When Is it Enough Already in a Life of Chronic Pain?
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This is a question that often arises among all of us who lead this lifestyle when we’ve suffered enough; experienced enough fatigue and look heavenward and shout, “Enough already!” It’s kind of a shame this isn’t television because that last idea should be animated, with arms flailing in the air and uttered with an extremely hostile growl from deep within. We would jump in the air, lift furniture and toss it and put a fist through the wall but, that all takes too much effort and, most importantly, it would hurt those parts of us which hurt enough already; therefore, we’ll take a pass on all that, as fun as it sounds.
After 23 years of living with pain each and every day, I have uttered that phrase often. To whom am I speaking? Well, it varies, let’s see; there’s God, the Force, the wall, myself, all my dead relatives, half of my living relatives and often, the dogs. I know what you’re thinking but I’m okay because I don’t think the dogs are speaking back to me, at least verbally. Some of the others, well, maybe.
THE IMPORTANCE OF A SENSE OF PURPOSE IN LIFE:
I spent, wasted and supposedly learned a great deal during the gnashing of the first few years I was ill. I couldn’t believe what my body was experiencing. Just the dire thought of living this way for the rest of my life was truly enough. I felt cheated, betrayed and deeply, deeply depressed. Unlike some people, I didn’t ever think it was a kind of a punishment for anything I had done. I just don’t think that way. I always believed there were answers for me out there, somewhere, as well as a multi-changing purpose for my life. I also never thought of doing away with myself because of my faith and because of my love for my family. As a nurse I’ve had a few patients who have attempted to “off” themselves and to be honest with you, I think from what I’ve observed it takes far more courage to live than to die.
I’m trying to be honest with you because I think anyone who suffers wants it to end when it goes on and on. If you don’t feel that way then you are some sort of masochist and should stay away from sharp objects and see a psychiatrist. Who, with all of their brains intact, would choose to live with pain all the time? We all know there are two kinds of misery: physical and mental and both are usually accompanied by deep fatigue. That fatigue can pull you down and roll you around. It can zap life of all joy, make your daily needs impossible to fulfill and cause your behavior to be so bad you don’t even want to be in the same room with yourself. We’re only human and may strike out in our frustration to those around us. Is this fair, of course not, but like a wet dog shaking off his moisture we often shake our aggravation just to be rid of it. This is unproductive but we don’t really care. It isolates us further, but again, don’t care. That’s when it’s time to go back to the doctor, find a new doctor or if that fails to give you answers, it may be time to seek counseling. This life with chronic pain steals life, joy and productivity from us. We’re in a battle for our lives and we have to win. With the help of a wonderful PCP, I have always found a tiny door to open when I hit that wall. It’s vital that we do not give up the search. It’s tempting, I know, but there are answers. It may be a different type of medicine. It may be physical therapy consultation. It may be a change of diet. Keep searching because there is no reverse in life, only loss of vitality. We can’t be who we were but we can be someone new. There is always intrinsic healing within us; there are just sometimes we need help to find it and can’t do it on our own. I know it takes courage to do this but we have no choice. The train has already left the station and we’re onboard. Don’t we want the destination to be joyful, fruitful and as pain free as possible? That may require us to think in new ways and discover new paths.
There are certain qualities which I have found helpful when I feel myself drowning in the depths of “enough.” Although I believe we each have very individual answers to find in this search, some of these solutions may be universal. A deep sense of purpose within ourselves that tells us we have something to do, a talent we know we possess and need to use, or someone who needs us in their lives. These are all reasons to keep going. For those we love, we often climb stairs, hang in there with a job and let life pull us along even if it does hurt our hands, our knees or in my case, my sitter. A purposeless life is so lackluster, so unfulfilling and boring. I don’t believe it gives life; only takes it.
A GOOD SENSE OF HUMOR WILL GET YOU THROUGH THE ROUGHEST DAYS:
I believe each of us comes to a point in physical suffering when we feel we cannot go on any longer; but we do. We fall asleep, or just fall down, or swallow a pill, cry until we’re dry or many other ways of coping. When we hit that wall, it’s very personal. I’ve known people who think a broken toe is the end of the world. I’ve seen others who were in traction after a devastating accident and strung up like laundry on a clothesline in dire pain but still manage a laugh or two. If you’ve ever been hospitalized, then you know the nurses, doctors or even the housekeepers or other personnel who stand out in your memory are the ones who offered you comfort. There are always a few who made you laugh. Individuals who can make you laugh are pure sunshine in the form of caring and loving humans. Often, they take a different form that isn’t human. Any of us who live with pets know this is true. Their antics bring joy to a dry heart.
Last night I attended my small grandson’s T-ball game. You can’t watch five-year-olds play ball without smiling or laughing. It was a rough day for me with workmen at the house, one of the dogs, Annie, got out, I spent the afternoon in the dentist’s chair and have to do it again because the new crown didn’t fit; the workmen ran out of paint, and on and on it went. If you read this blog often then you know I have chronic and constant pain in the sacroiliac joints, hips and knees among other things. Well, let me share with you when I had sat at that T-ball game for 45 minutes I reached my limit and had to get up to leave which was no small feat. I announced to my family and friends I had to go home as I struggled to my feet. “Well, I’ve got to go home and I’m taking my sore ass with me. Can’t help it, it follows me everywhere I go.” I’m blessed. I’m a natural born smarty pants. Humor is a gift. Cherish it because laughter has a healing elixir hidden inside of it. I’m also fortunate in that my main problem is located in an area of the body that brings a smile to others when you mention it. Maybe it goes back to all those potty jokes from childhood but a good sprat fall still causes laughter at all ages. I run around all the time with the results of a life given sprat fall.
One of the attributes that first attracted me to my husband is his ability to make others laugh. He would walk the halls of the hospital where we both worked and leave joy behind him. Don’t misunderstand me, he can be a real grouch but he has the ability to see the humor in life. How do people live without that? If you haven’t read the writings of Norman Cousins, you should. If you don’t want to read about his struggles in one of his several books, Anatomy of An Illness then rent the movie with Ed Asner. Cousins goes into great depth about the healing effect of laughter on illness.
Look for joy while you are seeking the best medical care possible. Open the shades, pick the flowers, throw a ball for the dog. Enough is enough but life still goes on and instead of being a dead end, it is just a layover while we seek another way to go. It is said that the Chinese symbol for “misfortune” is the same symbol as the one for “opportunity.” I hope it’s true because it’s a healthy thought.
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