All posts filed under: injury

Accepting Limitations Caused by Chronic Pain & Illness

Yesterday, after much deliberation (far too much deliberation), I finally accepted the fact that I can no longer work a full-time job because of my chronic pain. My bosses did everything they could to work with me on a solution, but I cannot fundamentally perform the tasks required by my job. Driving to the office, sitting in a chair every day, and traveling to meetings was chipping away at me, little by little, breaking down any resilience I had left… which sounds absurd, doesn’t it? A sedentary job being too much for me? But it was, and it is. Even mitigating devices put in place (like a kneeling chair at my desk or taking breaks in a recliner in my office) wasn’t enough. Husband has been begging me for ages to put my health first, finances be damned, but I kept dwelling on the decision and driving him out of his mind with my constant “What if?”s (again, I am sorry, Husband). The reason for my very extended delay in making this transition was that it …

Maladaptive Memories (Or, How Your Body Just Won’t Let Go)

Is your memory just too good? I’m not talking about recalling what you ate for breakfast six Sundays ago or always knowing where you dropped your car keys. I’m referring to the body’s ability to remember everything that happened to it — for your entire life. We hear terms like “muscle memory,” but most of us have no reason to contemplate what that means. Well, let me enlighten you. Muscles remember a strength training routine far easier the second time around; say you start training, have a few weeks of vacation, and then start again because your clothes don’t fit after the annual Holiday Food Gauntlet. It is far easier to get back on the saddle the second time, and it takes less time to reach the same goals. This idea of the body remembering things has always stuck with me. Let’s say I took a tire iron to your knees on Thanksgiving, Nancy Kerrigan-style (stay with me). Once you get over the initial shock, pain, casts, surgery, rehab, soft casts, physical therapy, aqua therapy, and more — let’s say that …

Building a Shield for my Body and Mind

I am trying to better protect my body, which means trying new things in order to build a stronger shield on all fronts. My father found a powder supplement called “Arthroben,” which is generally used for those suffering from arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. For some reason the company decided that their original flavor should be green apple, so it tastes like I’m eating a Jolly Rancher (yes!) that I dropped in the sand (no!). I have also increased my Cymbalta by 20 milligrams, which I’m not thrilled about, but hey, what can you do.  Judging by my Pain Tracker instead of my shoddy memory, it’s been a fairly good week. Once I stabilize on the new dosage of Cymbalta, I will attempt to transition off the 2oo milligrams of Lyrica that I take each day. I am also strengthening my body to the best of my ability. After a week of no exercise because of being symptomatic, I am easing back into my morning swimming routine where I doggy-paddle (or I do Aqua Aerobics with the old ladies and …

Mindful Anger Management, Buddhism, and the Neck TENS Unit

More and more often, I am trying to figure out what this blog is to me. Is it just the tagline, “Using word therapy to work through chronic pain”? Is it an effort to reach out to people like myself and form a network? Is it a chronicle of my wayward pill-reducing efforts, or is it an examination of my transformation from a bitter young thing into a self-aware individual who can control her own anger? I can’t control anything. That’s the first bit of wisdom I would like to impart upon you, my dear reader(s). I’m sitting here at my desk with a neck TENS unit on (it’s pretty rad, and with it looking like a choker, I’m feeling very early ’90s). I can work the buttons on the device, but it only temporarily blocks the pain. It does not fix it. We manage. That’s why pain clinics are called “pain management.” They do not cure your pain; it is only managed. As I said in a previous entry, this current state might be the best it gets …

Names Have Power: a Discussion About Labels and Chronic Pain Patients

I have long believed in labels. If there is a name for what I am experiencing, I am better equipped to fight it. If I know what I am, I can deal with the world appropriately. Names have power. That’s what Neil Gaiman’s version of John Constantine said. He said it for different reasons and toward a different end, but the fact remains: Names have power. I have collected labels and names over the course of my life: allergic to food/has eosinophilic esophagitis/is a good student/played tennis/played the violin/writes novels/is a lawyer/is disabled/is a chronic pain patient. I define myself by what I do and what I experience. The names are like a shield. A medical ID bracelet naming my allergies makes me feel special and fragile like a unique little glass-winged butterfly, and more than that, it’s a story. I love to tell stories. A scar on my throat is a symbol that others recognize. I have been broken apart and welded back together. I have been remade. So now I face a dilemma because the …

