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.
I think that after a while you just get better at dealing with it, so it doesnt show up as much, unless people know you.
But isnt nerve pain the absolute pits?!? I have never known such intensity, such single minded, brain meltingly searing agony as from the damaged nerves in my spine. I am sometimes glad of the numbness I was left with after the surgery. But the nerves still explode from time to time 6 years later.
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Nerve pain IS the pits!! It’s just all-encompassing. I totally agree with you–I think we do just get better at hiding it. Do you ever get resentful that the people who know you best can be fooled by the face you wear? Like they should know better? It’s counterintuitive and irrational, but sometimes I feel like we can be too good at hiding things.
Thanks for the hugs, right back at you!
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I feel disappointed when they ‘forget’, my heart sinks and I know that shows on my face. But it also depends, I find, on what they have on their mind at any point in time. If they’re distracted with something – good or bad – they ‘forget’ easier. But then there are days when I’m feeling bull headed and dont want them to remember LOL
Gods, did that make any sense?
Thank you for hug 🙂
I agree with Moongazer, I think it’s really easy to learn how to deal with physical pain and eventually people around you don’t really notice it. It doesn’t mean that it isn’t still there. It almost reminds me of so many stories I’ve heard where someone was in a coma and could hear everything that was going on around them. Yet, they couldn’t say anything. On the surface they looked like nothing more than an unconscious vegetable, yet inside they were screaming out wanting someone to hear them and let the world know that they are still alive and conscious.
It’s hard when our inside world doesn’t necessarily reflect what is displayed externally. Externally we can seem totally fine and normal. It happens to those suffering from emotional pain as well. That’s why many people (who are suicidal for example) don’t say anything and then they do the unspeakable, take their own life while those around them are utterly shocked because they “didn’t know anything was wrong.”
I do think it’s just so hard to vocalize what is taking place internally. After a while we also feel like we don’t want to worry those around us and we simply stop bringing up every time we feel pain (physically or emotionally).
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I hadn’t thought about coma patients, that’s a really interesting idea. And I definitely do feel like I have to keep from worrying the people around me. It’s just so exhausting to have to deal with both the physical pain and hiding the way we actually feel so we don’t worry our loved ones. But there really isn’t any alternative, I guess. How do you deal with that?
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