Chronic Pain And The Choices We Have To Make

Wow, it’s been a long time. You know how sometimes you think you’re really busy then you think about it and realize that you watched four seasons of a TV show in two weeks and that’s not being “busy” it’s being lazy? That’s me!!! (Btw, I’ve been watching Shameless, PLEASE someone talk to me about it, I need an outlet.)

But here I am, back again. In the past couple of months I’ve done some crazy shit. Crazy shit mainly being doing Whole30!! I KNOW, right? No flamin’  hot cheetos, no chocolate, not even any bread. I didn’t think I could do it. But do it, I did. And the whole experience really taught me that so much of my pain is sometimes dictated by what I eat. They say you are what you eat, and I’m really starting to believe them. Whoever they are.

After completely cutting out sugar for 30 days, I had the best period (pain-wise) that I’ve had in YEARS. LITERAL YEARS. I was able to WALK AROUND. I only had to take one dose of painkillers. I mean, I was able to sit up on like hour two. So, the natural thing for me to do would be to start eating less sugar for seemingly the rest of my life, right? Yeah, duh! So why is that so hard?

It’s hard because sugar is addicting as hell and also because — oh yeah — I’m tired of having to change my life in thousands of different ways to try and feel normal. 

Ugh, I know, here I go again. But honestly, living with chronic pain means making a ton of sacrifices. And you never, ever get a choice in the matter! For example, last week we had our company holiday party at THE FREAKING WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER. Did I want to enjoy myself completely and have the time of my life? Yes. D U H. But my body had other plans. I had a horrible pain day, and it put a dark cloud over the entire night. I ended up leaving slightly early and paying for the excursion for the next day and a half. Could it be worse? Definitely. But does it still suck to have pain for no goddamn reason on the night of your company’s holiday party? YEAH. IT DOES.

Logically, I knew that my pain was getting worse because in the last couple of weeks I had completely let myself go and enjoyed a lot of sweets and too much chocolate. It is a fact that sugar makes my pain worse. And yet, I continue to eat it. Now, yes, America is addicted to sugar or w/e. But I’m not in control of America!! I’m in control of me. And yet, I’m not. All at the same time.

I was talking with a fellow chronic pain sufferer (Steph <3) about my disappointment in myself, and she summed it up nicely. When basically your entire life is dictated by an illness that you have no control over, eating sweets and going out to concerts when you know you will pay for it later is a way of fighting back. It’s like, hey, fuck you illness, I can eat this cookie and I can go to this party and stay out late and you can’t stop me!! I’m taking control of my life!!! But then you pay for it, big time. And it’s a constant battle to decide which thing you wanna deal with. Do I want to deal with missing my friend’s party or do I wanna deal with horrible pain down the line? Do I want to skip out on this team outing and only order a grilled chicken breast or do I wanna order a pizza and share it with my friends and pretend to be normal? It’s never an easy decision, and either way I’m left with regret. If I order the pizza, I’m mad at myself for knowingly doing something that causes me pain. If I order the salad, I’m sad about the fact that it’s yet another thing I have to give up or alter to accommodate an illness that I never even asked for.

When faced with these decisions, as minor as they are, I find myself feeling dejected all too often. Every bite of a cookie or every missed social outing due to pain is a painful reminder (both physically and mentally) that I don’t have control over my life; not really. If I said “fuck it” and did whatever I wanted, I would spend a lot of my life in bed with severe pain that wouldn’t allow me to get up. But if I live a strict life and limit myself to things that will give me a chance of feeling better, I’m missing out anyway.

It seems dumb to be sad about missing out on a few chocolate chip cookies, but in reality it’s much more than that. Those chocolate chip cookies start to represent every other part of life that I fear I miss out on because I’m sick. The cookies stand for the extra hours at work that I can’t work because if I stay late, I won’t function the next day. Those extra hours turn into the missed professional opportunities that I fear I’m missing out on because I’m too busy resting after an exhausting day of just living my damn life. The cookies represent the missed parties for friends or the missed date nights. They represent the vacation time spent in the hotel bed, not sightseeing, and the time I spend trying to convince myself to remain positive through it all.

