Chronic pain is a body-changing experience. Suddenly, this body (the only one I've ever lived in) is not acting (or re-acting) the way it always has. Suddenly, everyday walking becomes painful. Suddenly, reaching up (or down) causes a lightning bolt of pain down my back. Suddenly, I'm exhausted after just taking a shower. Even a playful nudge can start a painful spasm. I feel like I'm twice my age (I was 43 when this began), and my actions confirm my feelings. I'm walking slowly, carefully (scared to fall), and as little as possible. I used to LOVE walking: seeing the neighborhood, neighbors, trees, kids, sky... all the beautiful stuff around me. Now, it takes an effort just to open the blinds and look out. For a while, when I was out and people asked "how are you?", my answer was "I'm vertical!" It became something of a joke: an acknowledgement that I wasn't FINE, but I was at least out of the house.
I realize that older people (I promise, 40's are NOT older) must experience this same problem - just more gradually (I hope). I'll say more about these amazing folks on Wednesday's blog: E=Elders. I think that what I've been through must be similar to the later stages of aging. I look in the mirror (literally or figuratively) and think, "What happened to my life? My brain still feels young - why doesn't my body?" Are you familiar with the Picture of Dorian Gray? The man, Dorian Gray, doesn't age in his body, but his portrait shows all the years (and evil) that he accumulates. I feel just the opposite: my body doesn't "look" any older, but it "feels" like it's been abused for 100 years.
Chronic pain not only hijacked my body, but it affected my personality too. I have always enjoyed being around people, but now people make me tired. I don't want to see ANYONE, even the people I love AND like (and who love and like me in return)! I have always been an active, productive person; now I can't work, and that's OK with me. I don't want to work; I don't want to play; I don't want to do anything except lay on the couch. Not to mention that the painkillers are clouding my mind, making me even sleepier than normal, making conversation or problem-solving a major undertaking. I'm grateful for the painkillers, though - they're what allows me to be "up" at all.
Now that I'm healing and my pain level is WAY DOWN (yay!), I find that I don't trust my body any more. I'm scared to push it to see what it will do. I'm nervous about starting weight training to strengthen the newly correct alignments - but I must do it to keep everything aligned and strong. I'm incredibly grateful for each pain-less day, but part of me is waiting for "the other shoe to drop." However, I'm working on making those inner monologues more positive, and I'm remembering that pain doesn't have to last for a lifetime. Whew!
P.S. Today, the pain management doctor and I agreed to begin reducing the painkillers. Oh, boy!