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What I Really Mean When I Say 'My Leg Kinda Hurts'

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“My leg kinda hurts, but it’s OK.”

That’s my standard answer when I’m asked how I’m feeling. I hesitate to say more. I don’t want to tell them (my husband, my son, my parents) how bad my pain is, simply because there’s nothing any of them can do to ease my pain.

I live with an autoimmune disease, undifferentiated connective tissue disease. It means, to some extent each day, I experience pain, fatigue, and weakness in my left leg.

I say it’s OK, since it’s my reality. I have to make it OK. Because I’m still going to make dinner. Empty the dishwasher. Water the plants. Help our son identify proportional relationships for his math assignment.

The truth, however, is more complicated than my offhand answer. My pain fluctuates. Sometimes I experience several different types of pain within one day.

“My leg kinda hurts” actually means much more than that.

Here’s what I really mean:

Sometimes my leg is tight. That tight feeling you experience when you point and flex your leg, except my calf feels perpetually flexed, and I can’t relax it.

Sometimes my leg feels heavy, as if weights are strapped around it and I’m forced to carry them everywhere I go. Everything takes more effort. And as a result, I tire faster.

Sometimes my calf has a knot in one part of it. That spot is ultra-sensitive. A wrong move, an inadvertent touch, triggers a “whoa” kind of pain.

Sometimes my leg feels weak. It’s not working the way I’d like it to. I think my leg must have invisible shackles attached to it, because I’m walking and moving much slower than I’d like.

Sometimes my leg is swollen. It’s hard to wear pants or have any material rub against my calf. It’s difficult to comfortably lie down at night, because I can’t find a position that doesn’t put pressure on my calf.

Sometimes my calf feels like it’s getting squeezed. That tight, constrictive feeling you get at the doctor’s office when the blood pressure cuff tightens around your arm. Except this tightening doesn’t ease up.

Sometimes my leg throbs. A jabbing, lingering type of pain. The pain you experience after you walked into the corner of the coffee table. Except I didn’t bump into anything.

Sometimes my leg is shaky and feels like it will give out at any time. It’s hard to stand at the stove and scramble eggs. I want to just plop down onto our red kitchen mat. But if I do, I don’t know how I’d get back up.

Sometimes my leg feels like it’s in someone’s tight grip. Like a tickle gone wrong, it’s more painful than playful.

Sometimes my thigh feels like it’s in my body wrong. As if it’s been twisted, the way you wring out a washcloth. And I don’t know how to get it back into the correct position.

Sometimes my pain leads to an I-want-to-take-a-baseball-bat-and-break-something reaction.

Sometimes my pain brings me to tears. It has me on our couch, rocking back and forth, pulling at my hair in exasperation because I don’t know what else to do.

Sometimes my pain causes a frickle-frackle-frickin-friggin reaction. (No curse words in our home.)

“My leg kinda hurts, but it’s OK.”

It’s not OK.

But it is my life.

This is my truth.

Getty image by Sylverarts.

Originally published: January 31, 2021
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