I am a person living with, dealing with and trying to survive with chronic pain. Some days are better than others but some days it is unbearable. For those that don't know the whole story, here is
I fell down in my senior year of high school, during a pep rally (1993), landing right on my butt. It hurt like hell and my mother took me to the emergency room later that evening and I remember being x-rayed and sent home with pain meds and a diagnosis of a bruised tail bone. Once that healed, I don't really remember having any pain until about 97-98, while I was working my retail job at Pearl Paint. I still recall to this day exactly what happened; I was getting dressed and ready to go to work and I bent over to pick up my red Pearl apron off the floor and that's when it happened. The excruciating, sharp, piercing pain in my back. I couldn't move. I laid on the floor, crying in pain. I called out of work, took it easy for a few days and I was back to normal. After that incident, about once a year, something would happen where I'd throw my back out, be out of commission for a few days and then be okay.
After a while, once a year turned into every six months, which then became every 3 months. The pain was getting worse and harder to deal with, so around 2004/5 I went to my doctor and begged for help. It was then that I had my first MRI done. They determined that I had one herniated disc and that was the cause of my pain. I was told to lose weight and take it easy. As we all know, losing weight is not always the easiest thing to do, so I continued on living with bouts of debilitating pain every few months. Around 2006/7 the pain was becoming again more frequent and by this time I had a new doctor, who ordered a new MRI. This new MRI showed that I now had in addition to the one herniated disc, two bulging discs (basically those 2 discs were on the way to being completely herniated). He prescribed me a new pain med (Percocet) and a muscle relaxer (Flexeril). Truth be told, I've always had a high tolerance for pain meds of any kind, so the Percocet and Flexeril honestly did nothing for my pain so I continued on just "dealing with it."
In 2008-2010, I decided I needed some extra cash so I started working part-time in the evenings, at the Lush Cosmetics counter at Macy's. Because of my history with my back, the girls did their best to not have me do to much lifting and things, but honestly there were times I had no choice but heavy boxes and do way more bending down than I should have. I had my moments of pain but because I spent most of my time on my feet, I was fine. I was fine until one night, while doing the evenings cleaning of our space, I fell down. I usually closed, because I worked nights. As part of closing procedures, we had to sweep, mop and clean, to have our space ready for the next morning. Because we were inside of a Macy's and not a stand-alone location, we had shiny, smooth, white tile floors, like most Macy's, instead of Lush's standard wood floors. At the time when I fell, I was more concerned with "Oh god did anyone just see me fall?!" than to worry about myself and my back. I continued cleaning up best I could and went home for the evening. Looking back now, I should have kept myself on the floor and called for a manager and reported it. I 100% regret not ever reporting the issue to either Lush or Macy's. Not reporting it was a huge mistake but there's not much I can do about that now.
Ever since that fall that night at Lush, I have had pain every single day of my life. EVERY DAY. After a couple of months of daily pain, I just couldn't deal with the pain and the Percocet and Flexeril were doing nothing, I went back to my doctor who prescribed me a higher dose of Percocet and a new prescription for Oxycontin. Again, with my high tolerance for pain meds, neither medication, no matter how much I took of it, did nothing for my back. I finally resigned myself to the fact that I was now a daily chronic pain sufferer and that's the way I was going to have to live my life.
I sometimes don't think people realize what I mean when I say that I live with pain every day. For me, chronic daily pain means that it hurts me to bend over at the sink every morning to wash my face and brush my teeth. It means that I can no longer shave my legs anymore. It means that my weekly self-done pedicures are now out of the question. It means that for me to bend over and clean the litter box, it will and does hurt. It means that simple every day tasks like doing laundry mean being in pain. It means that every time I sneeze, the pain in my back brings tears to my eyes. It means that I can't even play with my puppy how I want, because it hurts. It even means that my sex life is completely different and has completely changed. It hurts my back to sit at my desk for 8 hours a day at work, even though I have special back supports for my chair. It hurts when I drive. It hurts when I sit down on the toilet. I can't even wear normal shoes anymore. My favorite ballet flats of the past are not an option anymore. I used to live in ballet flats of all patterns, colors and styles. These days I am confined to wearing supportive back shoes, that look like either nurse shoes or old lady orthopedic shoes. Basically there is never a time where it doesn't hurt and I'm constantly paranoid of something, anything, hurting my back even more.
