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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Chronic pain sucks.

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Just for the record, I'll tell you that I've had to deal with chronic pain issues for much of my life. I'm telling you this because I focus on happy things on my blog and in interviews-- happy travels and happy book news and happy family and friend things.

But you know, sometimes when I read other people's blogs and  their lives appear constantly happy, it annoys me.  So I thought I'd come right out and tell you that a significant portion of the time, I am in pain.

I don't write about it because while I'm in pain, I feel too crappy to write.  And after the pain is gone, I just want to forget about it and focus on happy things.  I also don't write about it in blog posts because frankly, I wouldn't want to read a blog with updates about someone's chronic pain. Maybe once or twice, but I wouldn't keep going back to a blog that brought me down with posts like:

I woke up at various points in the night in pain.  In the morning the pain was still there.  I tried exercising. Made it worse. I tried writing more of my book.  Couldn't.  I took pain meds that gave me a cascade of side effects and required more meds. Finally I gave up and laid on the couch in a pool of snot and tears and watched LOST episodes all day.

I also don't write about pain on my blog because of the responses I'd get.  I don't want anyone recommending their holistic doctor or dietary changes or herbs or whatever, because over the past couple decades, I've basically tried it all-- Western and Eastern medicine and everything in between, with varying degrees of success and failure.  I've found some things that have more-or-less worked, and I've been managing the pain with that.

I don't write about the pain because I really am not looking for sympathy.  I've pretty much accepted the aspects of the situation that I can't change, and changed the ones I can, so here I am, managing.  I think we all have horrible things to deal with in our lives, and the key, I think, is to not let them become an all-consuming part of our identity.

Mostly, my life is good and I'm grateful for that, and overall, I feel very, very fortunate.  I've been able to write a bunch of books, have a bunch of travel adventures, have a bunch of smart and fun and good-hearted friends, have a happy family.... and those are the things I want to focus on in my blog and in my life.

BUT... I also don't want to misrepresent my life-- I don't want you to assume that everything is easy and smiley and sunny all the time.  I want you to know that on any given day at any given moment, I might be taking a happy walk in the woods, I might be happily writing another chapter, I might be traveling somewhere exciting, I might be biking around our friendly neighborhood with my family, I might be partying with writer and reader friends....

OR

I might be in a doctor's waiting room, I might be squinting and grimacing at my computer trying to write despite pain, I might be making phone calls to the insurance company, I might be feeling sorry for myself in a pool of snot and tears and LOST episodes.

I feel like I should put a positive spin on this... how pain can be a lesson, blah blah blah... what doesn't kill you makes you stronger... blah blah blah... but really, it just sucks. There is no uplifting conclusion here.  It's about accepting that life comes with crap as well as beauty.

My good friend Laura Pritchett (who serves as my model for managing chronic pain with grace) wrote an insightful article about this in the spring issue of Fort Collins magazine. (You can read it here.)

My apologies if this post isn't very well-written, but honestly, I feel like crap now.  I'm going to fix myself a cup of tea and try to write another chapter, and if that doesn't work, the couch and LOST reruns await.

xo
Laura


18 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Oh Laura! You just described the last 20 years of my life. Yes, people want to feel helpful by forwarding me an article about Botox, or essential oils, or suggesting red wine might be the problem, and I just smile and say thanks. It's a little understood world inside another person's experience of pain, and frankly, no one really wants to get that close to it. The most frustrating part is all the things I have given up to pain: writing, travel, girls nights out, precious moments with my kids that my pain just won't allow me to tolerate. I have no advice for you, just a world of empathy and admiration that you continue to live every moment and endure the best you can. Much love and hope that someday docs will take this seriously.

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  3. Thanks for your empathy, Susan. Although it sucks that we both have to endure this, at least there's a sense of camaraderie and understanding. Hugs and empathy and admiration to you, too...

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  4. Thanks for your honesty. I can relate. I have traveling pain, and some stretches it's unbearable and I'm in tears. Other times, I have a normal, functioning body and I can do all kinds of athletic things. But the bad days suck. And it sucks even more when you don't know when it will end, and question if it ever will end. Writing production is down, so you get pissed. Mind is foggy so you can't trust what you just wrote anyway. People want to get together, but you'd rather just curl up and mope. And try, try, try as you may, you can't seem to figure out how to diminish it. Then one day it's gone and you don't know why. So you carry on. Manage, manage, manage and know that others feel for you.

