Did you know that over 50 million Americans live with chronic pain? 50 million people — in the US alone! Can you imagine how many people there are around the world who are suffering with chronic pain?
September is Pain Awareness Month.
According to the US Pain Foundation, “Organizations across the country come together during the month of September with the combined goal of bringing awareness to chronic pain and highlighting how pain affects individuals, families, communities, and the nation.” This year, their campaign centers around the theme #LetsTalkAboutPain. Please visit https://uspainawarenessmonth.com to learn more and participate.
Why is it important to talk about pain? Unfortunately, there’s often stigma or shame attached to chronic pain – we often don’t “look” sick, we may be accused of overstating our pain, we may feel embarrassed because we can’t do the things we “should” be able to do…. – and we may be afraid to speak up.
Here’s the thing though – we can’t expect others to understand if we’re not willing to talk about it. “…Sharing our stories–whether with loved ones, coworkers, clinicians or policymakers–is essential to creating awareness and positive change.” (USPainFoundation.org)
Like many people who live with chronic pain, although I talk about living with fibromyalgia extensively here, I don’t really like to talk much about it with others. I think there are a few reasons for that: I don’t want to be that person who complains about how I feel, I don’t want them to feel sorry for me, I don’t want people to judge me because they think Fibro isn’t real…. the list goes on and on.
This month, in support of Pain Awareness Month, I’d like to share some of my personal story of what it’s like to live with chronic pain and how I deal with it. These posts may be a little more “raw” than you’re used to from me. Although I try to put a positive spin on things most of the time, I think it’s important, especially for those who provide our healthcare, to have a realistic view of what it means to live in pain every. single. day.
I hope it doesn’t come across as negative, but I realize that parts of it may, so please bear with me.
Today, I’d like to give you a glimpse into how I start my day, and how pain impacts how my day is structured.
Waking Up In Pain
I’ve always been a morning person, but now, mornings are the hardest. I wake up around 6:30 every morning, and there is never a day that I don’t hurt. There are just varying levels of pain. Some days it’s a dull background ache. Others, it’s an “I feel as if a truck ran over me while I slept” kind of pain. Most days my body pain is accompanied by a headache, also at varying intensities.
There are days that I wake up early and just lie there because I just don’t feel I can face the day yet.
Eventually though, whatever my pain level, I get up and head out to our family room to drink my coffee and do my morning quiet time. Some mornings the Fibro Fog kicks in and I can’t concentrate. Other mornings, my mind is just scattered and I’m all over the place, with the same result. Fortunately, though, that’s not always the case. This time gives me a chance to get my morning started gently and positively.
At 8:00, there are usually four big brown eyes staring at me, just waiting for me to make a move toward their food bowls. My “boys” get me up and moving, because they seem to have little watches that tell them it’s time to eat and they’re going to make sure I don’t forget it.
Often, once I’m up and moving around, even though the pain doesn’t go away, it does subside enough for me to feel I can function. Some days it doesn’t, and on those days, I choose to do activities that I can do from my sofa.
After breakfast, no matter how I feel, I get dressed (well, I guess that depends on how you define dressed). If I’m staying home, it’s pretty much always yoga pants and a tee shirt. I don’t wear “real” clothes unless I’m going out in public, because it seems I can never find anything that’s comfortable anymore. For me, though, it’s important to at least get out of my pajamas regardless of how I feel.
I spent about six months practically bedridden, then another year where I still spent a lot of time in bed, and I don’t want to go back there. Getting up and getting dressed keeps me moving forward.
With chronic pain, you wake up in pain and you go to sleep in pain. There’s no getting around that, but learning to accept this new normal and figuring out how to work within my limitations allows me to enjoy my life in spite of my pain.
Although my mornings can be tough, I’m grateful to wake up each morning and know that I have the opportunity to live a life of joy and purpose regardless of my circumstances.
Are you sharing your story for Pain Awareness Month? If you are, please feel free to leave a link to your post in the comments section.