The emotions of a person with chronic pain can fluctuate greatly from day to day, sometimes hour to hour. When the pain is at a lower intensity, that person may find themselves in a better mood, able to smile, laugh and find some good times in their lives. They might be able to participate in activities they enjoy and experience a better quality of life.
When that person finds themselves in a time of worsening intensity of pain, of course they will naturally experience a greater tendency toward a low mood, sadness, resignation….and even hopelessness crowding out their joy.
When that person starts feeling hemmed in by the pain, with no way out that they can find or see, the darkness grows and seems to swallow them up, sometimes causing panic. It’s a bad place, a scary place. A desperate place.
When that person has spent 30+ years in varying degrees of pain, and has visited that desperate place many times, even though it is familiar because they’ve been there before, the terror of that place never ceases to be…. it never stops being hell on earth for that person. It’s the one place that holds the most fear, the worst torment. That prison of darkness, loneliness and isolation….all by themselves with the worst pain of all.
That person will struggle to maintain their sanity, try to open up a place in their minds where all their tools are, the tools for fighting the terror, the hopelessness, the loneliness. They will bring to mind all that they have learned, and remember that they have been there in that place before and have managed somehow to come out alive on the other side. They remind themselves. They tell themselves over and over, it can be done. It can be done. You can make it. You’ve done it before. There is light on the other side of the dark place, if you just keep going, you will get there.
Sometimes that person feels the hope, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they look around themselves and see the desolation and the wasting and the exhaustion and wonder if they will make it. Other times, there is hope. They see the sun peek through the dark clouds for a few minutes, and they feel the warmth and they think if they can just hold on for awhile longer, they will make the big turn and find their way out.
Sometimes that person might think to themselves, but it’s been so long….so damn long, and they are so incredibly tired…and they are so sick of being sick….that the road just is too rocky to climb any longer. It’s just too incredibly steep. It’s turned into a mountain and they just can’t reach the next rock to grab hold of to pull themselves to the top.
That person wonders how they can possibly continue this dance with pain, the spiral of it, the continual cycle of the ups and the downs, to be released for awhile, just long enough to feel like just maybe there might be a life that they can live where the pain won’t be screaming in their face every minute….only to be dashed down again by another wave of the same monster that grabbed them the last time….and to be so disappointed over and over again by that familiar consuming pain that keeps coming around, robbing them of their hope, and leaving them gasping for breath, gasping for air once again.
This is the true inner struggle for anyone who has had severe chronic pain for a long period of time, for years and years. This is what is buried beneath all the layers and walls, all the struggling and the trying and the praying. Those of us who have gone through the good times only to be thrown back into an extreme dark time again…..we find ourselves thrown back down into the dark place again when the pain builds stronger, unrelenting and continues for a long period of time (weeks or months or years). When the pain meds aren’t working, when the times of bedrest aren’t working, when nothing is helping bring them back out into the light.
Many times the struggle is one that they face alone. Even if there are people around them, they struggle alone. Because truly, no one can carry the burden for them. The pain is enclosed in one body. One person. One experience. One journey.
The challenge is to find their way through the dark caverns and retain the hope that they remember from when they were in the light before. The trick is to latch on to the hope, even if it is only a distant memory and grab on for all they are worth. The memory of the hope is sometimes all there is…..but it can be enough. If the person recalls that hope, sees it and reaches out for it, it can be enough to pull them through to the other side.
Sometimes it can be a stretch, sometimes it can be the hardest thing you’ve ever done…..to reach one more time for that hope….but the survival instinct in us all will make us reach out for it. One more time.
One more time.