Nowadays, many doctors are much more savvy regarding the question of pain. It’s almost become “cool” for docs to ask you…..”on a scale from one to ten, what would you rate your pain at today?”. It’s become THE question to ask if you are a “good doctor”. Patients appreciate this question, especially if they have chronic pain, because it gives them a way to convey to their doctors how bad it really is, and they appreciate the interest the doctor seems to be taking in this very important aspect of their health care.
After a week of my husband’s vacation from work…..I find myself, on a scale from one to ten, approaching a ten, if not already at a ten, or even surpassing a ten, moving into the middle teens. Or maybe closer to twenty. Or thirty. Just kidding, it’s only at ten. Or maybe twelve.
The fibromyalgia is one thing. That pain is always there in varying degrees of intensity. Right now my brain is unable to process that pain, because of the other stronger pain signals from the tendinitis & plantar fasciitis in my feet scrambling those signals. Also the signals from my lumbar spine (osteoarthritis & hemangioma tumor) are shouting quite loudly as well. As we all know, the brain is only capable of processing so many pain signals at a time, therefore the weakest pain signals get drowned out by all the noise of the others. (NOTE: This is NOT to say that fibromyalgia pain is weak pain. It’s just for me at this particular time, my intense foot pain is trumping the fibro pain, so the fibro pain is flying under the radar of my perception of the pain. My brain can’t take it all in at once, there’s too much to process right now.)
So the main problem right now for me is the tendinitis & plantar fasciitis in my feet. This pain has been around for about 10 years. It varies in intensity depending on my activity. The more I am on my feet, the more it flares and shouts and screams and howls. If I push my limits to the point of no return, then I end up where I am right now….at number ten.
If only I would learn to behave myself and try to pace myself I would probably not find myself at a ten. But I have this funny thing…..I enjoy living. I like to be active and participate in the mundane things of life like running my antique business, as well as shopping, housework, laundry, cooking. I like to be spontaneous and do stuff that requires me to use my feet. Pretty much everything that active humans like to do require using their feet. Unfortunately, my feet are trashed. They have suffered so much inflammation and nerve damage, that I am only allowed a certain allotment of time on my feet before they begin to protest….and quite loudly if I don’t pay attention within hours or days of their first screams. The ligaments and tendons are a mess. To look at my feet, you would never know the tortured agony that sometimes wracks them, after too much walking or stair-climbing, or just living. They look normal. But just under the surface, there is pure hell.
It’s not like I run marathons, or play tennis or anything like that. I just do life stuff. Nothing too strenuous. But back in the early days I did abuse my feet by going to huge antique markets that required being on my feet for many hours at a time. Like 7-8 hours, non stop. I knew something was going on but stupidly, I really didn’t realize that this was not fibromyalgia as I was led to believe, but an acute issue that was slowly but surely damaging my feet.
Anyway…..back to the present. At this moment in time, I know that this week’s vacation is now over. At least for me. Hubby goes back to work on Monday. I will be laid up….or “down”….as I call it, for at least a week or more in my estimation. I realized I was starting to approach the danger zone last week when I was standing in line for a half hour at the drivers license facility to renew my drivers license. Standing for long periods of time is a big no-no for me. But I had no choice. It all went down hill from there.
So……now that I am at a ten, what do I do? What do I do with myself? How do I occupy my brain? If you are anything like me, the first thing I have to do is find a spot to “nest”. My chosen spot will be the couch. I have a nice big coffee table with plenty of room for books (an absolute necessity), my laptop & my tablet, police scanner, remote control for the tv, People magazines, analgesic foot cream, bottled water, snacks, my favorite blanket, pillow and of course, socks.
Once I gather everything together….I realize the first number one priority is to make sure I take my meds on time. This is NEVER a problem when I am at a ten. Funny how sometimes when I am at a five or even a six, sometimes I am late or even forget a dose of medicine. This never happens when I am at a ten. I find myself looking at the clock in quiet desperation as the first dose is wearing off and I am getting closer to needing my next dose of pain meds. So the first order of business when I am at a ten is getting the PAIN UNDER CONTROL. This will require all of my willpower to make sure that I stay OFF MY FEET as much as humanly possible. Using the cream (which is unfortunately no longer being sold because it has topical ibuprofen in it and so they took it off the market, which makes me want to go into a panic, except that I hoarded about 6 jars of the stuff when I heard it was being taken off the shelves), plus rest, plus the BIG GUNS of my pain medicine stash…..all of these will be in full force until I can get the blinding, stunning, ridiculously horrendous pain calmed down.
