How I came to understand the effect of chronic pain and physical disability.
With over a dozen hours of physical exercise per week , multiple trainers , broken bones, torn ligaments and bulging discs along my athletic years, I always thought I was familiar with pain. Or at least I thought I knew.
My empathy for physically disabled people has always been limited. I thought everyone could recover from anything, as hard or as painful as it could be, given enough time and effort. I focused on the appearances, and to me, they seemed to do fine. I wasn’t paying enough attention.
Thinking about, I’m somewhat realizing the hard way what kind journey they‘re going under. Objectively, getting down this road is one way to get to know yourself, pushed outside your comfort zone.
Couple months ago, after a regular training, I injured myself. MRI showed bulging disks. I knew the drill : take it easy, drink a lot of water , rest plenty. And from there, I’d be fine and ready to go within a couple of months. Within 8 weeks, I felt better, reaching the “problem solved” box. Or at least I thought I was.
And then, it happened at physiotherapy while gaining on hip mobility, THE pain. The dangerous kind, the “you know something isn’t right” kind. I never thought that, on my way to recovery, the range of uphills and downhills could be this wide. Things are supposed to get better in time, not worse.
Anyway, I had to start from scratch again. What did I miss or do wrong? Days , weeks , months went on. I wasn’t really feeling any better, even though I had done everything as they should have been done. I sat the fuck down for months, had an all stars physical and pharmaceutical treatment. At some point, even corticoid injections. Yet, no results.
Having myself a background in medicine , I decided to take fate upon my own hands, and went discussing my case with sport-specialist physicians. Aiming to find answers and gather perspectives, it appears no one really noticed anything abnormal from the x-rays, MRI, echographs I provided.
All of them told me I could go back to my usual physical activity, and it felt like being let down once again. “Pain caused by stress”, they said. Or muscle memory. NAH, don’t you dare bullshit me. Being led up the garden path from one to another was definitely frustrating.
“And from there everything started to crumble, as I was beginning to mentally give-in.”
Afraid of a permanent-disabling injury, more potent symptoms got in. I’m talking about the moment psychosomaticism begins. And from there everything started to crumble, as I was beginning to mentally give-in. The easy to bear sciatica soon became billion-watts jolts at every step. I couldn’t sit neither walk because of the pain. Paralyzed by it, I became unable to work, aching every second of the day.
Sleep progressively left me, leaving place to questions and worry. Not to mention nocturnal pain, which kept me awake for countless nights.
Nevertheless, staying healthy is the one thing I thought I could keep going on. I’ve spent years researching nutrition, it was MY field of play. Everything went well for a while. And It finally seemed to make it on an extended period of time was another game. As a results of lacking physical activity despite physiotherapy, I ended with a 30 pound loss. Those quads, glutes, abs I’ve been always strenghening soon disappeared along my with physical condition.
The moment you realize you feel like shit, almost eaten by anorexia and having 2 or 3 hours sleeps at night, it’s too late already.
All I could manage was a few painless hours a day, provided by yoga and meditation learning apnea in my early days. Using breathing control and muscle relaxation to alleviate pain had become a pillar of my daily routine. Focusing on the freeing the tension within is one thing I do recommend you if you ever get into a mental jail-cell state of mind.
Talking about the mental perspective, if you ever wonder what chronic pain can ever do to you, here’s a hint: bitterness. Joy and well-being that used to fill me left place to anger. Casting friends away and self-isolating myself to prevent emotional outbursts, I felt ending up alone. Which is plenty of bullsh*t. Truth is, I just couldn’t hear those daily trivial complains anymore, as they didn’t seem to realize how lucky they were to be healthy and how much they had to cherish that. I couldn’t fake the laughs for so long.
I guess moral support is always hard to accept from people not knowing the path you’re walking on. Self esteem as well took a serious hit. Looking back on it, I guess I was more preoccupied by myself than the dates I had in front of me.
So that’s where I stand right now. You got Ground Zero, 50 meters of pile of shit under , and me below. Being kept in the unknown about what you suffer of sucks. I guess sooner or later I will. Getting back on top is the only priority. I try to do things step by step, one at a time.
Journey is kind of incredible in some way, even though I wasn’t expecting that. So if you feel the same, don’t beat yourself too much, stay positive.