This past March, I had an extremely scary, awful and painful experience. It was a normal work day for me, normal in that I had my usual daily pains. I was standing near my boss's desk, showing something to my coworker, not bending over, not doing anything out of the ordinary and all of the sudden I felt the worst pain of my life. I felt like my legs couldn't support me, I wanted to fall over, I wanted to die. My coworker had me sit down (which was unbelievably painful) and we both tried to figure out what to do. I was in so much pain I couldn't breath. I was crying. She tried to call my sister (we work at the same university) to see if my sister could help, but my sister wasn't in her office. We called my boyfriend and through my tears, I explained to him that I could NOT move, was in unbearable pain and he needed to come get me. The minutes seemed like hours and finally he showed up. The pain wasn't any better at this point and I was 100% unable to walk. My poor boyfriend pushed me in the office chair all the way to my car, because there was no other way to get me out of the office. We made it to my car and getting from the chair to my car was almost impossible but we did it. I made it home, he managed to get me to bed but at this point, I still could not move. Every time I moved, the pain was so bad I felt as if my back was breaking. I felt like I wanted to die.
By this point I had a back specialist I had been seeing, so I made an appointment to see her, but she couldn't see me for 2 days. That night and next day was one of the worst of my life. I literally could not move. I couldn't get out of bed to use the bathroom, I couldn't even sit up to eat or do anything. The only time my back didn't hurt was if I was laying completely flat. My boyfriend was an absolute angel during this time. He's always an amazing boyfriend but this time he went above and beyond. He had to help me with the bathroom. He had to help me get bathe and get dressed. He did everything for me. I never would have been able to make it through that time without him. So after a day and a half of dying from pain, it was time for my appointment. My dad came to help us get to the appointment, because we knew that just getting me from the bed to the car was going to be a mission. My dad borrowed a wheelchair and while it was painful and excruciating, the two of them got me out of the bed, out of the house and into the car. As soon as we got to my appointment with my back specialist, she saw how much pain I was in and ordered me to immediately go the emergency room- which happens to be adjacent to her office. My dad and boyfriend wheeled me to the ER and we waited to see someone. We made it into see a doctor fairly quickly and they immediately ordered me into an observation room for pain meds and an MRI. They gave me Dilaudid which is 6 times stronger than Morphine and even this did nothing for the pain!! This new MRI showed 2 herniated discs with 2 more almost herniated as well. I was then scheduled the next day to have a procedure of getting 2 epidural shots into my discs, to alleviate swelling-- which the swelling is the reason for all the pain. These are unlike epidurals that pregnant women get for pain- this isn't for pain, merely for swelling. Needless to say, the Dilaudid did nothing for my pain that entire night and my poor boyfriend slept in a chair that night at the hospital to keep my company and take care of me. The next day when it came time for my shots, I was terrified, but they gave me Xanax to calm me down. I had my two shots and about 4 hours later I was discharged from the hospital. Within about 48 hours the shots had taken effect and I could finally move around (still with some pain) but at least was able to function, use the bathroom, etc.
After the hospital experience, I went back to see my pain specialist and she ordered me to start physical therapy and to also start seeing a pain management specialist. I went to physical therapy for 3 months, 3 times a week-which was extremely helpful. I learned a lot of great ways to stretch my back and keep my spine flexible. I also saw a pain specialist every 3 weeks for about 3 months, for more epidural shots into my spine. It's been about 6 months since all this has happened and while I am 100% better than I was that awful time in March, I am still unfortunately not pain-free. My doctors have told me that my herniated discs have now turned into "degenerative disc disease" of which there is no cure and my spine is just going to keep getting worse. Recently I've also started getting pain in my hips and knees and my doctor says that I've most likely developed degenerative joint disease (almost like arthritis) as a result of all my spinal issues. My doctor told me that I literally have the spine and joints of an 80 year old. I am 34 years old and have to deal with health issues of a person more than twice my age. Because there is no cure for this, the best thing I can do is lose weight and continue doing my spinal stretches and keep myself active and do light exercising. I had a hip x-ray last month, of which I get the results in 2 weeks, to determine if there is another cause for all my hip pain.
I've been battling my weight issues literally my entire life and now I have to add this to the mix. I sometimes don't know how much more I can take. Every day it all hurts. I will never take anything for granted, no matter how insignificant it may seem. I dream of a day where I can sneeze and not have it hurt. I dream for a day where I can get on the floor and play with my puppy and not worry about throwing out my back. I dream of a day where I can sleep on my side or my stomach again, without it hurting (I have to sleep flat on my back now). I dream of a day where I can shave my legs again without being paranoid. I dream of a day where I can finally feel NO pain. I dream of a day where I can feel normal.
(I apologize for the length of this post! I got carried away! I woke up with a lot of pain this morning and felt the need to write about it!)