The next order of business will be to make sure I do not jump the gun and get OFF THE COUCH for any reason other than to use the bathroom or get some lunch from the kitchen. No checking the mailbox (hubby can get it when he gets home from work). No piddly little unnecessary trips through the house for things that aren’t of the utmost importance. My job for the next few days or weeks is to keep my ass on the couch. I must keep the memory of my worst pain imaginable at the forefront of my mind so I don’t get ahead of myself. This flare up is so bad that I need to keep that FEAR front and center so I don’t try to sneak off the couch after the pain starts to calm down and try to do something stupid. Like finish my laundry.
The best thing for me to do when I’m at a ten and find myself on the couch for an extended period of time is find something that will occupy my brain. My brain never shuts off. I MUST have mental stimulation at all times, other than when I am trying to sleep. By the way, my brain is so hyper-active that I also am dealing with chronic insomnia and it is very hard for me to shut it down to sleep at all. When I am up, I can’t stand it when my brain is idle and has nothing to do. So one of my favorite things to do is read.
I love fiction novels. I love memoirs. I love psychological suspense and thrillers. I could sit here for an hour and list about a gazillion of my favorite authors. I always, always have a book going. Reading is such a pleasure, such a wonderful escape for me, but never so much as when I am on the couch at a ten. It’s at those times that books are not just a pleasure, they are an absolute necessity. They save me. They take me away from my misery and lift me higher.
I love my People magazines. I don’t know why I do, but I love them. I get a thrill seeing them in my mailbox every week. I love seeing all the pictures, reading about the beautiful people, the stars, and their lives and all the drama. Funny thing….I hardly ever watch television. So half of the shows that these people star in, I never see. I just find their lives fascinating. And I’m so thrilled that Jennifer Aniston is pregnant!! I’m just not sure why I care. LOL But I do.
The police scanners….they are something I have near me pretty much all the time. We live in a…..well….in a not so great neighborhood. Actually, our neighborhood is such that we literally hear gunshots fired quite often. Just a few nights ago we heard some shots in the distance, only to find out some guy got shot about 4 blocks from our house. We really need to move, but with my health issues, and hubby’s age, and the other small issue of not having enough money to move….it’s just not going to happen unless we win the lottery. So I think we may be stuck here. Therefore, the police scanner is a handy-dandy thing to have around the house. It helps us know when it’s safe to go take out the garbage. We don’t want to be hauling out a bag of trash to the garage by the alley, if the cops are chasing some guy in a hoodie down that alley at that particular time. So we really like our police scanner. Who needs television crime dramas??
I like to play online poker. It’s a very emotionally charged game. I tend to get really aggravated….okay, pissed off….when I lose. For some reason poker brings out the absolute worst in me. My dark side really comes out and I get really mad. But then again, on the flip side, if I win, I am on top of the world. It’s a fun game, when you are winning. If you are losing it really, really sucks. But it’s a great distraction from the pain. So I play. Anything is better than dwelling on the pain. So playing poker is an option when I am at a ten.
I guess I am sharing all this because if any of you have a chronic pain problem, no matter what the illness….there are good days and bad days. There are days when we do too much, push too far, end up at a ten occasionally. And when you find yourself in that hellish place, it’s good to have a plan so you are not completely blindsided…..so you are prepared. It helps you keep your perspective so you don’t freak out and feel lost and just start flailing around.
If you have a plan in place, you will be more grounded even though you are miserable for awhile. For me, I feel like a child in time-out. I sit down in my little chair in the corner, facing the wall…..and I squirm and wiggle and cry and kick the wall. I don’t WANT to be in time-out. I don’t WANT to stop everything and have to REST. (I hate that word) But if I have ended up at a ten, more than likely I pushed myself too hard for too long and this is where I’ve ultimately ended up. A damn ten. So I accept the fact that when I’m at a ten, I am in time-out. And there’s not a freaking thing I can do to get out of it. My body plays by it’s own rules. I cannot change them. So in order to maintain some sense of control, I make a plan. And that’s MY way of coping when I am at a ten.