Part 1 of 2 I remember when you first reared your ugly head in my life. You were gentle at first: a twinge in my lower back, a kink in my neck, a sore wrist from writing. You were there, just peeking around the corner, over the counter, from under the covers, only just enough for me to catch glimpses of you. And then, you would go away, like you had never been here at all, and I wouldn’t see you again for a while.
And all of a sudden, you were always there, and it got harder and harder to ignore you. You went from being the voice that whispers at me in the middle of the night to the father figure screaming an inch away from my face, forcing me to notice you. It started to become difficult to get out of bed in the morning; going to school and work felt like climbing Mount Everest. I started to hate you, because you would never go away.
You became the constant ache in my spine, the shooting pains in my hips, the locking wrists three words into whatever I’m working on, the jabbing pain in my collarbones that came so sporadically. You became the inability to stand in one place for any period of time without aching, and I started to realize you weren’t going to leave; I really started to hate you then. I prayed every night to a god I didn’t even believe in that you would go away, but nearly every morning, I woke up, and you were still there. And on the mornings you weren’t, you always seemed to wait until the opportune moment to make another entrance, and remind me that I was no longer in control.
By the time I graduated high school, I still had no idea what you were – all I knew was that I was in pain, and that it was near-constant. I pushed myself to go to college, work a full time job, and continue doing all the activities I was doing before, but you kept making it harder and harder. At my college graduation ceremony, I smiled for the camera and walked across the stage with confidence, and no one would know that you were there. Your icy hands gripped my ankles, making it hard to stand in my shoes, and your hot breath shot up my back, threatening to falter my smile: you didn’t.
I started to wake up tired; eight, nine, even twelve hours of sleep just never seemed to be enough, so I slept less. It didn’t make sense to waste potentially productive time sleeping when I never got rest anyway, but even when I was awake for that extra three to four hours, I never had the energy to do anything. I had always dealt with anxiety and depression, but now, you used them as a pawn in your game against me. On days when I had low energy, I would beat myself up, unable to accept that I couldn’t do the things I wanted or meant to. I started to have anxiety whenever I couldn’t manage the pain, which eventually lead to panic attacks with time.
Even though you’ve been a nightmare, you haven’t been the worst part of all of this. There was nothing worse than laying in bed, fighting back tears due to the amount of pain in whatever body part(s) you chose to visit that day, and being screamed at to “just get up already.” There is nothing worse than not being believed by the ones you love, nothing worse than being told “it’s all in your head” and to “stop whining.” So I started to internalize. I didn’t share how bad it had gotten, with anyone, for a long time, because I was afraid of not being believed. Even now, I often downplay how much pain I am in, or how often I am in pain, because why burden others with my problems?
Modern medicine was no help; I saw countless doctors, physiotherapists, and chiropractors, and I tried an array of pain medications, but nothing would make you go. Doctors started to dampen my expectations, assuring me that they would do what they could, but never any promise of results, never an official diagnosis. I was told time and again that I suffered from chronic pain with no clear cause, which is the equivalent of handing an umbrella to someone trapped in a hurricane; it doesn’t help anyone.
It has been nearly a decade since you first crept into my life. I am 26 now, and I have come to find out that I have a compacted lower spine, which can explain away the back pain, but I still have so much pain with no answers. I now have sharp, stabbing pains to go along with my regular aches. I am tired the moment I wake. I can’t always concentrate and I tend to forget a lot of little things. I am moody and irritable at times and, though I try to keep it under control, my partner often gets the brunt of it. I occasionally get cold at the snap of a finger, and it can be really hard to warm up; sometimes I overheat as soon as I have a sweater on, and have to dig around for a thin blanket instead. My depression and anxiety have worsened over the years though, fortunately, medication has helped to alleviate some of those symptoms. And just when I thought this couldn’t get