I woke yesterday morning very early, having only dropped off to sleep in the early hours. A couple of hours of unsettled sleep and I knew that my bedfellow, pain was going to kick me about for the day. Despite shivering in the cold early morning, there was that unwelcome yet familiar thin, feverish sheen of sweat all over my body that only comes with deep, intense pain.
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The strange thing was that I couldn’t quite tell where the pain was. Start from the feet and move upwards:
- feet and ankles: pain, check; left nerve pain worse, check
- lower legs and knees: pain, check; left nerve pain burning, check
- thighs: burning, check;
- hips: can’t move them, searing pain, check;
- lower back: don’t even go there, hurts too much, check;
- chest: every breath is creating pain somewhere else, check;
- shoulders: both dislocated: do not move, check;
- arms and hands: numb, yet burning, check;
- neck: spasm and screaming, check;
- head: did I drink last night???
- face and teeth: really??!! Yes!
The problem with this pain is that when it peaks nothing will help to reduce it. No amount of drugs, distraction, heat or other remedies will help.
Pain is deeply personal. Your pain will be different to my pain. My own pains are different – the neuropathic back and leg pain I experience from nerve root damage is very different to my other EDS pains. Our pain might be in the same part of of bodies, but we will probably describe it differently and it will behave differently. The same bedfellow taking a different journey to reach the same location.
When my constant companion reaches these dizzy heights, even my spinal cord stimulator struggles to jumble and alter the pain messages received by my brain. Some professionals believe that chronic “neuropathic” pain signals are processed by the brain differently, making it more resistant and much harder to treat. I honestly don’t know and when it reaches these levels, I don’t care.
“Chronic or persistent pain is pain that carries on for longer than 12 weeks despite medication or treatment.” NHS Inform
“Neuropathic pain is often described as a shooting or burning pain. It can go away on its own but is often chronic. Sometimes it is unrelenting and severe, and sometimes it comes and goes. It often is the result of nerve damage or a malfunctioning nervous system. The impact of nerve damage is a change in nerve function both at the site of the injury and areas around it.” WebMD
There are many definitions for “pain” available and there are also definitions on American sites & Wikipedia for “intractable pain“.
The ensuing brain fog means I lose clarity of any situation and irrational behaviour follows. “Mum, why are you trying to do housework like a mad woman?” asks my teenage daughter…..just because!
- because I can’t sit still
- because my brain has gone into overdrive yet feels like candy floss
- because I can’t think straight
- because I can’t stand still
- because I feel sick
- because I have to do something
- because breathing hurts
- because doing nothing hurts
- because doing anything hurts
- because I don’t know what to do to make it just F.O!
Remember the old rhyme “Rain, Rain Go Away, Come again another Day”? Mine goes like this “Pain, pain go away, don’t come again another day!” In this state pain killers just make me vomit, they don’t help anyway. My beloved heat pad gives a little relief for a short period, but my body seems to know that the external temperatures have dropped despite central heating and layers of clothes.
This pain is exhausting and all consuming. Eventually I am overcome and sink into a heavy, pain ridden slumber under a weighted blanket yet wake several hours later unrefreshed and still in pain. What is to be done? Watch the weather forecast, curse the temperatures (I know Chicago and other places have it a LOT worse, but my body doesn’t know that and anything near zero degrees is horrendous), try distractions and sit it out knowing that this peak will pass.
Another day may feel wasted – another day of being unable to function, to be online with like minded pals, to read, to watch TV, to listen to music. But this will calm, it will reduce from the peak to a trough and tomorrow is another day.
So today….I am here, I survived. I am still in pain and currently sitting charging my spinal cord stimulator as I really can’t cope with turning it off during this cold weather. The Six Nations rugby is on and feel like I have been in one of those scrums! My other pains are vying for attention now….when the nerve pain is at its worst the others fade into background noise, but today the shoulder and gut pain are shouting loudly.
But here I am typing, smiling, talking and tomorrow is definitely another day!
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I didn’t know what to do, I was in so much emotional pain that I didn’t want to go on living but at the same time I was too afraid to die.