This is the task, it is pretty simple and quick now days. I want to get in my car and run a quick errand. I grab my purse, slip into my sandals, grab my sunglass and I’m off! This small task once consumed a gargantuan amount of time and effort. For over a decade seemingly simple tasks were mind boggling difficult. I felt pain with every single movement. I lived on pain killers that often did nothing to ease the pain, but at least it was something. Nothing was easy. Every movement had to be calculate and I felt like I was pushing myself harder and harder as the years unfolded. This is a day in the life of someone living with chronic pain.
As I ease myself up and off of the couch, I wince as my right elbow shoots a sharp pain at this tiniest of movements. But as I adjust slightly to the left, my neck and spine scream at the weight of my head. My mental attention goes straight towards my knees and shoots past the ankles. The pain pools in both heals. I get up slower than my 89 year old Grandma. In fact as a 35 year old I can only do a fraction of what she does. I stretch up slowly to straighten my body. And must instantly again adjust my weight from heal to heal. The pressure within my heals is immense. Shoes are excruciating so I opt for sandals as often as possible. As I stand I want to go slowly to ease the pain, but hastily to stop the pain from building up within my feet. I take a deep breath. And then another. Willing myself to walk. I try to visualize sitting in the car, at rest. Ok, just a few slow steps and I could relieve my feet from their constant agony. I ask one of my kids to grab my purse and set it in the car. I also need their help to get shoes on the two little ones. In my hand I hold a water bottle. Is it full? It has to be full because I will need to take some form of medication in the next 15 minutes. Then again with lunch. Do I have all my meds with me, I wonder out loud? I need to check my purse. Darn, my purse is in the car already. “Go get my purse from the car” I say sounding out of breath. I’m always out of breath. Even when laying perfectly still I seem unable to catch my breath. I look through my purse and the many bottles of prescriptions all designed to keep a multitude of symptoms at bay long enough to function at a very minimal level. Ok, yes, yes, yes, almost out. I make a mental note to refill my medications on the drive. I holler up the stairs to the kids. Hoping that when they come down they look somewhat decent. Honestly it doesn’t really matter because unless they small terrible or aren’t fully dressed, I couldn’t do anything about it. I was past the point of helping them, I could only instruct. I needed the help of everyone around me. I could no longer “DO.” I walk towards the car. The rocks along the driveway are my constant nemesis. I can feel the sharp points of each rock through the soul of my sandals. The pain pooling from above and the rocks poking from below. The rocks are the worst because I over compensate for the uneven surface and continually cause my ankle to ache or twist. The pain never makes sense. I’m never free from the pain. As I reach for the door handle, I must first rest my free hand on the frame of the car. Another deep breath. The hand that holds my purse is already aching from the weight and strain of carrying the purse and the full water bottle. I lower myself into the drivers seat. I’m rubbing my left shoulder unconsciously with my right hand as I take another deep breath and a sigh of relief. One more breath as I mentally coax my hand towards the ignition. The bones in my arm feel hollow and frail. They cry out with every vibration. Driving had become a torturous ritual. My neck hurts so badly that I rarely turn to look over my shoulder. Instead I have kids peering out the windows, trusting them to be my eyes. I say a silent prayer that no one is in my GIGANTIC blind spots. The seat belt is rubbing mercilessly against my collar bone. I often rode with the shoulder strap behind my back. The buckle on my jeans quickly begins hurting my belly button. The heat from within the car makes my quads start to twitch. Well I used to have quads. Technically they are still visible. But they contain no strength. In fact they feel like warm jello that sat out in the sun too long. Shaky and wobbly. It was so confusing. How could legs that looked so strong, not support the weight of ones own body? I make my way through town resting the weight of my arms at each stoplight. My neck can’t turn so I get into the turn lanes way too soon. I’m five minutes into a ten minute drive. Where is my water? I need to take pills before going into the store if I have any hope of completing this shopping trip. I’m certainly not shopping for clothing, I haven’t done that in years. The drive is one thing. But having the stamina to pick something out, then try stuff on and then drive home? That is craziness, I can’t do that many things back to back like that. I have to stop and breath or stop and put my feet up so that the pain eases up enough to get back in the car. I massage my knees as I drive. My sunglasses start to ache. They always ache but I have to keep my eyes covered. Is it possible to be allergic to the sun? Why am I so sensitive to everything? Maybe it is all in my head? These levels of pain that I have come to live with are so far beyond my worse nightmare, I don’t know how much longer I can endure this agony. This is life with chronic pain. ~Sarah Schlichte Sanchez
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