Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A constant reminder of Pain

As my husband drives from one new town to another on our extended vacation, I have managed to keep my Pain at a distance. I haven't allowed it to distract me from the beautiful scenery all around us. I know it's important that I take the time to really look around and not miss any of this trip. We stop frequently, which is my time to rest up and do all I can to keep this trip moving.

Yet as we peacefully move along the road, I am being given vivid reminders of how tough Pain can be on a person. Like when I watched an elderly woman struggling to pull herself into her vehicle as she left a community center, possibly having spent time there as a volunteer. My eyes were riveted to her every move, the unsteady walk as she moved the door open, the drawing in of a deep breath for strength to ease into the vehicle, knowing as I watched, here was another fighter, working so hard against the Pain that obviously walks with her each day. My heart spoke a quiet prayer that she continue to find the courage to do things that bring her joy.

Then we found ourselves sitting at a stoplight, waiting for waves of traffic to pass through. My head turned just in time to see a man beginning his slow, pain-filled walk across. Each step he took told me there was agony in his body that never leaves him. Yet here he was, determined to do something that so many take for granted, knowing he might possibly fall, only to have that bring even further agony to his body. Again I whispered a silent prayer to lift him up in his own journey.

As I started this trip and had such difficulty during the first few days, all I felt was sadness and defeat. But I am so blessed to have a loving husband who knew I was on the weak side of the battle and he gave me that shoulder I needed to lean on. I have seen so many people struggling with Pain as we make this trip and a lesson is being taught to me: Keep the fight going to have even a tiny version of normalcy in your life. Pain does not have to take everything from you because there is still so much out there to see and appreciate.

My joy today was watching a tiny toddler struggle to pull herself up into a huge rocking chair that sat outside of a local eatery. Nearby, her mother sat with a watchful eye and steady hand to help her child get into this huge chair. Suddenly, the little girl started to rock the chair, and a smile of pure joy was on her face for me to see. What a blessing this was today!

Please know I keep all who suffer with Chronic Pain in my daily prayers and hope your journey has moments of peace. Keep looking for the joy because it can come in very precious ways.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Taking a vacation from Pain?

Many things can lead us to what type of vacation we would like to take. Some are simply short over-night trips to a nearby town. Other vacations take us long distances from home. My husband has numerous ancestors in several states across the country so we decided to strike out and do our best to visit at least three areas. It sounded like a wonderful idea. So after lots of planning and scheduling, before we knew it, the day arrived, and off we went.

I knew Pain was going to be a major factor for me to struggle with throughout this trip. Sure enough, 30 minutes before we even walked out our front door, my mind was telling me, "Stay home! You will NOT be able to do this!" But instead, I pushed forward with a deep determination inside me to make this trip, come Hell or high water! Of course, I did not tell my husband about my fears because he already knew them and it's an unspoken word between us that we both prefer to keep out of our discussions as we can.  

The trip started out great. Then just miles down the road, Pain showed up and let me know that we would be having an extra rider in the car with us! I did everything possible to keep my mind off of the leg Pain...reading, doing needlework, looking at new areas passing by and refusing to allow myself to weaken. We made lots of stops to allow me plenty of time to stretch my leg and move around to avoid getting stiff and tired. It seemed to be working. But then we reached the first major stop of our trip and exhaustion from simply trying to fight against the Chronic Pain had taken me down hard. I was miserable, to say the least. My husband knew the verdict and gave me all the time needed to talk...when all I wanted to do was cry like a baby!

These years of dealing with Chronic Pain have taught me many things. The most important lesson is to NOT give into despair because that allows Pain to be the winner, and I simply will not allow that to happen. I sat and talked with my husband about how sad it was to be feeling this rotten and how sorry I was to be the drag on this trip. What a blessing I have been given in this wonderful man I call my husband. He could easily have been frustrated and decided to stop the vacation right there and head home. Instead, he talked with me about us getting somewhere that we could both rest and relax, thereby giving me a chance to get a grip on the Pain and rest. He said if the Pain continued to worsen, then we would head home and that would be it. No blame, no anger...just the deepest love and understanding anyone could ever dream of having.

The good news is that resting helped a lot. We have now actually reached two states that were on our vacation plan, saw many wonderful areas and best of all, spent precious time together, being happy and laughing, in spite of Pain being right there with us!

I always speak about finding a moment of Joy in my day as I battle Chronic Pain. Without doubt, my blessing of Joy has been to manage this trip without being in agony and depressed about the Pain. I prayed hard before we began this trip for strength to get through it, and the Lord has answered my prayer in abundance!

So always realize it's worth making the attempt to try something you would usually not do when suffering with intense Pain. The benefits of stepping out there and pushing further a bit...oh, it's so worth it! Always know you are in my prayers daily, and, if you don't mind, please say just one prayer for me.  

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Looking at Pain from a distance

Today, my husband suggested that we take a drive to a nearby town. We needed to get out of the house, away from the constant dry weather and bleary-looking parched earth-anything to get our minds off this hard summer we have been through.

We got to the town and had to pause for a traffic light. As we waited, a husband and his wife began to walk in front of the traffic that was paused, with their one goal being to get safely to the other side. At first glance, all we both saw was a man who had a "rough" appearance, giving signs of having possibly lived a very hard life. Yet he was not that old in years. My husband commented as to the slow pace they were taking to get across. He was afraid the light would change at any moment. But my attention went straight to his wife, a young woman who was guiding her husband across the street. It was painfully obvious as I allowed myself to remove the "shield" of seeing others in pain and force myself to take a hard look. It hurt to see this young man struggling to walk, in obvious pain, a definite limp, knowing he had to rely on his wife to assist him. Yet he walked with his head held high, appearing to simply treasure this simple moment he was having with his wife.

