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About living with pain

I was at the rheumatologist's today, and quite enjoy seeing my nice, young doctor, who is smart and helpful (and a bit cute, actually). I was in a good mood, chatting and so forth. Fortunately, he is a good doctor, so he didn't take this to mean anything other than that I was in a good mood. At least, not once he started checking my joints and I yelped when he pressed on my feet and ankles, and then he checked my trigger points for fibromyalgia, which were all a dull roar and not too reactive until he hit the ones at the small of my back.

And it occurred to me then that something I read that my lovely cousin Stewart sent to me bears a lot of truth. I was cheerful and chatty with the girl at the desk, who is (at this office) also the one to take your blood pressure and such, and I'm sure she figured that I don't have all that much wrong with me. As opposed, say, to the woman who was literally whining at her when I came in, trying to get an appointment sooner than the next open appointment because her neck is so awful. But no, she doesn't take any pain meds - or any meds - at all, and whine whine whine. (Though I noticed she stopped both whining and moving slowly once she got put on the "we'll call you when there's an opening" list. To which I say, "whatever.")

The thing about living with chronic conditions that include pain is that pain becomes your constant companion. In the past three and half years, there hasn't been a single day that didn't include some degree of pain. Most days, it's at its baseline level and is manageable with a bit of tramadol, in addition to my usual RA meds and an anti-inflammatory. Some days, it's . . . not.

Even on the days when pain levels are elevated, though, I can sometimes be in an okay mood, and even sound cheerful or pleasant on the phone. This doesn't mean I physically feel great, just that mentally or emotionally, I'm in a good place. As a ridiculous optimist, it's where I spend most of my time, in fact - in an okay place, because I do not enjoy being miserable. (Who does?)

I guess this is just to say that mood and pain levels aren't necessarily linked, and that assuming I feel a-okay or that there's "nothing wrong with me" just because I can be pleasant is a false assumption. If I say, with a smile on my face, that I need to rest or that I cannot manage to do something, I'm telling you the truth. Don't make me (or anyone else you know dealing with pain) have to be miserable sods all the time if we're having higher than usual pain levels. (Because remember, some pain is a foregone conclusion.)

I say this because I've heard "but you seem fine!" in the past, when I've had to cry off something due to pain levels. And I get the distinct impression that people think I just don't want to do whatever it is. But I do. I really do. It's just that sometimes, I can't. And I shouldn't have to be a whiny mess like the woman in the doctor's office in order to be taken seriously.

Hopefully that wasn't too ranty. Poetry and regular programming here tomorrow.

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( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 19th, 2015 11:41 pm (UTC)
I hear you, and
I admire you more than I can say. xo
Feb. 21st, 2015 12:53 am (UTC)
Re: I hear you, and
Aww, thanks Jeannine. I admire you more than I can say, too.
Feb. 20th, 2015 12:05 am (UTC)
Well said.
Feb. 21st, 2015 12:53 am (UTC)
Thanks, Laura!
Sara Lewis Holmes
Feb. 20th, 2015 12:38 am (UTC)
Beautifully said, Kelly.
Feb. 21st, 2015 12:53 am (UTC)
Thanks, Sara!
Feb. 20th, 2015 01:23 am (UTC)
what all the previous commenters said before me.

How these words are so crystal clear. You get compliments for putting up such a good fight but when you can't, they question you so. I know this, I do.
Feb. 21st, 2015 12:54 am (UTC)
Re: Yes
I'm sorry you have reason to know this, dear friend.
Feb. 20th, 2015 03:09 am (UTC)
Yes. So much THIS.

I regularly tell people about "The Spoon Theory" that we with chronic conditions have to live by--that we only have a certain amount of energy a day and once it's gone, it's gone. We must pace ourselves.

And even though we live with constant pain, I've found that being cheery and happy is far better than being miserable. Being miserable makes the pain worse and it's a horrible cycle to get into. You can easily drown.

But you, you're swimming laps! LOL

Feb. 21st, 2015 12:55 am (UTC)
The "Spoon Theory" is the best thing ever. Although this letter to people in chronic pain, which my cousin sent my way, is pretty darned great.
Feb. 20th, 2015 01:57 pm (UTC)
Well said, Kelly. I can totally relate. I've come to accept that while people who don't live with chronic pain can be very supportive and understanding at times, they'll never fully "get it." And it takes a lot of energy to try to make them take your word for it when you cry off certain things. I'm glad you have a good doctor in your corner. ((Hugs)) to you!
Feb. 21st, 2015 12:58 am (UTC)
It's really the conflation of "good mood" with "good health/no pain" that gets me now and again. Why NOT be cheerful, if I can, even if I am sore and achy? As Tara pointed out in the previous comment, getting down about it only feeds the pain and makes it that much worse (either actually or at least that's how it feels).

Yes, I really want to volunteer to go on school visits, but no, I can't know for sure that I'll be able to deliver when the time comes. Same goes for committee events and such. Along with fatigue, it's one of the most frustrating issues you run into with chronic conditions.
Feb. 21st, 2015 02:24 pm (UTC)
Very frustrating indeed -- can't really "plan ahead," just take each day as it comes and make the most of it.
TS Davis
Feb. 20th, 2015 06:53 pm (UTC)
I have always appreciated your merry spirit, and knowing that a lot of times you were in pain and just slogging make me treasure it that much more.
Feb. 21st, 2015 12:59 am (UTC)
You are a sweetheart, Tanita. Also, you've got to fight for your right to party. Eth.
Feb. 20th, 2015 08:24 pm (UTC)
My heart goes out to you. I am in a bit of temporary pain and it turns me into a monster half the time.
Feb. 21st, 2015 12:59 am (UTC)
So sorry to hear this, Patience. Hopefully when spring comes it will find you fit as a fiddle.
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 23rd, 2015 01:54 am (UTC)
Well, yeah, but that's not what an awful lot of people do.
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )

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