    Does it seem like a lot of your writer friends have it? I know many writers with chronic pain. Are we empaths taking on the world's pain? Or just working on a computer that in the future people will blame for poor eyesight, interrupted brain waves and poor posture injuries?

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  5. I love your honesty. I'm pretty tired of everyone writing blogs and social networking about how great life is. It's not always great, sometimes it is, but we forget that life is sometimes sucky. It's the honesty about life, like this post, that is needed sometimes, as writers, we must be honest. Thank you.

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  6. Natasha-- I understand-- and I agree that the unpredictability of chronic pain is incredibly frustrating... makes it hard to plan things, doesn't it?

    I do know several writers who have chronic pain-- interesting observation you make.

    Sorry you have to deal with this, too...

    xo,
    Laura

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  7. Thanks for your feedback, Anonymous. It's true-- social media stuff does present a warped view of life... it's tricky, how to focus on the positive, but also be honest and real about the rough parts too.

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  8. Laura, your blog post moved me. Resonated, perhaps with my own frustrating issues with anxiety and depression. I read "Queen of Water" while my husband and I were living in Mexico. You wove such a rich tapestry in that book. Visually, lyrically. The tiniest filaments stayed with me for a long time. On your worst days, I hope you can remember the beautiful gift that you have and how deeply it blesses your readers. Thank you for sharing so candidly. I wish you much healing, comfort and peace.

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  9. I came to your blog post via Liz Garton Scanlon's sharing it on Facebook, and I'm so grateful she did. You describe perfectly what my days are like, and I'm grateful. People are surprised by my admission to chronic pain, but what are we supposed to do? Walk around all day, moaning? The bad days are bad, but we get through, and then the good days, we'd rather not think about the bad. Thanks for your beautifully-expressed honesty.

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  10. Laura, I'm sorry to hear you have to deal with this, and impressed by all you accomplish anyway. Thanks for the link to the excellent article by Laura Pritchett. As a nurse and a midwife, I've seen the multiple ways people interpret pain. I think Laura's approach has a lot to offer.

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  11. Richele,
    Thank you so much. Your comments really moved me. Wishing you comfort and peace on your own journey dealing with depression and anxiety. (Not sure if you've read Red Glass, but if you have, you might be interested to know that Sophie's anxiety issues were inspired by my own...)
    Laura

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  12. Kary H-- Sounds like you can really relate. I do think that most people beyond my closest circle of friends are/were surprised at my chronic pain.I hear you-- moaning about it all the time just isn't an option. (Only a few people have the unenviable role of hearing me cry and moan about it... mostly mom and hubby.) Here's hoping you have significantly more happy and beautiful days than bad!

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  13. Thank you, Sylvia. I agree that Laura Pritchett is very wise and well-informed regarding her approach to pain. I feel so fortunate to have her as a good friend-- she really understands and always knows what I need to hear!

    On a different note, I'm glad that you're in the medical profession-- it's so important to have truly compassionate nurses in the world!

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  14. What a moving post, I also can relate as I have chronic illness. (and not having one of my good days today..) Thanks for writing a post many of us can relate too!! xo

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  15. Marjolein,
    Thanks for your comments! I hope today is one of your good days... sending you hugs across the ocean.
    xo
    Laura

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  16. i myself really need to stop pretending everything is completely happy and perfect cause it's really not. there are some places i want to keep it that way, and others i'll let go, like twatter. but everyone puts up a front, puts on a smile. i don't think people realize how screwed up our world is - there are so many people that are depressed, anxious, stressed, anorexic, suicidal, self harm, self conscious etc, and it's mostly teens. the world doesn't realize how much pressure there is to be 'perfect', and if we have all these problems, something is seriously wrong. some people, like Demi Lovato are trying to make a change, but one person can't change the world by themselves, they need help. and that help needs to be us.

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  17. Anonymous-- Thanks so much for your comments-- they sound right on target to me. I think that the world is still trying to figure out how to use social media in a way that acknowledges the bad, hard stuff in life, too. I often think about how incredibly hard it must be for teens to try to be true to themselves despite the superficial happiness and whatnot everywhere online.

    Interestingly, last week I read the blog post of another YA author, Stephanie Perkins (who also has a book set in France). She announced that the reason for the publication delay of her next book was partly because of her depression. I really appreciated her honesty-- I think that depression and pain are issues that many authors face, but few are honest about in social media, because of the pressure to stay upbeat.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts...

    Laura

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  18. Oh, and in case you want to see Stephanie's post, here it is: http://naturalartificial.blogspot.com/2013/05/update-isla-and-happily-ever-after.html

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