Thursday, December 5, 2013

COMpLain



I don't like to complain. I feel odd when I mention things that are bothering me physically in more than a "dear family, you need to know how much pain I'm in so you can gauge how much you can jump on me / annoy me / etc. today" kind of way. I feel worse if I give my laundry list of ailments on any given day... today it's a throbbing foot, achy knees, an incredibly sore neck, stiff hands, and that's just for starters. Who the heck wants to hear that - or to be keenly aware of every one of their own aches and pains? And so I don't complain much. And therein lies the problem.

When I don't complain, people seem to assume that I'm feeling good. Well. Pain-free. That I have energy and am moving well. How I wish that was the case! I'm in pain every single day. Every one. Even when my psoriatic arthritis is well under control. No medicine can undo the damage that's been done - the damage that causes pain.

Ever accidentally hit your thumb with a hammer or close your fingers in a door? You know, the kind of pain that makes you utter things that don't normally come out of your mouth and makes you unable to communicate or form a thought other than pain for a moment or two or ten?  I have that type of pain every time I take a step with my left foot these days. Sometimes even when I'm sitting still.

I'm not saying this to complain - I'm saying it for perspective. People who live with chronic pain sometimes have problems being the beaming rays of sunshine they would otherwise be. They sometimes take longer to do things not just because they might move slower, but because concentrating on a task and everything they do takes more energy and focus than normal. Try balancing your bank account while soaking one foot in scalding hot water and the other in ice water and perhaps you'll get an idea of what I mean.

Living with chronic pain does have its quirks. 

When I'm in a lot of pain I have great difficulty with word retrieval, or thought retrieval for that matter. My family is used to this, and thus does not flinch when I say things like "can you please put this in the big giant cooler thingy over there (the chest freezer)" or "Za...Cor...Alex ... whoever you are ... can you please *makes hand motion* to the whatever that thing is called over there." The other day, my answer to the question "what's for dinner?" was "I'll tell you as soon as I figure out what it's called." It was chicken. I came up with cummerbund, Chumbawamba, and cockatiel before I could think of the word chicken. And on the way to Pennsylvania, my husband asked me at what exit we were getting off the highway and I said to him, with great certainty, "26!" A few seconds later, "54?" "52, definitely 52." I'm glad he has a sense of humor - and of direction. 

So please, if you know someone living with chronic pain, don't assume how they feel by taking them at face value. Be patient with them. Laugh with them when they wix their mords. On behalf of people with chronic pain everywhere, I apologize in advance for any grumpiness or absentmindedness that we might inflict upon you, but make no apologies for any of it that comes with even a modicum of entertainment value.

And if you are someone living with chronic pain, be gentle with yourself. Don't take yourself too seriously. Let people know when you need a little extra help or time or wiggle room. Laugh - it reduces pain. But don't pull a muscle laughing like I did the other day. That's a pain. 



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