All the time.
Since about January 2011.
I’ve experienced physical pain at various points my life – I had shingles in 9th grade, I had 2 knee surgeries when I was 20 years-old, a broken rib (while having to perform ballet – pas de duex en pointe – on stage and not scream every time my partner picked me up or I took a deep breath, or frankly every time I moved for that matter). I gave birth to two children (not to mention was pregnant with each of them for 9 months before the birth and it felt like one of them was trying to pry my ribs apart with her little hands for the last couple of months), I’ve had back muscle spasms, cracked molars and a crown-lengthening (which I have to say was probably the worst pain I’ve experienced!)
And of course no history of my pain and/or injuries would be complete without mentioning that my brother cut the tip of my pinky off in the door when I was little. OK, so I don’t really remember the pain from the experience because I was too young at the time, but I’m sure there had to be some, right?! I mean getting the end of a finger cut off has GOT to painful! And, mostly, I just like bringing it up any chance I get over the last 30+ years because I know it irritates my big brother…and really, what other reason do you need when you have that one. You’re welcome, Chris.
However, all of those instances were acute. They were temporary. I knew they would end and life would return to normal. That knowledge is more comforting than I, and I think most people, ever realized.
I now suffer from chronic pain. I have one identified auto-immune disorder and possible several other overlaps with other auto-immune disorders (more about the specifics of those at another time). One of the manifestations of my disorder(s) is pain – specifically in my hands, wrists and feet (and occasionally other places as well). It’s a constant, aching, interfering-in-my-activities type of pain. Some days are better (and therefore some are worse) but it’s always there.
I like to think of myself as a caring, empathetic, and sympathetic person. However I truly had no idea about the ramifications chronic pain had in the lives of those that suffer from it until I began experiencing it.
The physical pain aspect of chronic pain, yes I think I could imagine that before. But the toll it would take on my relationships and self-concept as well as on me mentally and emotionally was not something I could have imagined until I experienced it. I could envision chronic pain taking a mental and emotional toll, but just exactly what that would be like I couldn’t have begun to imagine.
And I’m sorry if this sounds rude or somehow self-righteous or elitist (believe me I’d rather not be in this group even if it were “elite”) – but I don’t think anyone truly understands what it’s like until they’ve lived it.
There are so many things that go through my mind and emotions that I feel that I don’t share with anyone because I don’t think they’d be interested, because everyone has their own problems and they don’t need mind, because I don’t want to wear out my welcome, because I truly think they don’t understand until they’ve experienced it and because I’m ashamed of how I feel. And, increasingly, because I’m just tired. I’m worn out from all of this and just don’t feel like talking about it.
So why am I writing about it now? Well, for one because my therapist encouraged me to. I began meeting with her when I was going through a divorce. Several years after that I’m still seeing her, because, well frankly I think the world would be a better place if we all had one.
Over the years she’s seen that my passion is education. I was a classroom teacher for 10 years and now still work in science education by running a science education/communication grant program at a university. But I’m not just an educator at heart, I’m someone that wants to continually work towards changing things for the better. I’m active in the education-world dialogue and believe passionately in my two “causes” – encouraging and supporting as many teachers as possible to transition to student-paced mastery learning in their classrooms and helping teachers develop the scientist in every student through authentic scientific processes (not the rigid “The Scientific Method” that most people think of) into their courses. I write and speak (presentations and workshops) about those topics and truly believe they can change the way our children are educated for the better.
So what does that have to do with me writing about my pain and health issues? I’m a pretty verbal person – I write. If writing about my experiences, thoughts and feelings could help me process and work through what I’m going through then that’s gotta be a good thing. If sharing that writing could help someone else process what they’re going through, or help a loved one or caregiver of someone with chronic pain see what it’s like to be on this side of the issue, or even to help medical personal understand what it’s like from the patient’s perspective then…“bonus”!