It should be easy to decide that I will no longer do things that cause my physical pain. But like most things involving chronic pain, it’s complicated. As I try to stop eating sugar and staying out late when I know I need sleep, I’m reminded that my life is not fully mine — not yet anyway. It’s a hard pill to swallow, one that would certainly feel easier if I could just accompany it with a chocolate chip cookie.

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9 responses to “Chronic Pain And The Choices We Have To Make

  1. I can relate. I have daily chronic pain. I’ve had endo for 10 years and diagnosed with lupus 3 years ago. I’ve been coping with my pain with cherry Coke. The combination of sugar and caffiene make me feel “better” because I get a surge of energy and I’m not dealing with the terrible fatigue amongst the crippling pain both physically and emotionally. I know I’m making things worse. I know I’m not doing my body any favors and I’m really not making myself feel any better and I’m actually making things worse. It truly is a viscous cycle. I wish I had the support to go on a whole 30 diet and cut out all sugar out of my diet. I want to help myself. I want to feel like a normal 25 year old woman. I want to stop missing out on life. I want to feel good about myself mentally. I want to think of myself as a beautiful woman. I hate myself when I look at myself in the mirror. I hate the way I feel on the inside with the pain I experience and I see a person staring back at me that I do not like. I want to make a change its just so hard. I wish I had a coach or someone to mentor me along the way. To hold me accountable and not give up on me the way I feel like my body has given up on me. Sometimes I think changing diets and lifestyles are hopeless because I feel like I’m hopeless but after reading your entry it really touched me and made me really want to make a change. I know I deserve it. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for being strong enough and committed enough to give your body what it needs and acknowledging the difference the change you made. It’s a struggle for all of us. Thank you allowing me to look deep inside myself and realize I deserve more. I hope and I pray that I can follow through, remain mentally tough on even the hardest of days and see the light and the end of the tunnel – a day where I’ll look in the mirror and see a beautiful woman staring back at me again who is comfortable in her own skin. xoxoxoxo

    • Hey lexnixon, I just want to say you’re doing it. You’re living your life. You’re taking one day at a time and moving forward. Please recognize that’s f-ing awesome. In my experience with chronic pain/illness, it’s hard to feel strong when you physically feel weak. And to echo the words of this lovely post, it’s spectacularly easy to blame ourselves. Yeah, it’s important to push ourselves to be healthier, but it’s also crucial to forgive ourselves and appreciate how far we’ve come. Want to do the whole30? That’s awesome. Do it. But don’t wait until after to start appreciating the beautify and strength of the woman in the mirror. You’re that exceptional person now.

      (Wildly unsolicited advice from another 25 year old woman)

  2. Wow, this rings so true for me. I deal with chronic migraine and it rules my life in a lot of ways, but I try to push through. The doctors and practitioners say “I don’t know how you do it” but the alternative is never leaving the house and that’s not a life. It’s hard when you feel like you are always fighting with yourself.

  3. Damn! Send me some of your will power. I’ve been on the edge of making these same changes. I’ve been in such a deep pain hole that I can’t bring myself to take on anything that requires such commitment.

  4. Great post! I can’t help you with your Shameless addiction… But I can sure relate to having to give up so much as a chronic pain person. It doesn’t seem fair, does it? From missing out on fun activities to having to avoid certain foods. I love sweets!! I hate chronic pain!! Stay strong <3

  5. It’s called chronic migraines, isolation, depression and for me now binge watching ‘Scandal’ starting from Season 1 on Netflix (I’m up to Season 5 Episode 3). Ok watching TV, but I’m getting fat and tired of looking outside instead of being outside. I feel for you. Pat yourself on the bat for staying strong. :)

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