Pain

Writing and Chronic Pain: 2 For the Price of 1! Today Only!

I’ll admit shamefully to being AWOL from the internet for the last couple of weeks. Oh sure, there was a witty tweet here or there, but I just didn’t have it in me to sit down and converse with my friends on Critique Circle or post on Facebook or even update my GoFundMe supporters. I thought it was a lack of creative juices flowing. Then I thought to myself, No, if that were the case I would make something explode and everything would be back to normal. I pondered that perhaps it was partially due to participating too much at work (ha-ha! Alliterations!) but then during Christmas I worked plenty, and still managed a post here and there.

Why I wasn’t immediately able to identify it as a mental issue brought about by chronic pain is beyond me. You’d think by now I would instantly understand that chronic pain, and indeed any chronic condition has this inherent ability to burrow itself into your psyche and lay waste to what was once a fruitful and thriving land of social norms. Chronic pain is like an agricultural bacteria that eats away at the crops you spend weeks and months cultivating, leaving you with a wasteland. You don’t want to do the things you love, you don’t want to be healthy, to exercise. You don’t want to talk to friends or be social. You just want to curl up and sleep because at least in sleep you might be able to escape the pain for a few hours, and during that time your brain has a chance to sow new seeds and tend to them.

I let my crops rot in the ground over the last month or so, and I’m not certain why. It was certainly an unwilling choice on my part.

Then again, I always have theories. Some of them even make sense. For one thing, work has been busy and, for whatever reason, people have generally been unpleasant to deal with. I had a gentleman from Manitoba tell me what was wrong with Alberta’s politics just the other day. The irony was palpable; the self-awareness was not. Angry people drain me. They’re like a blistering sun, a thicker, summer heat that dries out the land. Angry people, unfortunately, tend to wear on my mental crops.

But I can deal with the angry people, usually with ridiculous cheeriness. So it couldn’t be them. Not really.

It could be, in all likelihood, pain. Because over the last month or so it has been bad. Despite the glory that is my Cymbalta, I’ve felt twinges of familiar nerve pain begin where my spine is pinching and grinding and generally being unpleasant. The arthritis is acting up, to the point where even wearing some pants put too much pressure on the bones, creates noticeable pain. Too much of it, in fact. I do strengthening exercises; I try to be aware of my posture. Shoulders back, stand up tall. It only hurts more. No excuse, you keep trying because if you stop then the pain wins, and you need to at least feel like you are fighting against it. Sometimes I’d like to let the pain win, but then I wouldn’t be me. That thought is almost as exhausting as the pain itself.

Maybe it isn’t pain. Maybe it is the stagnation of creativity that I’ve been battling since I sent my manuscript to the editor. There have been days when I’ve wanted to reread it, to go over sections, just to remind myself of the tiny details, but I resist. This should, theoretically, be the last week that she has it (unless it needs more work), which means soon enough I’ll have it back and can begin plugging away on the changes that I need to make for it to be presentable to the rest of the world. Easy enough, I suppose. In the meantime I’ve been thinking about book 2, doing research and the like. I fell into a crevasse with it, realizing that something I wanted to pursue, a plot point, just wasn’t realistic. That sent me into a tailspin, trying to come up with a better alternative while still maintaining the character development that needs to happen. I went out and bought myself a notebook that has space kittens on it. That is, kittens in space. It is my idea book where I’ll do my damned best to work through some of these ideas and try to find a more reasonable solution. Normally it is easy for me. Normally I get an earworm that whispers mystical secrets about the universe and also about my narrative, and that is that. A solution. Done.

Not this time. Do I keep this character or that? How does that person die? How will that person live? Explosions or viruses? How much trauma is too much? That last point, at the very least, I’ve managed to, not master per say, but understand efficiently enough that the whole narrative doesn’t seem campy. Still, it feels like stagnation. Creativity at a standstill.

