Monsters Living Among Us and Feeding on Our Pain.

*Sits down at the campfire, with flashlight in hand*

Are you ready for the scariest monster story you’ve ever heard?

Over the course of thousands of years, an evil has been growing in our world. It invades people’s bodies, it feeds on their pain and fear. It spreads throughout the body, forcing constant agony on the host. That is how it breathes, that’s the energy it feeds on. So the person slowly declines and suffers an unseen struggle. Others do not (and often cannot) believe them. For many years they were accused of being monsters themselves. They were cast out as demons, or tried as witches. All while the monster inside them feasted on their misery. In later years people assumed it was something that individual could eradicate with herbs and special foods. When in fact, the only relief came when the pain subsided. Sometimes they could reach out to others and find help, but not everyone believed the pain was real. In many cases the monster was so strong that someone infected just couldn’t battle it anymore and took their own life to stop the pain. Even still, people without the monsters didn’t believe. They looked at those in pain and saw only a person, not the struggle inside. These monsters cannot be killed, but they can be quieted. Their food supply can be cut off, by finding people that believe the pain is real and are willing to help them the way they need to be helped.

The scariest part of the story is that these monsters exist, and they occupy millions of people all over the world. They come in the form of auto-immune disease, chronic pain, genetic disorders, and so much more.

We fight every day against the monsters! All we want is to be heard, and to have people believe our pain is real. We want research on pain medication that will once and for all HELP people in pain. We need to stop assuming everyone that takes pain meds are drug seekers. We need to recognize the impact of pain on mental health and take this in to account during treatment. We HAVE to do better! We HAVE to BE better!

We can’t let the monsters win.

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Sometimes the Pain is Just Too Much

So, it’s been a few weeks since my last blog post and I apologize for that. I have had a lot going on in my personal life, but more than that, I have been suffering. I’ve tried to do too much and my body is reminding me why that’s a bad idea. I’m tired. I get a lot of rest, but I’m physically, emotionally, and spiritually tired.

This week is my husband’s 40th birthday, and I wanted to make it special. We don’t celebrate our birthday’s. We have kids… they get parties, not us! But for his 40th, I wanted it to be different. So I set up a very small surprise party, just close family and a fun theme (Lord of the Rings, “Over the UnderHill”). I thought by keeping it small and not going crazy with decorations, I wouldn’t be over-doing it. I was wrong. I’ve spent the last few days practically bed-ridden. It was a fun party and he was surprised, but I have a feeling my days of party planning are over. Which is tough for me, as I LOVE to plan parties! Things may be different once I get my electric wheelchair, but I just don’t know yet.

I also had my 20 year high school reunion a couple weeks ago. It was quite fun and I’m glad I went, but (once again) I over-did it. I took a manual wheelchair (as an electric one was too expensive to rent) and my arms were killing me by the end of the night. Also, the back of my legs hurt horribly! How do people sit in those things without thick cushions? Now I know better! Add to that travel time in the car and sleeping (well, attempting to sleep) on an unfamiliar bed, it was another several days before I “recovered” from that trip.

I’ve started several blog posts within the last few weeks, but nothing has felt “right”. I’m not sure why. I wish I did! As many of my followers know, pain is so much more than just physical distress. These past few weeks, I feel like my pain has engulfed me. I hate that feeling. I’m supposed to be the one helping people through their pain, not hiding my head in the sand whenever I struggle with it myself. But the reality is that I have chronic pain, I’m going to have days and weeks like this. I know that! I also know that I cannot let it drag me down.

So, for all of you out there saying to yourself “No one could possibly be feeling this way!” I hear you! I am there with you! You are not alone!

I’m not going to say the cliche answer of “Just think positively and don’t let the pain win.” That isn’t helpful, I know that. It may be a true statement, but it’s not what we need to hear. We need to hear that people are there for us THROUGH the pain! We need to know that our support system believes our pain is as bad as we say it is. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way.

My hope and prayer for you today is that everyone reading this has someone in your life that understands your pain, and supports you unconditionally. Never take that for granted. (((gentle hugs)))

What Does “Pain Awareness” Mean?

September is Pain Awareness Month. For some people it’s an opportunity to share images that represent their particular chronic illness, for others it’s a chance to research methods of pain relief and their effectiveness, but for most it seems like just another awareness campaign that makes no sense. Well, here’s a little insight as to why it is so very important!