Let’s Talk About The TENS Unit

I’m a huge advocate of clothing camouflage. Loose shirts and cardigans are great to hide a flabby stomach or that back-fat area around a tight bra strap; however, I’m wearing them to hide both a back brace and a TENS unit. (And the bra fat. Let’s be real.) Here’s me in my extremely stylish office bathroom: I usually only wear the TENS on occasions when my back pain is truly escalating and refuses to level off. This week has been particularly bad. The TENS is keeping me at a functioning level, considering I am backing off the Lyrica. The electrodes irritate my skin after more than one use, which is unfortunate, but the only cost-efficient way to use the device is to reuse the pads until the gel wears down and the pads electrocute you. Tiny shocks to be sure, but electrocutions nonetheless. Side note on the electrodes: Don’t go through the supplier from which you acquired the actual unit. My insurance company holds the very ridiculous philosophy that while they will cover the device, they will not cover the electrodes. Tufts, you silly company, …

I Make Pain Look Good.

Take a look at this person. Take a real good look. Then ask yourself: Is this person in pain? She looks fine, you think. She doesn’t have a handicap placard on her car. She doesn’t walk with a cane. She isn’t wearing a brace.  You furrow your eyebrows, and then you think: She looks totally normal.  The thing is that when this picture was taken, she was in a world of pain. She had three sort-of healed spinal fractures and a calcified nerve cluster. Even though she was smiling under the artful disguise of Microsoft Paint, she was hurting. She was wearing a back brace under that dress. She changed into flats as soon as that picture was taken. She found a place to sit down and close her eyes, trying to match her inhales and exhales to the thud-thud-thudding of her spasming muscles. She had her special dichroic glass pill case in her handbag filled with Tramadol, Nabumetone, and Vicodin. She had already calculated how long she could stand being upright and the time it would take to get back to …

Word War Won: “Victim” vs. “Survivor” vs. “Thriver”

I was going to talk about different words during this edition, but Alexis got me thinking. We had a very uncomfortable session the other day during which she asked me how things are going now that I’ve cut out sugar and alcohol. It started last week when we had a Skype session and she saw my face. She said I needed to do a detox. Immediately. I felt slow and inflamed, my brain was foggy, and even my face looked puffy. I’d gone to a small law school reunion/memorial for my friend Andy and saw surprise on my classmates’ faces; the last time they saw me was thirty pounds ago. (Granted, some of that weight gain was necessary at the time since I was an anthropomorphic coat hanger, but do you know how hard it was just now to type “thirty pounds ago”?) My pain was worsening. I’d been gaining weight despite exercising every day, thanks to my medication increasing my appetite to that of a starving boat wreck survivor. I’d binge in the evenings after work, thinking I deserve this as I snatched …

Embracing Pain with Mindfulness

Is it better to ignore pain or embrace it? I thought for the longest time that by meeting my pain head-on, I was doing myself a good service. And it’s true; ignoring pain can be emotionally and mentally taxing. If I embraced the pain, I would be able to discover the edges of it. Then I could encase it in a box within my mind, if that makes any sense. I’d be able to get outside of my own head. Surely this was better than ignoring how I felt? Better than pressing onward despite feeling like a train was chug-a-chug-a-chugging along my spinal column? After the first accident, I thought that I’d felt the worst pain I could ever feel. After the second accident, naturally, I realized that the pain can get worse. The pain can always get worse. And where before I could feel the edges of it, after the second accident I was burning inside, burning outside, just burning. I tried to face it; instead, I was directed by it. If I turned too quickly and felt …

Word War Won: “Injured vs. Crippled”

This is the first of a weekly edition called “Word War Won,” which somehow hasn’t been used before in the entirety of the Internet, so I’m feeling fairly clever. Anyway, this weekly post will focus on the words used by chronic pain and illness patients, the words that reflect our warped self-perception. We define ourselves in such terrible ways. We treat ourselves like we would never treat another person; we say cruel things and we belittle our progress. The things I’ve said in my head to my hard-working body are things I would never say to Husband or my friends. I want to do what I can to drag this very private issue out into the sunlight. Our bodies are doing the best they can at any given moment. Each and every day upon waking up, we forget that our bodies have been working hard all night to keep us alive and breathing. Even if we feel like they constantly fail, they are trying so very hard… and yet we tear ourselves down and say that we are broken, that we are useless, and that we are burdens on those …