Chronic Pain

It is February and I had intended to write about love and its various forms, specifically the love between my cat Jay and I. However, having spent many hours last night being overwhelmed by my physical pain, I decided to talk about pain instead.

I am not talking about pain from an injury that may last months but eventually subsides. I am referring to pain that impacts every day, year after year. As with all pain, some days are worse than others and on the better days I truly think “this is not so bad” and enjoy life. Of course those are my good days. Most people don’t see me on the worst days because I stay where I am now – at home in bed. On the bad days where I still have to go out, well I would not say I am exactly stoned but I certainly have taken enough medication that I am not completely there either.

This pain leaves me feeling set off and isolated from the world. I feel if I mention it I am complaining or looking for sympathy and if I don’t mention it then no one knows and expects me to be able to do things (and even move) as though I have nothing wrong with me. Damned if I do and damned if I don’t. The pain I have does not make me look sick nor even apparently in pain although as the pain has worsened I have gone from looking ten years younger than my age to looking older than I am. I have no cast, no visible scars.   How I got this pain is not as important for this blog as the fact that I have it. I find the emotional component to living with it as difficult to deal with as the physical side of it. When it becomes severe (thankfully not every day) it naturally leaves me very depressed, feeling incredibly low and alone. I don’t know where to turn to relieve it. I try all the things that sometimes help distract me but nothing really works. I am afraid to take more medication than I absolutely need to survive because I am terrified of getting horribly addicted. I don’t drink for the same reason.

I thought I would lose my mind at 5:00 this morning. I woke up an hour before with the pain so bad I could barely breathe. I moved around a bit to loosen up, took some Tylenol with codeine, tried to lie and meditate to relax my body, cried, and held on to Jay (my cat) who was lying up against me as he always does when my pain gets really bad. Nothing helped. About 6:30 I took my morning morphine (I am only taking half the dose I was three years ago but there are days I wonder if the effort to reduce is worth it). The morphine does not work on one pain and Tylenol does not work on the other so on days they are equally bad I have no choice but to take both.

About 7:00 I fell asleep again. Some days after a bout like this I wake up a couple of hours later feeling better. Today was not one of those days. I still have severe pain and a headache from coping with it. I may have to take more medication because otherwise I will spend the whole day lying here completely unproductive.

If you know someone living with this kind of pain try to understand. Most of the time that is all they want. They don’t need to be coddled, just validated. Here are a couple of tips:

Please don’t judge me and think I should just live with it and get on with things. You have no idea the pain I push through as it is.

Yes, I know there are people much worse off than I am. You don’t need to tell me. There are many days when I am grateful for that but it does not make the pain better.

Don’t assume that some miracle thing that worked for you is the answer for me. By all means ask if I have heard about it, and if I want more information give it to me, but don’t tell me you have the solution to my pain. It is unlikely.

And PLEASE, do not tell me to look on the bright side or I may have to hit you. If there is a bright side to my pain I will find it on my own!

To those who are in pain, I am sorry and have great empathy. No one has the right to tell you how you “should” be handling everything or that things are bound to improve. The only thing I will say is to keep looking yourself at solutions for your own illnesses/conditions, however unusual or “out there” they may seem to other people. You never know when one of them may be the key to helping.

About fifteen minutes ago Jay came and leaned up against my chest and started purring. I realize now I am feeling better and think I may avoid the Tylenol.

My grandmother walked with a cane for the last 25 years or so of her life and always rocked back and forth a couple of times to get out of a chair (she never wanted anyone to help her). She died before all my own problems began. I never really knew what was wrong with her but she always told me the key was to “keep moving”. I remember those words on days like today when I don’t know if I care anymore to try.

How do you deal with your chronic pain? Does it make you feel isolated, frustrated, like giving up?


  1. Cheryl Harrington
    May 6, 2013

    Dear Susan, Thank you for sharing your experience in such a frank and open way – very brave of you. I was recently reading about the therapeutic value of a purring cat, so good old Jay may be giving you more than loving snuggles. Thank goodness for our faithful companions.

    • Susan McNicoll
      May 6, 2013

      Thanks for commenting Cheryl. If I am going to share my experiences I want to be as honest as I can be even if sometimes it scares me a little. Thank goodness indeed for Sam and Jay and their feline relatives. Jay often lies across me in such a way as to cover the part of me that is hurting the most at that moment (wish that he could cover my whole body but I think he is big enough as it is!). There is a therapeutic value to their purring, without a doubt. I have experienced it.

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