Everyone has been in pain… everyone. Ok, there are some people in this world that have a disorder where they literally cannot feel physical pain, but it is actually very dangerous and they tend to hurt themselves quite a bit (like burning their hand on a hot stove) because they don’t feel the pain. But even they have felt emotional pain. All pain is relevant! Yes, National Pain Month is specifically for physical pain, Mental Health Month is in May, but that is not my point. Stick with me.

Pain goes so much deeper than just the nerves in our skin. When someone deals with chronic pain (and I mean 24/7, all day-every day), it is exhausting. It drains every bit of energy out of a person, and it often breaks down the barrier between the physical and mental pain receptors. This is why the majority of people that have chronic illness also deal with some form of depression and/or anxiety. The longer we deal with pain, the worse it can get. More people with chronic and invisible illness die from suicide than any other complication of their disease.

Pain awareness is more than just saying “Hey look, I’m in pain and you should be aware of that!” It’s saying “Pain is a serious condition and it needs considerably more research, we need awareness/funds to make this happen. My life is hard and I need people to know how hard it is, so that we can keep other people from dealing with the same issues I have.”

That is what pain awareness is, that is what it should mean. Let’s spread the word and make people sick of how much we talk about it! Let’s make sure people know that pain is not something to keep hidden. If you’re suffering and feel like you can’t talk about your pain because you’ll just be branded a “complainer”, now is your time to speak out! Make people aware of the fact that chronic pain is a serious condition that can impact every part of your life. No one should have to go through that alone.

So for September (and beyond), spread awareness and share how pain has affected your everyday life. Make the invisible, visible.

Digging up the Past

Thanks to Facebook, I was reminded today that it’s been six years now since I was released from a ten day stay in the hospital. Now that might not seem like a big deal for someone with as many conditions as I have, but this particular hospital stay was life changing (and not at the same time). I haven’t talked about it much, but maybe it’s time I did.

In other blog posts I’ve mentioned my close call with suicide, but just in case this is your first time reading my posts, I’ll give you the cliff-notes version. I had it all planned out, car accident (faulty brakes) and no one else hurt, but in the end I couldn’t go through with it. My kids were too important to me, I couldn’t put them through that. But that’s not why I was in the hospital. I went to an out-patient rehab facility for that one. That was over a year before my ten day hospital stay.

Six years ago (and a few months) I started seeing a new pain management doctor. He was unimpressed with how ineffective my treatment had been up to that point, especially with regards to my medications. Specifically after my “attempted” suicide (personally I don’t consider it attempted, but that’s what they kept calling it).  He wanted to completely redo my meds, but that would require drastic measures. I had become so dependent on my prescriptions, I would have to be hospitalized and weened off of them. Just weening off one at a time would take three months per med, WAY too long! But there was a catch… I had been suicidal. Legally, they had to put me on suicide watch. So, I went to the “Psych Ward” to detox from prescription medications.

Now I am not a prude, but I am also a “good girl”. I have never smoked (gross, seriously), drank alcohol (see my post “The Drinking Game”), or done any illegal drugs of any kind (I’m not opposed to medical marijuana, it’s just not legal here yet). So, this felt like an incredible low in my life! I was on 24 hour watch. I had to sleep with the door open, an aid had to accompany me when I took a shower (really), and that was just the humiliating stuff. The worst part was the actual detoxing!

There was a reason I was there, which I quickly began to understand. After only a day of reducing my meds, I had a constant migraine. After a few days, I was extremely sick. It was was nice to have other people there that were going through very similar problems. We had group therapy sessions, but I was often in too much pain to really concentrate. It was still nice though. Eventually I was completely off all my old medications, and I was miserable. My husband came to see me as often as he could, and even brought the kids when I felt strong enough. I’m a very good faker, I wanted to see my kids as much as possible. It made a huge difference!

After about a week, they started introducing the new medications he was putting me on and life began to get back to “normal”. My numbers were looking good and they decided I could be released in a few days if I kept doing so well. I had even made a few friends, I was getting used to sleeping in a hospital bed (to the point I’ve had trouble sleeping in a regular bed since then and had to get an adjustable bed, weird I know), and my spirits were climbing. Things that were not getting better… my headache, my appetite, and my general need for privacy.

