The problem with chronic pain, apart from the fact that you’re chronically in pain, is that it’s invisible to everyone else. When I was 8, I fell off my bike and hit the ground, hard, face first. Teeth were lost and/or broken, and I broke my jaw. So that was fun. After everything healed back up, I was good as new. Well, mostly. Winter was problematic. Whenever my face or ears got too cold my jaw would get sore.
As time went on, that cold-related pain became worse. By the time I was in high school, just walking to the bus stop in winter left me in pain for several hours without taking tylenol or ibuprofen (I tried to keep one or the other with me whenever possible). By this time, the pain was no longer restricted to my jaw, but was spreading into my neck and causing headaches. In college, it started affecting me around the clock with no apparent triggers. I would wake up in the middle of the night in so much pain that I couldn’t fall back asleep. Heating pads, tylenol and ibuprofen helped, but it took an hour or two before I’d be able to sleep again. I finally went to see someone about it and they put me on muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatory meds and sent me to physical therapy.
Medication and physical therapy helped, but not completely. I stayed on the medication for several years, but then had to stop taking them when we decided to try for a baby. The pain was still there, but tylenol and heating pads kept it at bay for the most part. At least to the point where I could ignore it. During this time, the pain spread to my shoulders and back.
After Madeline was born, I started getting headaches that were more severe. To the point where I had difficulty focusing my eyes, and had a hard time thinking about anything other than the pain. I tried going to the chiropractor, but it didn’t seem to help so I stopped. Because I had two young children, I didn’t feel like I had much time to devote to self-care, so I just let it go and learned to ignore it. Sure, I had frequent headaches that made me easily irritated and quick to snap at my kids. Yeah, I had pain in my neck that would make me want to cry if I gave in for a moment and thought about it (which I avoided at all costs). I was an expert at pretending that everything was fine, to the point where “everything hurts” just became the norm. At some point I went back on muscle relaxers, which helped a bit, but not enough to really matter.
About a year ago, it got to the point where the pain (along with other things in my life) caused me to realize that something needed to change. I started one (later two) antidepressants, and started seeing a therapist. I decided at that point that self-care was something I couldn’t keep ignoring. I made several changes in my life (dropping down to part-time at work, starting this blog, starting the shop, and teaching with VIPKID). I also started to see a chiropractor on a regular basis. They do this examination thing beforehand where they poke around your spine and tell you what areas need adjusting. He could tell that it was starting on the right side of my face (correct), which was tensing muscles that caused problems on the left side of my neck (also correct), which was altering the way I held my body and causing problems with my right hip (yup).
The chiropractor actually helped! But only for about 3 or 4 days after each appointment. I did this for a few months, but it wasn’t really sustainable. At some point, you’re supposed to decrease the frequency of your visits, but I never really got to that point. Plus, at $50 per visit after insurance, it wasn’t exactly sustainable. I decided to try physical therapy again to see if that helped. Again, it helped a bit, but not enough to make it worth it. And now I’m stuck. I can’t find anything that will “fix” me, and the pain keeps getting worse. As I write this, I’ve got an ocular migraine (a recent development within the last couple of years) that is causing kind of a brain fog (sorry for any rambling here), a moderate headache, along with vision problems. I’m having trouble focusing on the computer screen, and have blind spots across my vision along with weird stars and wavy lines that are very distracting and making it hard to concentrate. It’ll go away within an hour if it’s anything like the ones before it.
All this, and from the outside it looks like there’s nothing wrong with me. I’ve been snapping at the kids and my husband all day, so I’m seen as “crabby,” but none of my medication is helping with the pain in my head, neck or back. There’s only so much I can take before I start taking it out on the people around me. Sorry, guys.
So what’s the point of all this? I don’t know. It’s hard to focus on anything else at the moment, and I needed to tell someone. Maybe I’m trying to say that you should be nice to people, even if they’re mean to you, because you don’t know what’s going on with them. Maybe I’m saying that you should tell your 8 year old to stop riding her bike like an idiot, because she might be paying for it for the rest of her life. Maybe I’m just writing this so I can focus on rambling instead of thinking about how everything hurts.