You don’t look in pain

A week or so ago a Facebook buddy of mine posted a quote on  her news-feed and it resonated with me. I expect it resonated with a lot of people because many of the people I am friends with online are people I have made friends with through Chronic illness groups. The thing we all have in common and a lot of the time we are not believed when we say we are in pain every single day be it through Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Migraine, Arthritis, adhesion pain etc etc. There will be people in your own lives that you have no idea deal with pain every day all day because they have been conditioned not to speak about it or just don’t want to come across like they are looking for attention or sympathy.

This was the quote my friend posted;

I have spent some time this morning trying to locate the source of the quote so I can give an attribution to the author and unfortunately I can’t find it. I have read some quite interesting pieces of information from blog posts, medical sites and chronic pain forums I will post some links at the end of the post.

Many people with chronic pain are disbelieved , especially when there is no “evidence” of what is causing the pain or the images from scans or x-rays don’t correspond to the level of pain people are stating they are enduring. I had the same when I was suffering from terrible pains in my knees with my right knee being the worst. I was getting sharp pain under the knee caps when going up steps and suddenly out of nowhere when standing / walking.  I was taking morphine so it was accepted by both me and my gp that it must be bad whatever it was for me to be feeling it…when the x-rays came back it showed really mild arthritis. Due to it’s location I couldn’t be offered an injection into the joint. It was something I would just have to put up with. He suggested some exercises to help, which mainly consisted of doing plie’s. After I did one in front of him and my knee caps made a sounded like a shotgun being fired he helpfully suggested that I avoided those! I still get the pain along with lots of others courtesy of my friend EDS, Migraines, Arthritis, Bowel Adhesions, Spondylisthesis etc etc

It’s not just the medical profession that have difficulty accepting that someone is in pain. So many times I have been involved in conversations where people have made judgements about others saying “well it can’t be that bad they manage to do X.Y. Z.” It is even sadder when it is people within the same community who know what it is like living with a chronic health condition and the pain that comes with that. Many of us do things that we enjoy as a kind of pain relief. When my Spondylisthesis shifted a few weeks ago and left me in excruciating pain, that was waking me at night, I still crocheted, used my sewing machine and my embroidery machine. I ensured I kept to strict time limits do never sitting for more than 15 minutes without moving and ensuring I had adequate pain relief onboard. If I hadn’t have been able to distract myself through those activities I would have had no relief at all. Yet some may have been quick to judge saying ” well it can’t be that bad she is still sewing etc”. I can assure you it was. There were times I would sew with tears rolling down my face, or feeling sick because the pain was so intense I was struggling to stand.

If the pain is that bad why don’t you lie down?? Was something I was asked. Well I would love to lie down but my back would never put up with me taking to my bed for days at a time as much as I would love to. My back manages about 8-9 hours of being in bed and then it gets so painful and stiff that lying in bed becomes part of the problem, I am the same lying on the sofa. My back hates being immobile, everything seizes up. It was the biggest issue I had when I needed to do strict bed rest when my CSF leak was at it’s worst in 2016. I just couldn’t do it without being in agony but then sitting up made me feel like my head was exploding. On those days I ended up hugging the toilet bowl as the pain was making me vomit.

The quote is true people with chronic unrelenting pain do operate at levels of pain that would floor most other people. I never know what level my pain will be at from hour to hour. Today I am in a lot of pain, I have no idea why. I haven’t done anything to cause that pain. My pain is in my hands…great when you are typing, my hips, lower back, knees and ankles. I have had a hot shower, hot water bottle and taken pain relief but nothing is touching it. The pain doesn’t stop, it is at about a 6/10 for me. I will carry on with my day as normal being aware of that pain despite doing other things. For pain to actually stop me doing something it has to be an 8/10 or above. Last night I nearly didn’t go to dog training as my bowel adhesion’s started up after eating dinner. I have been having problems with my adhesion’s a lot the last few weeks. I managed to get the pain under control with Buscopan and a huge pint full of peppermint tea. I was lucky sometimes it refuses to settle and just gets worse and worse until I am on the verge of passing out. Then it just tails off as quickly as it started. 

