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Fear, Terror and Moderation in My Life With Chronic Pain

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I am writing this because of that fear inside so many of us. That fear we will die with a smile on our face but deep down we are most definitely not smiling. That knowledge that no one will ever know what our real struggles are that make us sob into our pillows at night, muffled by a silly little sliver of pride we have keeping us from collapsing into a puddle when a stranger asks us how we are doing today. Our real selves beg us to answer with a true cry for help, for a little bit of mercy and love. But we don’t. After all, at least we still have our pride.

Or do we?

Isn’t it curious that the exact definition of pride is a feeling based on achievement, or at least the illusion of an achievement?

All through high school I suffered in silence, not even daring to whisper to my own family just how bad things had gotten. Every time my pain got so severe I would drop things because it hurt too bad to hold them for just one second longer, I would laugh it off, joking about how it slipped. But that fear burned brighter. That terror grew stronger.

I knew my body was no longer under my control. I never had any control; I just thought I did. All the accomplishments I knew I would achieve in the near future became confined to my single self. Each step I could talk myself into was an achievement for which I would have no tangible reward to broadcast to the world with triumph on my face. But I was proud. I was so proud of myself for making it just one step further when I and I alone knew how much pain and turmoil I faced every minute, second, millisecond.

But did I actually gain anything?

As many of us with pain and bad health know, people get tired of hearing how bad it all is. They will never admit it to everyone (maybe just us) but they get tired of hearing the same old things. Heaven knows we are so very tired of feeling and dealing with it ourselves. They may ask what they can do to help, but you know they don’t mean it.

It often isn’t easy for us to admit things are bad either.

Last night while on my sleeping medication I foolishly tried to carry something from one side of the room to another and of course, my grip failed and it spilled all over my whole room. I had to clean up, which of course I couldn’t do because once again, my grip is failing me. It took me all that day after to clean it, focusing with all my might on clenching my hand to hold the rag so I could scrub. It took exhausting willpower I don’t have the energy for in the first place.

I know the terror of knowing you are losing yourself again and again. And it doesn’t matter if you get a bit better tomorrow, in a while you will worsen again. Change is constant.

Health struggles can knock any person down a few notches. Is it really worth our pride to hide these struggles? Is it really worth our sanity to tell all and have our incredibly difficult struggles possibly belittled?

I believe the answer is moderation in all things. Vent, express, feel. But then pull yourself up and carry on. Nothing ever got done by working too hard or working too little. “Just enough,” I whisper to myself.

Just enough.

Getty image by Grandfailure.

Originally published: April 9, 2019
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