Living with Chronic Pain

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For the past year and a half I’ve been living with moderate to severe back pain. By definition this now means that I’m living with chronic pain, there’s no break from it, no rest , it’s just a constant part of my life. Living with chronic pain is not something that anyone chooses, in my case, it was because of an injury. We’re still not sure about the damage, I’m booked in to see another specialist and have another MRI scheduled.

I’ll say it once and I’ll say it again, it’s all about good days and bad days, as many illnesses are. On a good day, I might be able to do a light workout, walk around and the pain is just background noise. On a bad day, it’s like someone is hammering on my spine, the smallest things will hurt and climbing stairs can feel like Everest and when it’s at its worst I can’t feel much in one leg. I might have to take a crutch when I go to an event. I take my medication but it doesn’t even skim the surface, to say that it’s frustrating is an understatement.

But what’s it like to live with chronic pain? Well, it’s definitely not fun, but I’m always aware that my injury could have been much worse. I’m walking, when I was incredibly close to losing that all together. So I’m always aware of that but living with chronic pain means a lot of doctors appointments, a lot of tiring discussion, repeating yourself, physio and medication change after medication change. It’s not pretty, but for a lot of us, it’s just life.

Some people might not understand why I’m broadcasting this, why I’m letting myself possibly look weak. I don’t think that’s it though. I don’t think anyone who keeps fighting is weak and that’s what people with chronic pain do. We go to work, we live our lives the best we can, we just get on with it and that’s the simple truth of living with a chronic illness. Even when the pain is the worst it can be we carry on as best we can. That is what living with chronic pains is like.

Sunday 7 – 7 Things I’ve Learnt Since Breaking My Spine

I’ve been feeling fairly emotional in the last few weeks about today. It’s been one year since breaking my spine and I just feel kind of weird about it. I broke down in tears after a particularly bad pain day, because I’m still in all this pain a year later. I just felt so fed up but then I had a hug with Ali and he reminded me of what I’ve been saying to myself for the past 12 months. I may be in pain but I’m still here and I’m still walking. What happened to me was bad enough but it could have been a lot worse! I’ve also really grown as a person in the past year, my opinion on life has changed and I’m truly grateful. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that I’m glad it happened, it changed a lot and I didn’t have the best year BUT I am really proud of myself, how I’ve reacted and what I’ve learnt.

You can have all the ridged plans you want, but life doesn’t work that way.

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Before the accident, I had a plan of how my life would go and it would go that way. I was like I’ll graduate then and I’ll go straight to my masters, then my Phd. I’ll have a house by this time, a dog, a child, another child, I WILL HAVE CONTROL. I learnt after the accident that life can throw ANYTHING at you, there was a point where I physically couldn’t walk. Of course, I didn’t plan that, no one plans almost losing the ability to walk. It made me realise that I can’t have this idea of infinite control, so I’ve let go a little. Things will happen as they do, I only have so much control.

Stop being so hard on yourself! 

Recovery was hard, super hard. I constantly get told by my physiotherapists, pain specialists, lecturers, family, Ali that I need to stop being so hard on myself. They’d remind me all the time this wasn’t a small break, this was a huge part of my body trying to fix itself. So what if I put on weight, if I didn’t get the top grade in my class. I realised striving to be great is good but I don’t have to be perfect all the time.

The human body is a beautiful and amazing thing.

For a long time after the accident and sometimes still now I resented my body. I hated that it had broken in such a simple fall, I hated the stretch marks that had bloomed all over my thighs, I hated the fact people commented on how much weight I’d put on and I hated that I didn’t fit into any of my clothes. I had a realisation at a point that I just thought my body has been doing so much work. It’s literally been healing the main pillar in my body that hold everything together, that’s amazing.

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When you’re sick enough, you can cope with your hatred of needles/hospitals/ claustrophobia. 

I still hate needles, I will always hate needles BUT when you’re sick enough (like when I was in the hospital earlier in the year) you get on with it. I still don’t like hospitals (who does) but now it’s just another place I have to go sometimes. I won’t lie having my MRI and CT scans were pretty nerve wracking and claustrophobic but the people running them understood that. Basically you can get through a lot more than you think you can.

The gym is better than any therapy session and any religion. 

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If you’d have asked me a year ago about loving the gym I would have laughed at you, now I’m stressed when I CAN’T go. The gym is a love and an obsession and I can’t wait to get back into routine and slowly keep building my muscles and be in so much better shape than I was a year ago.

It’s ok to have days where it all feels like too much. 

You’re only human, you need these days, it’s okay!

The people who stick around are the ones that are meant to be there. 

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My relationships changed a lot after the accident, I lost a lot of people and I gained some others. More than anything I learnt that the people that are meant to be there will be. I also learnt that some people are in your life for a certain amount of time and that’s okay too. I’m a firm believer in everything happens for a reason.