Adhesion pain is one of the pains that will immediately stop me doing something. It feels like someone is attempting to remove my intestines through my belly button. It is a sharp pain the comes in waves. So the respite can be seconds or minutes before the next wave hits. Some days it starts as soon as I take my medication in the morning and everything I eat or drink that day will be followed by the pain. Other times I will be fine all day then in the evening I will end up screaming in pain due to it starting up out of nowhere. I can go months without experiencing this pain and yet at other times everything I eat and drink for weeks on end is an ordeal. I am in one of those phases at the moment. Yet if you were to look at my Myasthenia Kid page on Facebook or my personal news feed there would be no mention of it. Because although it really fucking hurts it is a pain I have lived with since I was about 5 years old. 

What really upsets me when I am struggling with adhesion pain is when people who should really know better say something like “are you sure it’s not trapped wind as that can be painful”…my standard reply to that is “how many people do you know have fainted from trapped wind?” or ” how many people have ended up having major surgery due to adhesion pain?” That usually shuts them up. But it is incredibly hurtful to anyone suffering pain to be so casually dismissed as having something that yes can cause pain offered up as an explanation with the implied suggestion that you are making a meal of things or are a drama queen. I do often wonder why people do that, if someone broke their leg and were in pain I wouldn’t suggest they had stubbed their toe. Just because you can’t see my pain or have never felt it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Also two people can have the same condition, it doesn’t mean their levels of pain are the same or that the condition will follow the same path. Everyone’s journey is different. Some people have a high pain tolerance and what they can endure would have others out cold. I know people in the EDS community that have endured root canal treatment without any anaesthesia because it doesn’t work on them. That has me sweating just thinking about it. I like to think I have a reasonably high pain threshold except when it comes to my mouth. I have gone through the removal of the side of my big toe nail without pain relief, I have had a lumbar puncture when my local anaesthetic has worn off and pretended it hadn’t. I have run company inductions ( when I was working ) with adhesion pain that had me crying in the toilets every time I left the room when a video was being played. I looked fine when I was doing the induction even though I felt as if I was going to faint.

I get sick and tired with the majority of peoples idea that pain somehow shows on a persons face. I have seen summing up by judges in disability cases saying that the person is showing no signs of pain or they have been seen laughing and joking so the pain can’t be that bad. Up until my pain hits a 8 you will find me cracking jokes, after that I start getting cranky and grumpy. When my mood changes with pain you know it has got bad.

We need as a society to stop judging people, stop trying to think because we have had that medical complaint that we know all about it, everyone experiences things differently. By minimising it or not believing them we take away their voice. As it is so many of us are already battling the medical profession to take our pain seriously, we don’t need to be battling friends and family as well.

Even when I am in horrendous pain he makes me smile.

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/chronic-pain-the-invisible-disability-2017042811360

http://nationalpainreport.com/future-doctors-unprepared-manage-pain-8822008.html

Consequences

I went out on Sunday with friends…. I know that sentence seems bizarre. It is something I haven’t done in 12 years. On the surface it may appear to some that to attempt such a thing must mean that I am doing better. I mean I left the house and socialised for 6 hours. What they didn’t see was the fact there were days of pacing so activity followed by rest periods. Massive amounts of ensuring I got my medications scheduled at the right time and attempting not to let my anxiety take over.

We planned going to the create and craft show back in July. As the ticket only cost £8, I was prepared to lose it if on the day I woke up and wasn’t well enough to attend. It seemed so far off in the future the 29th September that it may as well been a year away. So when I realised it was the coming weekend it set me into a panic. My biggest fear was becoming ill away from home and then ruining the day for my friends.

The anxiety leading up to this event was off the chart. I lost a few nights sleep over it. I kept catastrophizing, what if’s? The stupid thing is many of these what if’s have never happened. It was a fear of the unknown, of never having been to a Create and Craft show or knowing how busy it would be.  Surprisingly the morning of the show the anxiety had subsided and I was able to look ahead to the day. I was almost relaxed which then made me anxious.

I had more medication on me than a pharmacy to cover me for every eventuality.  I had my 4 hourly meds – pyridostigmine and pseudoephedrine to ensure that my blood pressure remained high enough for me to remain vertical and not suffer horrendous fatigue. Extra pain relief in case sitting on my scooter for all that time caused muscle spasms or just pain. Stugeron in case my vertigo decided to kick off and cause me problems. Taken at the earliest opportunity it can stop an attack in its tracks. Buscopan, in case due to nerves my bowel adhesion pain decided to pop up and make itself known. Paracetamol – to give me extra back up for my pain relief. I decanted oramorph ( liquid morphine) into a smaller bottle so I didn’t have to carry a huge one with me. Alarms were set on my phone, compression socks on, allergy lists, medication lists and medical condition lists were safely stowed in my bag. Along with a list of my doctors and next of kin. All this and I was only leaving the house for a few hours. If that all sounds like someone who is doing better let me know.

