Most people see me and don’t know the pain that I live with each day. I do my best to mask it, as I decided several years ago, to not broadcast to people, what I am dealing with on a daily basis. I don’t see how it benefits anybody if I let them know whether I am having a “good” day or a “bad” day, in regards to my pain levels. You see I have one of those “hidden” diseases. It began over 25 years ago, and it wasn’t until about 6 1/2 years ago, that I couldn’t take it anymore. Up until that point, if I had a bad day, I would call out of work and stay on a heating pad for a day or so. I have hereditary degenerative disk disease, that I didn’t do anything about until there was so much damage, that there were very few options left for me.
I know people don’t “see” my pain and I am thankful that they can’t feel it!! I am used to the “looks” at the grocery store when I have to ride the scooter, and when I park in a handicap spot. All people see is what they think is a healthy woman taking somebody’s handicap spot. They don’t understand that every step I take in a grocery store is painful. They don’t get that for me to go to a department store, like Kohl’s or JC Penney’s, it hurts to even carry my purse. I can remember over the summer , I had to go shopping to find my granddaughter a bathing suit, and she is at that tough age where she no longer wears a child’s size and yet the Junior size bathing suits are not appropriate for a 10 year old. As a result, trying to find her a bathing suit has been a challenge. I didn’t find what we needed in the 1st store I went to, and by the time I was halfway though the 2nd store, I had to find a spot to sit down and rest. That is what a normal trip to a department store looks like for me. If I go to do any grocery shopping, even though I use a scooter, I usually have to break it up into 2 days. I am not the type of person that goes to one store for all my groceries, so it generally takes me 2 days to get my shopping done. I can manage a trip to Krogers, and then maybe Sam’s Club. However, by the time I am at Sam’s I am riding the scooter. You would think that riding that, it would be an easier trip, but it isn’t. I can’t go by myself, because I can’t reach above my head, due to Frozen shoulders. (frozen shoulders are due to multiple neck surgeries and no movement of my arms for months on end) I have to admit though, when I do feel “froggy” , and go to the store by myself, I have become very resourceful. I rely on the kindness of strangers, to do things like, put a gallon of milk in my grocery cart, or get something from the higher shelf on the store. On days like that, I am very thankful I live in the South, where people are sweet and happy to help, most of the time.
To give you an idea of how I got in this position, 6 years ago I was told I needed to have 3 vertebrae in my neck fused together. I was told at the time , that the surgery was about a 50/50 chance of improving my pain levels and my abilities to be more active. I had no choice but to do the surgery, as I was told if I didn’t do it, I would eventually lose use of my hands and may not be able to walk. I was working full time at a job that I absolutely LOVED , and when I was told about the surgery, I was supposed to be able to return to work in 2-3 months. However, that isn’t how things worked out. Three months after my 1st surgery, my neurosurgeon told me I needed another more extensive surgery. The 2nd surgery , they fused more vertebrae in my neck and put in some hardware. They put in a titanium plate, 2 titanium rods and 6 screws. I always joke when I have to have any x-rays done, that I have a ton of hardware in there and I feel like the Tin Man in Wizard of Oz. Just oil me up and I will be good to go. I was in a hard collar brace for 6 months after that surgery, and was told at my follow up appointments, that I would never work again. I was devastated to say the least, as I was only 45 years old , and had no plans of retiring or being labeled as “disabled” for the rest of my life. I ended up with one more surgery, 6 months after the 2nd surgery. By the time they did that one, and I had gone in for all my after surgery appointments, I was told that basically they had done all they could do. I deal with nerve damage from the disks being fused together as well. My thoughts on that day was really? You have to be kidding….Now what? I was put under pain management, so that I could have some semblance of a life. I fought for about a year or more with depression, but eventually pulled out of it. I am thankful that I can walk, as a lot of people that have had the extent of work done that I have had done, are in a wheelchair.
I do want to mention, that I believe that God can work all things out for good. The good that has came out of this, was I was able to be home for my teenage daughter when she needed a mom at home. She was just hitting her horrible teen years, when all this happened, and I was no longer working all the time. I am thankful that I have been able to be at home, so that I could not only be there for her, but for my son and my oldest daughter. I have been able to help take care of my oldest daughters’ children, as she went through some really tough times the past several years. If I had still been working, I wouldn’t have been able to do that. I am able to go to my granddaughter’s school functions or softball games, or my son’s performances. Granted, I end up in bed for a day or so in extra pain when I do those things, but it is all worth it!!!
I know this has been a really long post, but I wanted to give some insight as to what it is like to live with Chronic Pain on a daily basis. The next time you see somebody get out of their car , and they have parked in a handicap spot, just remember there are diseases that affect people , that aren’t visible to you. I am not saying that there aren’t those out there who abuse that situation and take advantage of a handicap spot they shouldn’t have or don’t need, because I know there are!! I just want to point out that there are a ton of “invisible” diseases. Over the past several years I have made some good friends, that also suffer from Chronic pain and I believe it is one of the most misunderstood diseases out there.
Thanks for taking the time to read my post today! I would love to hear from you below in comments if you suffer from any number of reasons there are for Chronic Pain or have a loved one who does. There are more than I can list here, so I will just leave that up to you. Let’s share with each other, learn from each other and lift one another up!!