Webster defines chronic as being always present or occurring again and again. To me chronic is defined as a relentless, debilitating, endless, and invisible thief. Because to me, chronic is always followed by pain.
Pain is neither good nor bad. It is simply the body’s alarm system to trigger a responsive action. If you have a smoke alarm go off in your house it prompts you to investigate. Either it’s a change battery alarm or a genuine fire, both of which cause an action on your part. The body is the same way. You receive a signal that your foot is in pain which prompts you to investigate. Upon investigation you discover a rock is on your foot, you remove the rock and eventually the pain subsides.
What happens if you ignore the signal? The localized pain eventually becomes a generalized pain spreading to not just your foot but your leg. Which may cause you to limp which has an adverse affect on your lower back…Long story short you’re now experiencing the difference between pain and suffering. (Side tangent…this is true of emotional pain as well….Not dealing with emotional pain leads to long term suffering. )
The problem with chronic pain is there’s no solution…Either your brain is making up the rock causing a pain you can never get rid of or the rock keeps falling on your foot day after day no matter where you stand…Regardless of the actions you take you are left with the same battle tomorrow as you had today. It is relentless. Sure, there might be moments of relief or as I call them “good days” But good days are just an illusion. A mocking tyrant really…you live for good days. Long for them…hope for them…But are they really good days? They give off a false reality that your body is more capable than it really is…so on that “good day” you do all the things you’ve been putting off. You play with the kids, mow the lawn, clean the house, take a trip…..only to wake up the next day with your body screaming in protest with renewed vigor.
Chronic pain is invisible. Most of the time no one can see your pain…or the cause of it, creating the perception that maybe it’s not really there? or you’re over reacting? whining? looking for attention? lazy? entitled? Weak? And the “good days” only seem to validate those accusations further…It does not matter if the accusations are silent ones….eyes of judgement are easily felt…and even in a room filled with empathy your own mind will play tricks on itself calling into judgement your own pain. Is it really an 8 today? Sure it feels bad, but you could push through and do the dishes…suck it up! No one’s gonna do it for you. Everyone has problems, its life….Get over it. Stop complaining. No one is gonna believe you anyway….And so you flip flop between the dangerous extremes of giving yourself over to the pain or pretending it’s not there…
Chronic pain steals from you. It steals your life. Your joy. Your independence. It steals your dreams and plans for the future. It robs you of being able to fully be in the moment and enjoy what life has. You can’t get drawn into the moment when your kid is about to score that amazing goal in their soccer play offs because you are distracted by the harshness of the bleachers or ache in your joints from the weather changes. Spontaneity is impossible…every moment has to be planned out…Will there be a place to sit and rest? Will there be an opportunity to stand and stretch? Do I have enough meds with me? Will I have access to food for the meds that can’t be taken on an empty stomach? What is the temperature?…so many questions and variables…its often easier to just watch everyone else do things rather than joining in…
So here I sit on day 3 of what I call a “flare up” of bad days…My elbows and hands hurt so bad I can barely type. It hurts to sit, hurts to lay, hurts to do anything really. Meds can dull the pain, but nothing really takes it away. Muscle weakness makes “sucking it up and pushing through” nearly impossible. These are the days where I find myself hating this invisible thief that has stolen my life. I hope for healing, believe in miracles, but still struggle for the faith to live out each day. I don’t know why God allows such things to exist in the lives of his children…I don’t know why he hasn’t answered my prayers for healing yet…I have way more questions than I have answers…but like the Psalmist David I will lament and bring my pleas and questions before the Lord but at the end of the day I will choose to stand in the truth regardless of what my physical reality entails.
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
2 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.[b]
3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the one Israel praises.[c]
4 In you our ancestors put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.
5 To you they cried out and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted within me.
15 My mouth[d] is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.……
19 But you, Lord, do not be far from me.
You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
20 Deliver me from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dogs.
21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
save me from the horns of the wild oxen.
22 I will declare your name to my people;
in the assembly I will praise you.
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help…….