The traffic light changed, and as we slowly drove past them, I looked back to see this young couple smiling and laughing, holding hands, maybe joking with each other, still going about their day as if nothing was wrong. I knew this man was suffering, that he was another member of this wicked club we call Chronic Pain. My heart ached for all he must have lost in his battle, primarily his youth. Pain is vicious and robs the body of so much and can age a person overnight.

As we drove on, I sat in silence, giving myself time to reflect on what I had seen and wondering why this man had walked past me. Then it hit me hard...someone was sending me a message, knowing that I had been feeling down in the dumps this day, weary from my Pain battle. That someone knew I needed a "reminder" of how many others are out there, struggling each day with nightmare Pain, sleepless nights, days in which you just would prefer to stay in bed. Here I was given an example that it is good to get out, feel the sun, take that stroll with your loved one and look for a bit of joy.

This was a good day for me. My self pity took a quick exit, and I also smiled as I held my husband's hand and strolled through the grocery store aisles.  Today I thanked God for showing me this stranger, now another person who I will offer a prayer for.  Joy came today in the most unexpected manner, but it was pure joy.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Chronic Pain can be a wicked ride

Each day, I deal with my own Pain and have moments of gut-wrenching frustration. I have awful times when I can't find my battle mantra because Pain is raging and the fight within me is out of my grasp for the moment. It's so easy to get down and feel really sorry for myself, turning inward, not wanting to be around anybody or talk to anyone. Instead, I just want to be alone with the Pain and literally "knock the heck" out of it! Pain doesn't have a face that I can reach out and slap to teach it a lesson. Instead, it has invisible arms that wrap around my leg and back, seeming to almost choke the remaining feeling left in my damaged nerves.

The best description I could give to Pain is that it's like being on a carnival ride that never stops. When you find the "getting off the ride" point just floating by and no matter how hard you try, there is simply no way to leave this particular carnival ride of Pain. Through my blogging, I have been privileged to meet others who are on their own personal ride. As I hear them describe days so filled with Pain that to even speak to another person is too great a task. All they want to do is curl up in a ball and push the Pain away from their body. But they know that's not going to happen.

Meeting others through this blog about Pain has become a lifeline for me because now I realize when my body is exhausted and all I want is to be left alone, there are others out there, who feel exactly the same! So I work hard to pull myself out of the valley and remind myself of the importance of praying for you so that we can all find a way to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving. AND as a dear friend said: "Keep Looking for the Rainbow" ...or anything that can bring a brief moment or two of joy.

I have no way of truly describing to anyone just how hard this fight is. So instead of constantly trying to describe the Pain, I look the other person straight in the eye when they ask, "Is this Pain really that tough?" Without blinking, I reply, "I would not wish this Pain on my worst enemy!" Somehow, they seem to get my message. Then I ask them to please pray for me and for all those in the world who suffer with this insidious enemy called Chronic Pain.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Tropical storms, hurricanes and Pain all have something in common

It's that time of the year when severe weather conditions can suddenly take on a name like Irene or, even worse, Katrina. People's lives can be turned upside down in a matter of seconds. We know these storms are out there in the huge ocean waters, waiting to appear and bring untold destruction to neighborhoods.

What you might not know is how strong the connection is between these storms and anyone who suffers daily with Chronic Pain. Like me. I can predict the weather long before the professional forecasters even begin putting the data together. You're probably thinking, "No way," right? It's got to be my imagination, right? But I can tell you firsthand: It's VERY real. And it can be a hellish ride to get through an "Irene" storm that's still churning in the ocean and not even making landfall yet.

The explanation is pretty simple. For whatever reason, damaged nerves within the body have an immediate reaction when the barometric pressure starts to rise. It's a race in many ways to see how quickly the Pain level rises as the pressure levels elevate. Most of the time, Pain wins out and does not ease to a manageable level until the storm has arrived and is delivering buckets of rain and damaging winds. Nobody can really understand when someone suffering with Chronic Pain says, "Bad weather is on the way." No way–the sun's shining brightly out there, and not a cloud is in sight.

My advice is to listen when someone tells you that bad weather is on the way because he or she will likely be right on the money with their predictions. Take a look while they are telling you this, and see the strain on their face, hear the tone of their voice taking on a hard edge, and watch their tightly gripped hands, all signs of a person battling with a Pain that feels as if a giant rubber band has tightened around their body and will never let go.

Anybody suffering with this wicked affliction is walking a journey that goes beyond simple explanation. While others around us can enjoy the smell of fresh rain brought by a tropical storm, all we can do is sit and suffer in silence. Our Pain levels are wreaking as much destruction on an already worn down body as what the storm is doing to trees, electrical lines or anything in its path. But for us who suffer with Chronic Pain, it will mean hours and days of trying to regain emotional strength worn thin from the grinding agony of Pain.  

Chronic Pain is misery, plain and simple. Trying to find even a glimmer of joy within the daily battle of suffering becomes almost impossible at times. All we can do is stop, allow the Pain to rummage around and make us miserable, and then start over, finding our inner strength and being determined to not lose the fight. Perhaps our joy from a storm can be looking for the all-elusive rainbow. We might not always get to see one, but there is a joy inside us all as we eagerly wait for the rainbow to show itself.  

For all who are suffering each day with Pain, please know I say a prayer for you. And if you don't mind, please say one for me.