I have two doctor appointments this week. I saw my internist yesterday, and he put me on Lexapro (I’ve lost count of how many drugs I’m taking). Today, I see my latest pain specialist who, like my previous pain specialists, has labored in vain (chronic pain is notoriously hard to treat) and whose staff won’t follow through with his orders for meds and other supplies or even return phone calls (I finally did get a call from his office--two minutes ago someone phoned to cancel my appointment).
I’ve felt as fragile lately as I can remember. I’m a bit like Moritz Thomsen, a WWII bomber crewman who wrote that people generally believed that the more missions he survived, the stronger he became, but that the opposite was true, that every mission left him weaker and more frightened. My ability to survive is directly connected to my belief that I will someday get better, and this faith has become increasingly hard to maintain, hence the Lexapro. I’ve resisted anti-depressants for years, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
People who have not suffered with chronic pain have no idea what it is like, and, as with acute pain, I have no thought that I would either if I were suddenly restored to normalcy. But I’m not normal, and I spend every waking hour of every day hurting. The emotional cost has been high, and the following represents my effort to convey that cost. After years of suffering, chronic pain...
Makes me unable to remember things.
Causes me to question my judgments and perceptions.
Makes me feel so confused that I need Peggy to tell me what’s real.
Causes people to lose confidence in what I say because I am so often in error.
Leaves me exhausted if I get out of bed, but won’t let me sleep if I stay in bed.
Makes it necessary to take numerous pills, sleep in the perfect bed, and use a CPAP every moment I’m in bed because the pills make my severe sleep apnea dangerous to the point of being potentially fatal.
Makes me regard myself as a weakling because I’ve no doubt that a lot of people do a lot better in the face of a lot worse.
Causes people to treat me as an invalid who must be watched and protected.
Injects stress into my relationship with Peggy because small things can instantly send me over the edge.
Makes me isolated, and being isolated makes me more dependent upon Peggy.
Makes me think that I have little to give, and that the day might come when Peggy will be better off without me.
Would make me even more impatient, irritable, and hateful without Peggy to give me balance and perspective.
Makes every action seem hard, and causes me to feel that I can never do enough and I can never do it well enough.
Makes me cynical and distant because I have learned that most relationships end when hard times begin.
Makes me mourn for the person I used to be and even to wonder what that person was like.
Causes me to recoil from pity because I can’t separate pity from condescension. I would prefer that people believe I’m strong even when I’m unable to believe it of myself.
Makes me feel like I’m having a bad drug trip even when I haven’t taken any drugs.
Makes me guarded, watchful, fearful, afraid to ride my bicycle, afraid to take a walk, afraid my car will break down, afraid my house will burn down, and afraid an earthquake might hit, because I know I wouldn’t have the strength to cope.
Makes me fearful of losing my mind.
Makes me wonder at times if I’ve already lost my mind.
Causes me think that if I were smart and strong, I would find a way to escape the pain, or at least it wouldn’t bother me so much.
Makes me feel as if other people are together somewhere out there, and I am alone in here.
Makes me feel desperate enough to want to believe things about religion that I know aren’t true. I interpret this to mean that I lack integrity, and the fact that no church would want me anyway leaves me enraged by what I see as their hypocrisy.
Makes me rehearse suicide daily because I want to be ready when life becomes so hard that I can no longer bear it.
Has driven away most of those who once read my blog because they got tired of sad posts.
Makes it impossible for me to relax my muscles for more than a few moments.
Makes it impossible to plan events because I can never trust that I will feel good enough to carry through.
Makes the universe seem uncaring if not malevolent.
Forces me to evaluate every new physical activity in order to decide whether I should risk it.
Makes me hate that intrusive question that is asked by every acquaintance and every store clerk without the least desire on their part to hear the answer or on mine to give it: “How are you?”
Makes me fearful that one day I’ll explode.
Makes me wonder what it would look like to explode.
Makes me certain that I’m failing at life at a profound level.
Makes it harder to bear life’s hurts because it’s all I can do to cope when everything is going well.
Makes me too tired to work, travel, meet people, or attend events.
Has taken away whatever gifts or intelligence that I might have once offered the world.
Makes me feel dead while alive.
Makes me want to run from people because I don’t feel like a normal person who says and does normal things.
Makes me resentful of people who feel good and have the energy to be a part of life.
Makes me scared that the pain will keep getting worse and that new kinds of pain will be added to it.
Makes me almost phobic that I might have to have more surgeries, and that they will leave me in even more pain for a year or more.
Makes me want to die prematurely.
Makes me scared that I will die prematurely.
Makes me wonder why the pain is a lot worse at some times than other times.
Makes me wonder if at least some of my pain isn’t imaginary.
Makes me feel alone because other people don’t know what it’s like and few really care.
Has taught me that pain specialists have little to offer, and they’re damned slow to offer that.
Teaches me that the only way I can get narcotics is to be very careful about what I say and do.
Leaves me fearful that if anything happens to my internist, I won’t be able to get narcotics.
Causes me to switch back and forth from near normalcy to near suicidal despair and hysteria.