I am about to embark on a 6 to 8 week course of sessions on “Pain Management”. This is a last resort at the end of almost 20 years of “problems” with my back, which include two prolapsed discs, several minor procedures under anaesthetic, and one major surgery. Finally, I have been left with permanent damage to part of my sciatic nerve and an area of significant wear and tear to the joint around my operation site, which is permanent and irreversible, and which is what has led me to the pain clinic. A few months ago, I was officially diagnosed with chronic pain.
This means that I am in pain all the time, permanently on strong painkillers and, at least at the moment, my life is significantly restricted by my pain levels.
For example: on Monday, I had a good day. I woke up in moderate pain, but it was manageable. I performed my usual Monday tasks – studied in the morning, went for a walk after lunch, had a music lesson for an hour and then went to morris dancing practice (I’m in the band, not a dancer, I hasten to add!). When I went to bed, I felt that the day had been productive, and I didn’t feel as if I had overdone it.
Fast forward to yesterday morning. I woke up in agony and exhausted. I levered myself out of bed and went down to feed the cats, hoping that all I was feeling was stiffness and I would be fine once I got moving ( as this is sometimes the case). However, by the time I’d got up, had breakfast, showered and dressed, I could tell I was having a bad day. Determined not to give in (as sometimes this can make things worse), I sat down at my desk to do some study. I’m a book keeping student, and after about an hour of reading the same paragraph about asset depreciation over and over again, I realised that it wasn’t going to happen. The rest of the day passed in something of a fog, and I dragged myself to my massage therapist at 5pm with relief. I had intended to go to a community political debate in the evening, which I’d been really looking forward to, but I was so exhausted by the end of the day, despite the help of the massage, that I didn’t make it, and was in bed by 8pm.
This is something that nobody explains about chronic pain – it’s exhausting. Quite apart from the side effects of the three different drugs I take just to be able to walk around all day and sleep through the night, getting around and doing things when you are hurting is very hard work, and any stamina you thought you had goes out of the window. I stood at the bottom of the steep High Street yesterday, knowing that I had to walk up it to reach my massage therapist, and it looked and felt like an impossible mountain.
Of course, it’s not all bad. Yesterday was a bad day, and bad days always seem insurmountable. However, I am well aware that things could be worse for me. Had I not had the surgery immediately, when I needed it almost four years ago, it’s very likely that I would now be in a wheelchair, and I can only imagine how much more restricted my life would be and how much more pain I would be in. I believe I have a pretty full life, with a family I love, hobbies I enjoy and a study/work life which can only get better. I also enjoy writing, and am finding this blog an excellent outlet for that.
Pain Management is all about acceptance and then finding the tools that work for you and which will allow you to get the most out of life, taking control of your pain rather than being under its control. As you can see from what I have written above, my pain is very much in control of me at the moment, and I am really determined to take control of it as soon as I know how to.
I will be writing on here about the process (which starts sometime in March) and how it helps (or doesn’t help) my pain levels. I’ll be glad to have you along for the ride!