Being diagnosed with chronic pain is like being sucker punched by a bully you didn’t even know existed. I was ready to move on with my new life, but not ready for what my new life included.
The best way I can describe my chronic pain is having the severe body ache of a horrible flu, punctuated by soreness in each and every joint in your body. My major joints are by far the most critical casualties, often stiffening firmly restricting even the slightest motion. My knees are the worst, followed by my elbows, lower back and hip, while my smaller joints–fingers and toes–just throb dully.
There is not a day I am not in pain. Disturbingly, my body hurts every day and at the very least my knees remind me of my chronic condition. These are the good days. The bad days, I awake in the middle of the night, completely locked my position of slumber, struggling to unfold.
When I tell people the pain is worse than the actual brain surgery and stroke, it is hard for them to believe. But pain corrupts every facet of your daily life, contaminates your positive thoughts, and circumvents your hope.
With chronic pain, there are only two things you can do: hope tomorrow is a good day and hope you find a solution so you will someday only have good days.
The most disturbing element of my diagnosis is there are very few answers. People don’t know, they suggest. Try aerobics, try meditation, try narcotics, try sleep, try, try, try…
So try is all I can do.
When I first became ill in August, I knew a drastic change in lifestyle was needed, partly due to my new lease on life and partly due to the proven benefits of a healthy lifestyle. I knew my diet, my exercise, and my not-so-good habits had to be greatly altered. I can honestly admit I changed none of these things.
Depression and a flagrant sense of bad habit entitlement clouded my days. Some days I was so depressed, I ate half a chocolate cake. On those same days, I would also reason, “Hell, I had brain surgery, I can eat this chocolate cake.”
But anyone who has tried to change an area of their life knows it’s Herculean. We all know we should exercise regularly, not indulge in the large portions and processed foods at restaurants, and get a sufficient amount of sleep. Yet, we often find excuses to rebut our common knowledge and doctor’s orders.
However, at this stage in my life and recovery, I can no longer surrender to my indulgent tendencies. Though deeply indebted to years of lackadaisicalness, if I want a remote chance of a life not dictated by pain, fatigue, and advancing weakness, I must completely overhaul my style of living.
This is the only thing my doctors agree on. All have various theories regarding the duration and severity of my chronic pain, while others openly admit a lack of knowledge. But the only consensus–to at most overcome, at the least endure my pain–is to seek and practice holistic treatments.
So now my “medical team” consists of three doctors: a neurologist, a primary care physician, and an internist specializing in integrated medicine. This decision was based upon not only pursuing a healthier lifestyle, but to also steadily eliminate my need for strong narcotics and further surgical procedures. (Mind you, this was a tough decision considering I assumed plastic surgery was in my future.)
Essentially, my whole attitude toward my medical care has changed. I am no longer reliant on physicians telling me what I ought to do. I am now completely in charge. I will dictate what is best for me. I will consult with physicians as to their opinions, but I will ultimately decide what is best for my body and my life. This choice requires a lot of research, learning, experimentation, practice, and most importantly, patience.
Before I had to fight for my life, but now I am fighting for my livelihood.