.

Sometimes you can’t stop the build-up of pain and fatigue, but it’s not your fault. Sometimes you need help because everything seems to be sand. You need someone to help show you your life isn’t just sand now. Even a little back rub or picking up someone’s shopping; little things can make a person see the light and stop drowning in the sand.

Never let anyone make you feel bad because you hurt. Because we know you’d rather go out with friends than shovel sand. We know sometimes that choice is taken from you. Just remember to look after yourself, if you spend all those spoons on other people, all you can be left with is pain. And sand.

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Originally published: December 6, 2016
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