Several years ago, I broke my ankle – shattered it, really – while gardening. Thinking it was simply sprained as usual, I walked on it for three days before going to see a doctor. It is never a good thing when they bring a wheelchair to the x-ray machine for you. I tell this not to boast, but to point out that I recognize true pain, because I live with chronic pain.
In the mornings, I lie there for a few minutes doing a mental check of my body, much like you use your tongue to probe your teeth for sore spots. I start with my head and base my headache on a scale of 1 to 10 – 3 is usually a pretty good start to the day. Then I check my neck, shoulder, and scapula, cracking my neck if at all possible. Next I breathe in as deeply as I can, because I also have a lung disorder, and some mornings, it is more difficult to breathe than other days. Once I determine how much lung capacity I have, I move on to my flank, where I have abdominal adhesions, and rate my pain – there is never a time when I do not hurt in my side. Finally, I scan my arms, legs, and feet.
After I perform this daily check, I roll to my side and push myself up on the side of the bed. I typically stretch my arms and legs before rising to my feet and stretching my calves and hamstrings. Then I begin the torture march to the bathroom. I have neuropathy in my feet – a fancy way to explain the burning, stinging, and oddly enough, numbness that I feel in my toes and the soles of my feet. I run myself a hot bath, checking my blood sugar and recording it, and taking the first of several doses of medicine for the day.
I carefully climb into the bath, water as hot as I can stand it, and wait for my joints and muscles to loosen up. Without this daily heat treatment, I would spend most of the day shivering and aching. I do more gentle stretches in the water, bending each of my joints as best I can and tightening and loosening the long muscles of my body. After 30 or 40 minutes, I carefully rise to my feet, step out, and begin my morning ablutions.
I have a number of disorders that contribute to my daily pain – polymyalgic rheumatica, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, cervical spondylosis. I take numerous prescriptions for these and my other diseases, including anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, and plain-old pain medications. I take about 20+ different pills in the morning and a few less in the evening. I live a life of routines I have developed to better cope with my friend, pain. These include the hot bath in the morning, the stretching, massages every other week, and the meds.
Nothing seems to relieve all the pain at once; one or two things help one or two pains for a short time.
There is a fine line between drugged and over-drugged – I have crossed that line before. In order to be truly comfortable, I must be drugged enough that I cannot stay awake; but this is no life. So I suffer a little so that I can function a lot – not as much as most people, but more than is comfortable for me. Again, I ask not for pity, but rather understanding. So many are critical of the number and types of drugs that I take -- I know that they mean the best, but they do not understand what it is like to live in this body of mine, to walk on a foot that is both numb and screaming with pain at the same time. Some think that the pain is all in my head, but I remember the broken ankle and the pain associated with that and know the truth. I hurt all the time.