Being diagnosed with chronic pain was one of the best and also one of the worst days of my life. It meant that I would likely live with this for the rest of my life, but it also meant I could stop searching for answers.
Starting around age 16, I was missing school several days a month with migraines and extreme leg cramping. It would get to the point where I would almost black out in pain. I spent years back and forth with doctors; they tested me for blood clots, did ultrasounds, CT scans, MRIs, blood tests, everything imaginable. They found nothing wrong. I tried several different non-narcotics, for nerve pain and anti-depression medicines. None of them worked, or helped with my pain at all. All I got were some pretty nasty side effects and no relief. As someone who prides herself on knowing which drugs are addictive, the fact I was taking Vicodin several times a week really started to wear me down – just not as much as the pain itself.
So when I went to the neurologist – my favorite specialist I’ve ever met – and after some tests he informed me I might just have nerve damage due to a past injury I was relieved. I think he was surprised at my reaction, and I probably thanked him 25 times before I left the office. Of course it was upsetting to know I’ll be dealing with this for years to come. The week prior to my wedding will have a chronic pain cloud over it, and if that pain joins me on my wedding day I’ll do what I always do and pretend it’s not there. But now I won’t keep wasting years and trips to the doctors and money on prescriptions for things that just won’t help.
You see, pain is exhausting. Waking up with a migraine more mornings than not, and then going about my day as if my head doesn’t feel like it might explode, is exhausting. Constantly hoping that the plans I make won’t be ruined by an extra
-severe pain day is exhausting. In many ways, my chronic pain is much more crippling than my Muscular Dystrophy. I’ve spoken with many people with chronic pain and they all agree: finding a balance between medicated and lucid is difficult.
Taking just the right amount of pain medication to take the edge off, while still remaining a functioning adult at work and social functions takes practice. Being aware of my medication tolerance, and ensuring that I don’t start building a tolerance
and therefore an addiction is not easy. Most also agree that “alternative medicine” doesn’t work – or at least not as well. We get sick of hearing “Have you tried acupuncture?” or “You need a massage” – no matter how good the intentions are. Breathing exercises are great, but they’re by no means a cure all.
Given the cards I’ve been dealt, I still maintain a pretty positive outlook, so days that I’m short or cranky or over emotional, it’s probably because the pain is too much. Please forgive me if I seem slow to respond or like I’m not paying attention to your words. I’m still trying to master the balance of pain management, and I can’t do it without my support system. To anyone who has had the pleasure of dealing with me on a pain day just know that I appreciate you more than you know. I think I speak on behalf of all chronic pain sufferers when I say that good friends make it all worth it in the end.