Thursday, May 3, 2012

chronically chillin'

It's so exciting to see the amount of support that our comic project is getting! A BIG THANKS to everyone that has become a backer so far. Every time I see a new donation in my inbox I jump for joy. Someone even donated in palindrome! mmm symmetry. 

Today I want to talk about chronic pain (again, forever, we are always together).  I don't think people talk about it enough, considering how drastically pain can effect daily life. Are young adults too embarrassed? I am. I've always been the independent perfectionist personality type, so admitting to people that I can't handle the physicality needed to do something is always heartbreaking. Often I don't admit my pain and trudge on-- a decision I sorely regret the next day.

Currently I have a friend staying with me that wants to go on all of the amazing tourist excursions one takes while visiting NY-- and I fear I just don't have the energy.

Chronic pain steals your energy and holds it hostage. You've got to ration. If my friend wants to go to the MET & Natural History Museum, (which I'd love to see, btw) I have to plan my energy/pain needs for the day. I have to rest the whole day before, and whole day after.  I can't just decide that morning that I'm going to go. It's hard to explain to "normal" people, because I used to be "normal" and I miss the freedom it implies, even though most people take it for granted.

Imagine feeling exhausted 24/7 from the drugs you take to manage your pain, which is also present 24/7. Now imagine doing everything you do in normal life-- walking to get groceries, working overtime, entertaining friends, cleaning the bathroom, cleaning yourself. Chronic pain turns all of these menial tasks into colossal events that must be planned for. And I really, really dislike planning!

Awhile back I found a superb explanation of this dilemma from a woman living with lupus. You can easily substitute lupus for cancer or chronic pain in her example. If you are struggling to understand the needs of anyone living with chronic illness, especially young adults, I highly recommend reading this "spoon" analogy, cheesy as it might be. Here is an excerpt:

"It's hard, the hardest thing I ever had to learn is to slow down, and not do everything. I fight this to this day. I hate feeling left out, having to choose to stay home, or to not get things done that I want to. I wanted her to feel that frustration. I wanted her to understand, that everything everyone else does comes so easy, but for me it is one hundred little jobs in one. I need to think about the weather, my temperature that day, and the whole day’s plans before I can attack any one given thing. When other people can simply do things, I have to attack it and make a plan like I am strategizing [sic] a war. It is in that lifestyle, the difference between being sick and healthy. It is the beautiful ability to not think and just do. I miss that freedom. I miss never having to count “spoons”."

My point is that I don't have enough spoons to go to the MET today, even though I would like to. It's impossible to understand living with chronic pain if you haven't before-- but it's important to try to understand those who do, and take it into consideration when you're with them. Not in a verbose sickly-sympathetic way, but just... keep them in mind. Us chronic pain sufferers are REALLY good at hiding it.


Caroline said...

Yeah, my life. How to do something fun and spend three days in pain as a result. I am working on slowing down ... some day. Life's boring if I don't try to have fun but I hate the result. Good luck with fundraising. I tried to help.

Elisha Searl said...

I agree with the cronic pain. I suffer from it and couldn't do my makeup this morning as my hand were in so much pain. I am 15 months post stem cell transplant to treat a rare cancer AML. I also write a blog about my journey.
:) Great blog
Elisha x