Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A "Chronic Pain" group encounter

Yesterday, I sat in a filled waiting room of a surgery center, patiently waiting my turn to go through those doors and have my Pain management doctor work her "magic" on my aching body. As we all sat there, people began to talk with each other to help pass the time of waiting. Some people had been there for two hours to see the doctor because her patient load was a big one for this particular day. First, we talked about the weather, followed by the latest news and then, one by one, we started sharing our Pain stories. It was amazing! One man made the comment of having  jumped out of too many airplanes (a war veteran). Another man spoke of his attempt to push a huge round bale of hay out of his way (a long time farmer). A woman had simply been working in her garden and made a sudden move, which brought horrible Pain.

There I sat, sharing about the day I fell out of a tree.

We all listened and let each person's story sink in, each of us telling the person how sorry we were for them. And, of course, they would repeat the words right back. Suddenly, we started looking for the humor of how long we usually have to wait for these procedures and the effects of the "margarita medicine" we each get to help us through the procedure. Before long, the entire waiting room was filled with laughter and joy. One nurse approached us and commented we were the "happiest" group she had ever seen who knew this was going to be a long day. But strangely, nobody seemed to mind.

It hit me that here we all sat, sharing the common bond of Chronic Pain, each one of us suffering in different ways. Some had Pain that would never go away, but yet they still managed to step aside from it for a few minutes and actually laugh about it. Trust me when I say this: it is NOT easy to find any humor about Pain when you know it's dragging your body down each day, and you are simply doing your best to stay in the race and not give up. At this surgical place, each person was given a number they are called by and when it came time for my number, I jumped up with true Joy, feeling like I had won a major prize. The entire room started clapping! As I headed through the doors to the surgery area, I looked back, gave them all a heart-filled smile and said, "Hang In there–it will get better!"

I knew that after my procedure was finished, days of slow recovery were facing me. But it somehow seemed a bit lighter as I reflected back on those moments of sharing my Pain story with total strangers and knowing I was speaking about it to people who truly understood my words. It was a way of lifting each other up, allowing them to see how the other person copes, hearing about how many operations or procedures they have been through, the ups and downs of Chronic Pain. And yet we were all still there, looking again for even short term relief, and we managed to share true humor with each other.

Nothing will ever be perfect about Chronic Pain. There will be some good days and a lot of bad ones. But having the chance to be face to face with others who suffer, that helped. And I think each person left there feeling better for the simple act of sharing. People were also not shy about saying how Prayer helps them each day, and we knew our Prayer Circle had just gotten a bit wider as we met and promised to keep the others in our prayers.

My wish for all those who are suffering with Chronic Pain is simple: Do Not Give Up. Keep moving, keep trying, feel free to let your emotions out, and look pp, ask for Prayers. There will be many days and nights when it feels like nothing is helping. But when a single Prayer is spoken, it is heard. I will never see all the faces of so many who must deal with this nightmare journey of Pain, but you are in my Prayers. My bit of Joy came yesterday as I laughed and shared with others who walk the same path I do each day. I left there, feeling hopeful, knowing I am still fighting back against this awful Pain and that I am NOT alone.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How to move past hating Chronic Pain

Cold, hard, plain and to the point. Yes, I hate Pain having this big a piece of my life, watching daily as more of the "real me" seems to have just gotten pushed aside so Pain could have the most room possible to do its damage to my body. I look at my face and think What the heck is happening to me?

I have always thought of myself as a fighter, meaning I refuse to give up when times are tough. I never want to admit defeat. Instead, I want to find every possible way to battle back against the toughest of foes. At times, I find myself thinking "Did you really think that falling out of a tree would just be a simple hurdle to recover from?" Then another cold slap in the face comes as I realize that there was no thought process inside me when I climbed the tree. I thought of myself as being simply too strong for anything bad to really happen!

But something bad did happen, and I have been dealing with the aftermath of my poor decision for so many years now. Without question, I am worn down from this horrendous battle of hurting all day long, never being able to really feel a moment of true complete freedom from the Pain. As one year after the other goes by, it can get real easy to start hating the Pain. After all, we are each human. We have our failings and weakness inside us, and daily Chronic Pain can cause each of us to have thoughts and feelings we would prefer not to have. So how to keep looking, hoping, dreaming for a better day, not allowing ourselves to fall so deep into the valley of Pain that it feels as if there is no way out?

Big question to ask and the answers do not come easy. I must personally work each day to not give Pain a single moment more than it already takes from me. For many years I hibernated inside my home, wrapped up with the Pain, being alone as my husband went off to work each day and then trying to attempt another form of work, something to prove I was still here. I finally decided one day that it was time to get out of the house, no matter how badly every bone in my body ached and just PUSH myself to get back into the world.

None of this was easy, and I had so many setbacks. Some of them were so huge that I wondered if I would ever find that inner strength to try again-reaching beyond the Pain.  Most of my victories are pretty small, but as the Pain rages on, it has become so clear to me-how important it is to Not give up.  A victory for me can be as simple as making a call to a friend, writing one email, seeing a stranger who is in obvious Pain and taking the time to say Hello and offering a word of encouragement to them.  Its simply a way of stepping past the Pain, and looking to see what lies on the other side of it.

I manage this only by the grace of God because I pray for His support each day. We must each learn our own coping techniques and deal with setbacks, but keep pushing just a bit more each day. Keep looking for a simple second of Joy because it can carry you through the darkest of days. Every person fighting this battle of Chronic Pain has deep inner courage so give yourself a pat on the back. You deserve it. God bless.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Were my "Angels" listening today?

My day began way too early because Pain had me wide awake and moving around by four this morning. It was just a repeat of so many rotten Pain days I have been having lately. For whatever reason, my Pain has decided to drag me inside the "boxing arena" and, frankly, I am not getting in many punches to knock my enemy backward!

