So Husband and I were getting ready for bed last night (sorry to disappoint you, but this story is thoroughly unsexy). He watched me shrug out of my clothes like an old woman in a locker room. Craning my head to the right and to the left, I tried to ease the fingers of pressure gripping the back of my skull. I rolled my shoulders, contorted, tried to get away from myself. Husband was silent as I took my evening pills: Lyrica (nerve pain medication), notryptiline (antidepressant used for pain control), Cymbalta (antidepressant used for pain control), tizanidine (muscle relaxer). As I finally got into under the covers, he said, “Sometimes I just don’t get how someone can still be hurting from an accident so many years later.”
That’s the kicker, isn’t it? Those of us with invisible problems, we look fine. Those who know me can see when I’m hurting, but to the vast majority of the human race, I look like a normal person. Even Husband doesn’t realize it sometimes when my spine has exploded and fireworks are bursting inside my skull.
I sometimes find myself at a loss. If the people who know me best can’t tell when I’m in agony, am I really in agony? Is it really that bad? If a tree falls in the forest and nobody’s there to hear it, blah blah blah. Or — melodramatically speaking — does the pain just isolate me that much? So much that even Husband sometimes can’t understand?
Things just somehow seem worse when you have an audience. Pain is so subjective, anyway. What might be an 8 out of 10 for one person on the “Oh my God this hurts this is the end of the world” scale might be a 2 out of 10 for someone else. That’s why I wonder — what is “all-encompassing pain” for another person? If I could switch bodies with someone on the street “Freaky Friday”-style, would that person be able to handle my freakish limbs, my burning ribcage, what I feel hour upon hour, day after day, for years on end? Would that person be crushed by what I deal with?
Or would he or she shrug it off like it ain’t no thing?
Even if structural deformities are rectified, pain can still travel along the nerve pathways it learned during an injury. So that means that sometimes, even if surgery fixes something, the pain would continue regardless. That’s something I’m sure goes over so well with doctors: “So everything is aligned structurally, there’s no reason for me to be in pain, but oh God, I am dying.” It’s no wonder that it’s so hard for chronic pain patients to get the pain medication they (we) need.
Even during a conversation like that with Husband, I can look at him and realize how very lucky I am despite the pain. I have him, and I have Fattie. I have their unyielding support. (I mean, I think I have Fattie’s support. She generally supports anyone who feeds her.)
While it’s hard when I think that nobody gets how much pain I’m in, I try to remember that I don’t know how much pain anyone else is in, either. My father has back pain from a sports injury years ago, but I never knew it until he told me. Husband’s knees hurt because of bone growths that appeared when he was a teenager. Nobody else has a clue. One of my friends has scoliosis, and it causes her extreme discomfort; I had no idea. The thing is, nobody gets anybody. While that should make me feel lonely, it actually makes me feel sort of better.