The effect of constant pain is hard to explain to those that have never experienced it without hope of it ever stopping. How I envy myself four years ago, when it comes to pain, ignorance is bliss.
I often describe my condition as having a cramp in the foot while driving because a lot of people know that feeling, the difference with my cramp is that it never goes away, it just varies in intensity. Though not very accurate in term of the type of pain, it is very close to the reality of a chronic pain sufferer in every other way.
What does it feel like?
For those of you with partners, family or friend who are chronic pain sufferers there are a few ways you can experience what we live through all the time, though I would not recommend anyone to try any of these. Why would anyone inflict pain on themselves? But if anyone wants to experience our pain in a safe, controlled way, try either of these techniques.
- Fill a bucket with ice add water and plunge your arm or foot in it, leave your limb in it until you can’t handle it then leave it in for another 5 minutes.
- Take a laundry peg, put it on your pinky, leave it there until it is unbearable, leave it there for another 5 minutes.
I won’t hold it against you if you can’t handle the extra 5 minutes and any chronic pain sufferer will understand. Those 5 minutes of torture, those 5 minutes where you could do nothing but think “I need this to stop”, we live through every day, all day long.
Some of us even lose the ability to use a limb or worse, but most of us lose the ability to think straight. Imagine those of us that go to work in this state every day, or those of us taking care of their kids.
Now that you know that we often feel helpless when facing our pain, imagine the energy it takes to face the pain all day long.
Loss of energy
I’ve made no secret that I suffer from CRPS, that is the only chronic pain I know and can describe with any accuracy. I imagine that a great many chronic pain suffers will describe the effects on themselves similarly.
The first and worst effect that comes to mind is probably the lack of energy I have. Though this is not so much a lack as it is a rapid consumption of energy. Let me explain.
Imagine you are a car, every night you get filled up, and you consume your fuel during the day, on most days you have enough to finish your day. On some days, if you are sick, for example, or if it was a particularly tiring day, you get tired faster.
For a chronic pain sufferer, the situation is the same with an extra twist. Though we fill up every day with as much fuel as anyone else, our fuel is also used to pull a few overloaded trailers uphill in the rain. Pain is like that, being overloaded all the time and going uphill in the rain with no traction control. It is so bad that I often feel like I slipped back to the bottom of the hill.
The ripple effect on your emotional quotient
The simplest way to describe it is, I get tired faster because all my energy is spent at not screaming out in agony or snapping at everything.
Sometimes my energy is gone by 10:00 in the morning sometimes by 10:00 in the evening, but mostly by about 14:00 when I do not push myself and just idle the day away. Any negative emotions can become a serious problem, this is because it takes a lot of energy to maintain a semblance of normality. In other words, my emotional quotient (EQ) fluctuates radically during the day, to the point where some believe that I am mentally sick. It is nothing like that, it is just a lack of mental and physical energy.
The physical impacts
Having a pain that never let’s go creates other issues, I think that the most visible one must be the unwillingness to move. It seems to me that it is natural that we try our best to avoid pain, but how do you avoid pain when it is there all the time?
I started moving less, to the point I gained some weight. Finding the sweet spot where the is a balance of comfort versus pain is all that mattered. I am over that part of the pain cycle, mostly because no comfort brings balance anymore.
The social impacts
Because I was more irritable and susceptible to energy drains, I tend to select what I do and whom I see. I very rarely cancel any commitment but I often declined. I am lucky that a great many of my friends and all of my family understand my predicament.
The truth is that I avoid any major social gatherings, I avoid anything that could cause me to be drained or be physically hurt in any ways. My right arm is both not susceptible to pain and hypersensitive to it at the same time, I’ll probably explain how that is possible in a later post.
I think that most sufferers will nod at reading this, unaffected people will probably dismiss it as attention or petty seeking exercise.
Let me tell you, the unaffected, a secret, I don’t even want your help, most of us don’t. We don’t want your petty, or misplaced attention.
So, what do we want?
The pain to end! It is that simple.
But in the final analysis, we never give up and we never surrender!