I’ve been writing about my life with chronic pain for a very long time. It’s easy, after a few hundred articles or blogs, to slip into a state of assumption. This is when I assume you know what it’s like to awaken each day to this condition and lay awake each night with it. If you do know, then you possibly share it. For that I am truly sorry. I would like to apologize for all the quotes I’ve used this week but I can’t. There is not one I could live without, so there.
I often talk about physicians, healthcare and medications but only in the broadest sense since I’m a nurse/patient, not a doctor. I often talk about modalities to aid us like TENS units, canes, heating pads and many other helpful objects along the way. However, today, I would like to talk about all the personal complications that mold and bend our bodies and therefore our minds and eventually our entire lives. Every little corner is visited, corrupted and tainted by illness and pain. We become putty in the hands of fate until we achieve the realization we are still in charge. We can still vote on our own lives. We still can say “yea” or “nay.” We can choose our doctors most of the time; and yes, there is an enormous difference in them. Find the best. Ask, seek, inquire of others and you’ll find the best ones. Read evaluations online, etc. Don’t let anyone less than the best touch you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Sometimes we are intimidated by our physicians, and really shouldn’t be. We can also speak out about something we are experiencing. We still have freewill all wrapped up inside all of this pain and it is often the only part of that doesn’t hurt.
We are faced with the enormous challenge of striving to be “normal” in this life and none of us knows what that is. I think it means we want the pain or disease to go away and life to return to where it was. The chances are pretty good that isn’t going to happen. Some of us with hard heads take a few years to understand that and bang away at the block wall in front of us. That’s only giving you and I a headache you know but I don’t blame you for doing it. I did. We eventually come to the realization that life is change. Change can be dealt with. It requires acceptance and compromise. Those are both a much better use for all that energy than bumping into that block wall, don’t you think?
Since life has already thrust change upon you and me, why not go with it and be not just different but be the best that we can be? I can hear you. “Is she nuts? Here I am living with pain every friggin’ day and she tells me to be better than I’ve ever been?”
Yep. That’s it. You’re obviously on the road less traveled by according to the poem of Robert Frost, so why not make it your individual road. You may have a body that cries out often and at inappropriate times so go with it. Take that road that is yours and find out who you are. What did you want to be when you were a kid? What did you like to do besides some of the obvious wonderful things like chase girls, jump rope or play video games? So many answers lie within us if we seek them. They are already there, waiting to be found. You and I have to believe in the future. It can still be wonderful, not boundless, not without limitations but still good. Remember, none of us live on this earth forever so why not make the most of the time we have? Is it compromised? Yes. Is it miserable at times? Yes. Are we someone new each day? Yes, and that can be a good thing. Remember that famous quote of Henry David Thoreau?
“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”
Be yourself. You are not required to look in the mirror and see a victim. Change can do that to us. We get the idea we are damaged when we’re really just used up. I lost a breast this year and it was a shock at first, but I still think of myself as a lovely older woman. I’m just used up. I used to have beautiful legs and get complements on them but now they are knobby with changing and misshaped ankles, swollen painful knees but I can walk on my own and that tells me they work. I have completely lost my rear end due to loss of weight and disease but it still holds my body to my legs and still sits however uncomfortable it is. You see? We must adapt to change or it will pull us under.
I’m not saying it is easy. The first time the nurse changed my dressing after my mastectomy this summer and my husband was in the room, I cried. I cried out of shame, fear and loss. The important thing is my husband didn’t cry. Sure, he’s also a nurse but it was his wife he was looking at not just some anonymous patient. He did cry when we got the first diagnosis of breast cancer and that was as it should be and I love him for it.
Coco Chanel, the famous designer said, “A girl should be two things: who and what she wants.” Thanks Coco for also saying, “In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.”
I want to be irreplaceable, don’t you?
I also love a quote by dear, often tortured Judy Garland who said, “Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.”
I love the wisdom of other, fallible human beings who have traveled rocky roads of their own and come out the other end with bits of wisdom to share with all of us. Sometimes they made it with joy, sometimes they didn’t but it was still quite a ride.
Along with being true to yourself, you and I both know the effect of this ever widening circle. Chronic pain and illness affects those nearest to us.
400 years ago an insightful writer by the name of John Donne said in his meditation XVII words that hold true today although the language and definitely the punctuation may have modernized to a great extent, the sentiment is still full of wisdom. Let me quote, “No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
This whole issue of the ripple effect is often painful for us to not only live with but to observe as others in our lives are hurt by our pain, touched by our illness and its symptoms and it can place an enormous strain on many relationships. Don’t grab onto the guilt that flows by as you see the effect on others. It is not yours to feel. Don’t you have enough to do? Simply find yourself, love those who mean the most to you and let the others tend for themselves.
One of my favorite quotes on individuality is from the science-fiction writer Ray Bradbury who said, “I have never listened to anyone who criticized my taste in space travel, sideshows or gorillas. When this occurs, I pack up my dinosaurs and leave the room.”
Therefore, the next time you are asked to compromise, put up with an inconsiderate lout or a self-centered one, be true to yourself and pack up your dinosaurs and leave the room.