I have never spent so much time with strangers in my life! I do not recommend it. I may seem like an outgoing person, but I’m actually quite shy (until you get to know me). I’m the kind of person that will end up being your best friend for life, but you’re going to have to be the one to start the conversation… because I’m not going to do it. I am a social armadillo, I see people and roll up into my shell like “don’t mind me, I’m just a rock”. But once you get to know me, I swear I’m a nice person (under my shell). So to be thrown into a situation where I have to interact with that many people, for ten whole days was exhausting! The group therapy sessions weren’t so bad, because I could just sit quietly unless I had something to say. But unless I wanted to just sit in my room all day and stare at a wall, I would have to go out into the common room and interact with people. Ugh. It was intentional, I know that, but I was very happy to be going home!

I finally got the okay to go home and everything really hit me. What if I have a relapse? What if these new meds turn on me and stop working? What if this? What if that? I started having a panic attack, but I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. the last thing I wanted was to stay there another day! This had happened to me before, several times. I finally got myself calmed down. I knew that there was no point in playing the “what if” game, and the best medicine for me right now was holding my kids. So, I went home, gratefully.

Less than a year later, my insurance changed and one of the medications that I was put on (that was actually really helping control my pain) was no longer covered. I had to immediately stop taking it. I did everything I could to get even enough to ween off of it, but there was nothing I could do. If I had known, I would have been weening down off of it for a month, but instead I had to go “cold turkey” I got extremely ill. I also lost the doctor that helped me in the insurance change. So all the progress I made in the hospital went down the drain within a year. It was detrimental to my health. So, I look back at my time in the hospital with mixed feelings. There were some very positive moments, and some that I wish I could forget. There are some medications that I started taking there that I’m still on that are still helping me, so that’s good. But all-in-all, because of a change in insurance, I’m back where I started.

A Pain in the Art

If you’ve ever wondered why so many people with chronic pain (or depression, anxiety, auto-immune disease, etc.) have tattoos… you’re not alone. It tends to be a trend among the “invisible illness community” to subject ourselves to tattooing, and (whether we realize it or not) there is a reason.

Every day, those of us with constant pain deal with multiple challenges. From just getting out of bed, to taking a shower, and so on. Nothing is easy… nothing! So, why subject ourselves to the pain of tattoos? Good question. There are actually a lot of answers, I’ll go over just a few that I have found to be true.

To remind myself why I’m still here.
– I have dealt with clinical depression for as long as I can remember, but it all came to a head several years ago when I planned out my suicide. I didn’t go through with it (obviously), but the nagging thoughts are always there. When the semicolon tattoos became popular for suicide awareness, I knew it was going to be an important one for me to have.

They are an outward expression of my inward feelings.
– Very often we suppress our feelings, and it can be extremely difficult to explain just what we’re going through. For some people it could be a simple flower, that represents beauty. For others, it’s an animal or even cartoon character. Whatever the image used for the tattoo, you can bet that it has a deep personal meaning for that person.

Because the pain of getting one is nothing compared to my everyday pain.
– A lot of people just cannot comprehend this, but it it is true. Obviously some tattoos hurt more than others, and it isn’t a bed of roses or anything. But if you get an artist that knows what they’re doing (especially for those of us with EDS and super thin skin), it can be much less painful. Plus, this is literally art that lives on the body. Personally, I am willing to take on a little bit of extra pain for that.

I am no longer worried about what other people think.
– For so many years I struggled with the idea of tattoos because I wanted to be an actor. I know it sounds far-fetched, but I had been acting since childhood. I’ve done local commercials and full-figured modeling, I love theatre and miss being on the stage! So, getting (visible) tattoos was a huge no-no for me for many years. When I finally realized it wasn’t in the cards for me, the first thing I did was get a wrist tattoo (that was specifically designed to remind me not to let my invisible illness hurt me any more than it already has). I also worked for a company for several years where no visible tattoos were allowed, but I had just recently had to leave that job because of my illness. So, the timing was perfect.

There are plenty more reasons why people in pain get body modifications, but these are mine. I plan on getting several more over the next few years, as long as I can afford them!

(If you have any other reasons how your tattoos have helped you, or why you think they are good for people with chronic pain… please tell us in the comments. Thanks!)