Living With Chronic Pain

It’s Time To Get Up. . .

I can’t remember a day when I wasn’t in pain.

I can’t remember a day when I jumped out of bed after a long, restful sleep feeling rejuvenated.

I can’t remember what it was like to walk, sit, stand or even lie down without having to think what position works better, or hurts the least.

I used to watch my daughter growing up and think- there must have been a time when I too had rubber bones, could contort myself into a pretzel for fun and drop off to sleep instantaneously.  I have vague memories of flipping around on the parallel bars, jogging as I watched the sun set, barrel racing in the rodeo and downhill skiing. But, those days are long gone, replaced by days I have to plan carefully to ensure I can accomplish my goals.

I know how it feels to hurt so much the idea of getting up to go to the bathroom is overwhelming. Especially if I finally found a position that gave me a little reprieve. It’s exhausting, frustrating and isolating. How can you socialize, put on that “I’m ok face” when all you want to do is be left alone? It’s called survival mode. Go to work, come home, get ready to do it all over again.

But long ago I realized that just fed into the pain and gave it a stronger voice, one it doesn’t deserve. Pain takes enough, don’t let it speak for you. I remember when my daughter was around 4, and like any other toddler, she was full of energy at the crack of dawn. Me, I just desperately wanted another few hours of sleep, or to finally succumb due to exhaustion. I was a single mom and weekends were my only chance to recover, but spending the day in bed was far from her idea of fun. I could get away with it for just so long.

One morning, she put her little hands on both sides of my face, looked into my eyes and said,

“Mommy, it’s time to get up.”

How could I refuse those sweet, adoring eyes that wanted nothing more than to be with me? She gave me the desire and ability to move past my pain, move past my exhaustion and just move!

Because of her I enjoyed watching the ducks at the Reid Park Pond, played in the pool, read books in the backyard tree house, and watched her scurry through jungle gyms giggling with delight. Because of her I lived. I hurt every minute, but it was no longer my focus. I learned when to say “enough” and how to have a better balance. Living life gave me joy, hope, and love that I know was a better treatment than any prescription could offer.

I’ve always said my baby saved me and taught me far more than I ever taught her. She reminded me of the true beauty in the world. She reminded me I don’t need to jump out of planes, ride horses, or rock climb to feel alive. Losing those options due to my physical limitations didn’t mean life was over. It just meant changing my perspective and learning new ways to satisfy my adrenaline junkie needs- riding in a hot air balloon, taking carriage rides and walking tamer trails.

Just as I had to stop looking for quick fixes to resolve my pain I had to look to alternative ways to enjoy life that honored my new boundaries. I had to accept the changes were permanent. Even though I was physically different, who I was inside was the same.

Each day is still a struggle. Each day I have to accept that this will not be the day where I jump out of bed after a long, restful sleep. I will still have to find new positions to relieve the pain and I will still have physical limitations that impede my activities. But as my sweet baby said to me so long ago,

“Mommy, it’s time to get up.”

And I will.

Dr. Courtney

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