Every trick in my book was employed to ensure that I would be able to cope with this trip out ( as a one off ). Everything that could be done in advance of Sunday was done. Clothes for the day sorted by Wednesday, down to underwear and compression stockings. All clothes had to be comfortable, in layers so that I could be warm or cooler depending on how my temperature decided to behave on the day. Normally I am always cold. All medicines, allergy lists, medical info was printed out weeks in advance and kept in an envelope so on the day ( or day before ) it could just be slipped into my bag. My bag was packed on Friday and Saturday, last minute items Chilly bottles of drinks were added on Sunday morning. Nothing was left to chance. Every eventuality was planned for. Jay would be staying at home with Dembe and would be ready to come and get me should I need collecting early.

The day itself was fantastic, I managed to chat to lots of people. I met the ladies behind the scrap-busting quilt challenge from Sugar Bowl Crafts and bought half a metre of material from then, some Anna Maria Horner fabric. I chatted at length to the local branch of the Embroidery Guild and would have signed up to attend meetings had they not taken place on a Saturday. Not driving and having hubby work in retail meaning Saturdays off are like gold dust means I miss out on a lot of things. I also spent a great deal of time talking to the Quilters Guild  region 4 which is my region. I am now considering entering a quilt into the novice category of The Festival of Quilts as 2020 is the last year I would be able to enter this category. You have to have been sewing less than 3 years, I started October 7th 2017.

I could have spent an absolute fortune on fabric. There were just so many beautiful fabrics from so many different designers. I managed to pick myself up some bargains. I got some gorgeous fat quarters, some Christmas and some non Christmas.

 

I managed to pick up some good quality thread for £1 a reel. The pinky one is for me to finish a cushion cover as I didn’t have any threads that were even close to the colour of the fabric. The blue thread is for my Christmas table runners. As I tried applique on my embroidery machine last week for the first time, I absolutely loved it.

Yesterday I found out my snowmen are going to be the Brother Embroidery machine group that I belong to banner for the month. Which was a wonderful surprise.

A lot of my Christmas fabric was bought to make Snowmen and Father Christmas table runners as gifts. So I went in with a set list and didn’t deviate from my plan. It would have been incredibly easy to go mad but I have so much fabric that I need to only buy what I need, not what I want! Or I will have to make another scrap-busting quilt very soon!

By the time we had finished at the show I was getting cold and exhausted. I was in bed by 6.15pm as I could no longer hold myself upright and had already suffered a bad fall in the kitchen about a hour earlier caused by being over tired. I was asleep before 8pm and slept all the way through waking at around 6.30am. By 7am I had badly scalded myself with steam from the kettle so Monday was effectively written off as I spent the day on the sofa with my hand in a bowl of cold water.

Yesterday was pretty quiet too although I did manage to stitch out a cushion front for a friend. Only because hubby was home and I didn’t have to do anything other than look after myself. I managed to forget to take my blood pressure boosting medications so by 4pm I was wondering if I would make it to dog training. I took my medication and had two cups of coffee and that saw me through. However this morning…Wednesday all the activity has caught up with me and I feel hungover, the concentration span of a gnat and every part of my body hurts.

I knew that I wouldn’t get away with going out unscathed, I am a little surprised that it has taken over 48 hours to hit me properly. Normally it is 24 hours before I feel an outings / events full effects. But this was a huge deal and I had probably kept myself going with the adrenaline still firing and the fact Monday I couldn’t do anything and I was still limited yesterday. There are always consequences, I will always end up paying for enjoying myself. I can’t complain it is far worse not to have done anything and still wake up feeling like you have been run over by a truck. I might not look that sick but looks are very deceiving. Only people who really know me, know how I look when I am taking a nosedive. This morning I only had to catch sight of myself in the mirror to know that this was the day I would be paying for trying to be normal.

So it was a huge deal for me going out on Sunday, it wont be a regular thing as I don’t want to spend days recovering no matter how much I enjoy myself. This is now recovery day three and this is the most multisystemic one. Today my blood pressure is misbehaving, I am white as a sheet and my pain is at a higher level than the norm. I would love nothing more than to announce that my health has made such a significant improval that a trip out with friends had no consequences for me but sadly that just isn’t the case.

Massive thank you to Alison and Tracey for looking after me. Also Chris for driving us.