It is an ironic sort of cycle. I use writing to help with the pain, but what if the pain is too distracting to allow me to write? What do I do then?

giphy

 

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Chronic Pain Diaries: The Longest Cycle

Sometimes I imagine that I am in a time loop. That my life is only capable of extending to a certain point before I reach a door that is meant to represent change. Instead, the door leads me directly back to the beginning of the cycle. I walk, and run, and prance my way through everyday events until I reach that damnedable door. The whole process begins again.

Today was a bad pain day, fitting given that I had my appointment with the Good Doctor. It was the sort of morning where it felt like the pain was leaking from my spine and staining my hips, my thighs, and even my ass. My ass, for god’s sake. This is mechanical pain, coming from the arthritis. I assumed it’s because the weather is properly cold now. This mechanical pain is the sort that claws into your body and doesn’t let go no matter how much morphine or baclofen or kittens you throw at it. It’s a vibrant, hot, red and black pain.

In the last two years my pain has gotten worse, and with it I assumed so did my curve. Perhaps the only highlight of the visit was learning that my lower curve has settled nicely at it’s 45-49 degree range. It hasn’t moved and likely won’t anymore. Hooray for me!

But at the same time it was some of the worst news I could have imagined. 50 degrees is the magic number. That is when the specialists go from shrugging their shoulders and saying “meh?” when you ask about surgery, to rushing you into the OR and rubbing iodine over your back themselves. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want more surgery. The concept of my spine being almost fully fused is troubling.

But I’ve learned to live with a fused spine. I’ve adjusted my life to it and I get by even without being able to bend over to tie my shoes. What I still find myself struggling with every day is the inconsistencies in pain. One day is good. One day is bad. One day is puppies and cotton candy and the next the puppies have rabies and the cotton candy is actually some sort of snake that is propelled by rockets made out of spiders. And while I can predict when snake-spider-rocket days might occur, it’s fairly hit and miss for the most part. And not knowing when I will be in that sort of pain is exhausting. You feel as if you can’t make plans, can’t make promises. You never know what sort of person you will be when you wake up in the morning.

Because the pain comes out of nowhere and it infects your life like those damned rabid puppies spreading through a daycare.

If the doctor has told me that the time had come to fuse my lower spine I would have been a-okay with that, because there is a slight possibility that fusing those two vertebrae would decrease some of my mechanical pain.

Maybe.

Then again, maybe not.

So I open the door and I walk through, back to the start of the cycle. I look back and see all my friends and family walking through the same door, yet somehow being able to reach another path that isn’t open to me. I have so many questions. When can I finally step onto that new path? What preparations do I have to make? Can I speed up this process? No. I am shunted back to the start of the cycle. Another year of waiting, of snakes and spiders nibbling on my nerves and burrowing into my body.

I’ll give myself one day to be sad, to feel a bit of self-pity that this will be another year when this cannot progress. I’ll put all my focus onto writing, of being a good partner to my husband and support him as he has supported me not only today, but every day rabid puppies and spider rockets strike me down. I’ll work and save, and in October I will go to Japan and see another culture with towering mountains and verdant plains. I’ll snuggle my cats when I feel sad and knit my blanket when I am lazily watching TV.

And I will have pain, every day, because the cycle is just starting again.

An Open Letter to an Awful, Just Terrible, Doctor

Dear Awful, Absolutely Terrible Doctor,

Bravo and congratulations! You, madam, have the healing prowess of a druid, or perhaps some sort of automaton. You have healed me of all which ails me. Goodbye chronic pain, hello bright, shiny new day without chronic pain.

Except, wait, no. That’s not right at all. No, sorry, what I meant to say was Bravo and congratulations. For the first time in thirteen years of suffering from chronic pain, you have made me feel like a drug seeking addict.

 I guess that says something about my experience with the health care system thus far. I’ve been very lucky with all the doctors and nurses I’ve dealt with. That is, until I had to deal with you. (more…)