I have a dream… an Olympic dream. Mine isn’t quite like others. I just want to be there to observe and to write about my experience. I just want to breathe the crisp winter air and see magic transpire on the ice and snow, hoping for a day when I can compete again.
I first laced up ice skates at age five, and my parents tell me that the look on my face told them I was hooked. I never had Olympic aspirations – I knew I didn’t have that kind of talent – but I also never lost my love for skating. I kept at it, even after college, and I’m proud to say I’m a national adult figure skating medalist. Not at the highest level, but that doesn’t matter.
Over the past few weeks since I’ve begun sharing my story of chronic pain on this blog, via its companion Twitter feed, through Facebook and just in general, I’ve learned two things: 1) I’m not alone – not by a long shot, and 2) by sharing, I’m helping others to bring out what they’re going through as well. During this short time, several friends have come to me with their own stories of pain, and four have started blogging about it.
I’m engulfed by sadness for those who toil daily with similar agonies, but I’m also overwhelmed with a positive feeling that by communicating about what we’re going through, perhaps we can help each other heal and help reduce the general stigma that surrounds people who live in pain. John F. Kennedy, one of the most revered leaders in modern history, suffered in severe chronic pain for years, yet he had to cover it up in order for the public to have confidence in his presidency. We can all gather strength from each other and our experiences.
Glancing back 16 months ago, I found a post I wrote at the Silicon Valley Moms Blog, entitled “Coping With Chronic Pain – Two Years and Counting…” Due to their posting requirements, I can’t reprint the entire thing here without permission, but you can click on it and read it there, and I’ll include some excerpts that I thought were relevant at this point to reflect upon. Keep in mind that I wrote the post because we were doing a topic day on ‘coping.’
I finally got to writing this post at the end of our topic day because – well – I spend so much time on various forms of coping, one of which is a deeply ingrained talent for keeping too busy. Actually things are much, much better for me in terms of my health and the chronic pain. (I usually don’t repeat adjectives, but really, they’re a lot better.) So I can’t complain and I’ll try not to make this sound like it, but your life changes when you suffer from severe injuries. Gradually, as you realize you may never be the person you once were, your perspective becomes altered.
I’ll admit there are a lot of sad aspects to living in chronic pain. It’s no picnic any day, regardless of how it’s viewed. But at least I have the benefit of some experience. Pain from two different sources that lasted five years qualifies, doesn’t it?
In 1996, I took my first job after graduating from college. I was excited to be working at a small company as a contract systems administrator. It was a great experience professionally. Physically, however, it was a ticking time bomb.
It’s all about toast. I really love toast. In college, my cinnamon & sugar toast became so famous that I actually was teaching friends of friends how to make it just right. (That was about the extent of my cooking skills anyway.) Toast has also become a theme in my management of pain the past four years because it’s an easy way to explain the good days vs. the bad. On the good days, I can stay standing next to the toaster, doing other things in the kitchen while my bread toasts. On the bad days, the pain is so severe that it hurts too much to even stay standing long enough to toast the bread. That’s about 4-5 minutes.
This pain began with early bed rest in my first – and only – pregnancy. I started bleeding a few days into the pregnancy and was having a lot of abdominal pain. The doctor advised me to take it easy and my husband had to keep reminding me that in 80% of cases, early bleeding was not an indicator of miscarriage. So I rested. Over the next few weeks, the embryo developed just fine and we could see the little pulsating blob on the ultrasound, which we named Dot. Still, the first trimester kicked my a** and I was exhausted all the time, I couldn’t focus well, and I was in a lot of pain as the ligaments stretched (and it’s possible the stretching of my nerves in the pelvic area began here as well.)