This weekend marks the 5th week of this latest flare up. I have been “down” for 5 weeks with my severe, chronic plantar fasciitis & tendinitis in my feet. I also have fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis but they were not the major players this time. Thanks to the pain medicine, the fibro and osteo kept fairly quiet. More likely, it’s that the pain signals from my feet have been so intense that my brain could not process additional signals from the fibro & osteo. So the foot pain has been what has really slammed me down this time.
I am not a real bright person when it comes to behaving myself. When the pain signals begin to alert me that I am crossing the line, crossing that limit between pain control & pain getting out of control….I have a tendency to rationalize to myself and tell myself I’m going to slow down, but I just need to do this one last thing. I just need to do this one last thing, THEN I will get off my feet and rest. Then I do that one last thing. Then… I see one OTHER last thing that needs to be done. And so on, and so forth. The “one last thing” list never ends. I could have 400 “one last things” to do and still find “one last thing” to do before I recognize the pain and acquiesce. So like I said, I’m not real bright on that score.
I got myself in this predicament 5 weeks ago by doing that very thing. I had been pushing myself for many weeks, many months really….and just continued to go, go, go. I have an antique business that has been really doing well, so there was lots of packing and shipping, buying trips, while also trying to maintain a fairly clean house, keeping up with the laundry, cooking dinners, etc. In other words, acting like a normal person without several chronic illnesses. In other words, trying to ignore my several chronic illnesses and play like I was one of those “normals”. The pain signals would come and I would just take my pain meds and continue on. Like the fool that I am.
You’d think after 30 years, the rebel in me would finally accept the inevitable and try to cooperate with my body. Yes, I have not one, not two, but at least three diagnosed pain conditions that require me to pace myself, take regular rest, and not to push myself over the brink of collapse. But do I listen? No. Do I still delude myself into thinking that I can “get away with” trying to out run the Pain Monster?? Yes. Why is that? Because I am angry.
It has been a burden carrying all this pain in my body for 30+ years. But an even heavier burden carrying all the anger from carrying all the pain. I have been angry at the pain in my body and everything else that goes along with carrying the pain. I have carried grief from losing that “me” that once was so carefree and pain free (I can barely remember who that was or how she felt…I have only vague memories). I have carried the bitterness at those first two years of pain back in the early 1980’s when the doctors I went to for help told me I was a drug-seeker, a liar, a hypochondriac looking for sympathy, a nut case, a waste of time, a waste of life. I have carried the frustration of never knowing from one day to the next what I will or will not be able to do. I have carried the resentment from watching healthy “normals” walk around without a thought, without a care, without a clue and watch them not realize how lucky they are.
Anyway…..I guess when I try to figure myself out and wonder why, after all this time, I still continue to try so hard to out-run the pain before it grabs my by the nape of the neck and slams me down to the ground and stomps on me….is that relentless fighting spirit within me. I still want to win. I still want to take my life back and live it. Even if it’s for only a day or a week or a month, before I get slammed down again. I just want to steal back what has been stolen from me. Just for a little while. Just a week. Just a day. Because I know I will be slammed down. I know that I won’t be able to avoid it at times. It could be weather, the seasons changing, or just the course of the diseases that cause my pain to escalate and cause me to come to a screeching halt. So I guess I just figure, what the hell….just try to live your life no matter what and go as long and as hard as you can until the inevitable happens. But that’s just so damn stupid.
I know that this kind of thinking is destructive and ignorant. Yet I just keep doing it.
There is a book, now out of print, but you can still get it online. I just bought 3 more copies before they all disappear. The book was published in 1982. It is the best book on chronic pain I’ve ever come across. It was written by a young woman named Meg Bogin. She now goes by Magda Bogin, but when she wrote the book it was Meg. The book is called “The Path To Pain Control”. She talks about pain in a way that is so different and so real. She talks about turning the energy of pain around and making it into something positive, ways that we can still have some control over our bodies. I know I’m probably not making any sense, but this book has so much wisdom regarding the psychology of pain. She helps you to face the pain and then take control of it by CHOOSING to do what it takes to make the pain settle down. It’s like a different way of looking at it.
I’ve been reading the book, as I do every time I have a flare up…..and I’m trying to learn these precepts. If I only would OWN this pain and OWN my reaction to it, then this entire pain experience could not be so destructive. If I could learn how to take back MY CONTROL….and choose to respond to the pain signals instead of trying so hard to out-run them, out-smart them….then maybe I might be able to keep my pain at a more manageable level. That is what this book is all about.
I guess I said all that to say this….. if you find yourself fighting the pain, you will not win. You will never win. If you try to run, it will catch you. If you try to struggle, it will pin you down. BUT……if you CHOOSE the path of least resistance, you may find that you have more power than you thought. You may discover that, as Meg Bogin said in her book, “You are most in control when you fight it the least”. To me, that statement just blows my mind. It makes everything look different. My perspective from looking at pain in that way changes everything. I can still be in control if I would only pay attention and act smartly and with the wisdom of my own experience.
I hope that I can change my reaction to pain, into a more wise action in the future.
And if you can find this book online, I highly recommend it. Like I said, it’s out of print now so when the few copies out there are gone, they are gone. I’m going to read it again, and again, and again…..until I get it right.