It wasn’t until very recently that I became comfortable enough to admit I have a chronic illness. I’ve always thought my own problems pale in comparison to what other people are going through, so I needed to just sit down and shut up. But, to my very recent knowledge, guess what? My pain matters just as much as your pain does! Hm.. who would have thought?!?
So, when I was just 17 years old I was diagnosed with Degenerative Disc Disease. I had a few episodes of extreme, sudden pain that left me almost unable to walk or move that sent me to the ER, they’d give me muscle relaxers and send me home. The muscle relaxers did absolutely nothing. My Mother finally took me to a Bone & Joint specialist, where I had an MRI done and learned I had DDD in my L3, L4 and L5 discs. I started physical therapy and a daily regimen of prescription anti-inflammatory medication. I had ONE epidural done, for long term pain relief, and it was a horrible experience. I never went back.
I’ve been living with this pain for most of my life. Actually, more than half of my life now. I’m fine until…I’m not. Things are great until…they’re not. I can have a good month until it flares and then everything comes crashing down on me. The pain is so horrible and jolting, that I’ll often yelp without even realizing it. There have been times that my husband has to help hold my body up as I shuffle my feet (because I cannot life my feet during a flare) to the bathroom.
I’ve tried physical therapy, chiropractic care, epidural, cortisone injections, anti-inflammatories. Usually these things work, but it’s only ever temporary. Too much activity will 100% guarantee a flare and a few days of hell to follow. I can’t let it stop me, but it’s always in the back of my mind. Even as we walk through the Zoo as a family, the thoughts in my head are always flashing WARNING! WARNING! Tomorrow is going to be awful! It doesn’t stop me from enjoying the moment but I won’t lie and tell you that it doesn’t bother me. It is utterly depressing to know this is something that I’ll have to live with for the rest of my life, something that will ultimately get worse as I get older, something that will be completely debilitating at some point.
I’ve never let myself fully grieve the loss of “normal.” Why? Because I have been obese my entire life and I figured I did this to myself. I was the one who was overweight and that’s why my spine is in such terrible shape, so why do I have the right to be sad, mad or feel shortchanged? Just sit down and shut up, Candace. I would NEVER think these thoughts about someone whom I love. No one deserves to be in pain, whether they’re doing things to try to fix it or if they’ve given up entirely. So why did I always let those terrible, mean thoughts into my own head?
Chronic illness is such a hard, confusing thing to go through. The guilt I have for the stress it puts on my husband or my children, the guilt about the financial burden of medical care, the guilt of missing out or unable to do certain things with the family, the guilt of I Should Be Enjoying The Moment But All I’m Thinking About Is The Pain Flare To Come.
This is all to say: I’m in a flare right now. I think it started from sitting in a pretty uncomfortable chair for a few hours at a get-together last night. I barely slept last night and I’ve been in terrible pain all day. Throwing Aleve and Ibuprofen down the hatch today, trying to get through this the best I can.
Thanks for listening, Internet. ❤️