I found my way through the dark morning, flipped on lights, turned my trusty heating pad on, praying it would quickly ease my aching back, sat down in my comfortable recliner and curled up...with Pain wrapped all around me. Nothing was going to ease the Pain this day so I prayed–a lot on this particular morning–and my body finally relaxed a bit, giving me about an hour of much needed sleep. My husband woke up, took one look at me, and said, "Okay, when would you like to leave for the emergency room? Because trust me, you need to go!"

It did not take me long to agree with his suggestion. Soon we were off for a visit to the hospital, where I was praying that somehow the doctors there could give me some medication that would just take the wicked edge off this Pain that was hacking away at my body. We arrived, and as my Husband was getting settled, I slowly made my way to the receptionist for the normal "check-in" procedure. But this was not going to be normal at all for me! I had been to this emergency room before so my records are there. As this lovely lady asked for my birth date and I was digging through my purse for the insurance card and rattled off my birth date, suddenly everything seemed to stop when the lady said, "You go by Martha Lynn, right?"  

The room grew so quiet. My tears started to flow, and there was no way to stop them. She looked up in shock to see me crying, and asked if she had said something to upset me. How could I explain this to her? My Husband was already involved in a magazine and didn't have a clue as to what was happening as I struggled to pull myself together. As I continued to fight back tears, I told the woman in a trembling voice that "the only two people who ever called me that name were my mom and dad!" She gave me an understanding smile and apologized for upsetting me. My heart quickly spoke and said "Please don't. It's been a long time since I heard my name like that" as I remembered my mom passing in 2000 and my dad passed in 2003. At this moment, it felt they had just passed a few days ago. More tears began to flow and now the woman was keeping her head down, working quickly to get my data in the computer and hopefully have this tearful woman move away from her desk.

Something was pushing me to attempt some form of a better explanation to help me come to grips with crying in front of a perfect stranger. Then it felt as if those two special Angels gave me the words as I said, "You know when we are really feeling bad, I think we always want our mom and dad near us." She took a long look at me, and we both knew.  She wished me well and even said she would offer a prayer for me!

There I was, being given the gift of a prayer from a stranger who could vividly see my physical and emotional Pain all bubbling to the surface as I went from being an adult in Pain to a little girl, hearing a familiar name that came from LOVE. I walked into the treatment room and knew that my joyful blessing had just unfolded before me on this day that seemed so terrible. We spent six hours going through the normal process of waiting my turn, seeing the doctor, explaining the Pain and then waiting for treatment. I was given some medication that did help to knock that horrible edge off my Pain, and we headed back home.

Now it was dark outside. As we started down the highway, I glanced up and saw the most glorious full moon, shining brightly, being there to help guide us home safely. My heart felt lighter, the Pain had slowed to a easier ache and I carried this precious day close to my heart. Hearing my childhood name spoken today by a stranger, given to me at a time when I was at my lowest made me feel happy that maybe my two Angels were there today, helping me through the battle.

I said a prayer of thanks today for this gift. As always for everyone out there suffering through their own personal war of Chronic Pain, please know you are NOT alone and will always have a prayer coming from me each day. If you get a chance, say a prayer for someone you might know who is hurting. Please hang in and hold on for even the smallest bit of Joy. Trust me, it is there.

God bless each of you.

Monday, November 7, 2011

What can I do when Pain takes the upper hand?

I sat down and faced my priest yesterday, filled with exhaustion and deep sadness. Then I uttered the words that I hated to speak but knew had to come out: "Pain has really taken a toll on me, and I need HIS help." As soon as I spoke, the tears flowed. It's hard to let my "fight" guard down, but Chronic Pain had been on a roll inside my body. I was just plain tired! My priest assured me the good Lord was always there with me, and it was "okay" to admit everything I was feeling. Then he reminded me of the inner strength he always sees within me.

When Pain gets the upper hand, it can turn into a nightmare that never ends. It feels as if you're running on a wicked treadmill that you can't get off, not even for a few seconds! Chronic Pain doesn't allow even one day off. Instead, it's constantly there, aching, hurting. Pulling you down. Robbing you of needed sleep. Wiping a genuine smile away from your face and replacing it with a Pain-filled smile that asks all who pass, "Do you really think I look happy right now?" I have seen people take one look at me, give a brief greeting and move quickly away because they know it's NOT a good day.

Yes, my Pain truly has the upper hand at the moment. I have wracked my brain for how I can regain control of this battle, and the answers haven't come. So I took a step back and had a honest heart-to-head with myself, taking stock of what lies directly in front of me each day. Yes, my days begin with Pain. It follows me through the day, and my nights end with Pain. That's not very pleasant to admit, but these are the facts I must deal with.

Suddenly, an answer of sorts to my original question of what to do when Pain has taken the upper hand dawned on me: Being truthful about this Pain, admitting this to myself, had actually helped me to understand the picture a bit more clearly. It helped me to realize I am still here. The Pain has not taken me away. I am simply having a lot of horrible days, and I must take moment by moment. I must also reach for that helping hand that my priest gently reminded me about.

This will continue to be a roller-coaster ride of up and down Pain Days for me. I will continue to look upward, asking for help and trusting He will be there for me. People who deal with Chronic Pain on a daily basis are true warriors in my book because we fight a battle that can be very lonely and make us feel like we are truly all alone with the Pain. But remember: you are not alone, ever. Know that from this fellow Chronic Pain partner, you always have a prayer being said for you to find your own way through the lowest of days.

Now how did I manage to find any joy in this day? That answer is easy. My joy came from simply writing this blog today. I pray it is of some help to you. Never forget to look for a simple second of Joy. It can carry you a very long way through your toughest of days as you fight back at the Pain.