Living with chronic pain during the Coronavirus has added another layer to the daily hardship of quarantine in place.
I have dealt with unexplained chronic pain and neuropathy since my first pregnancy almost seven years ago.
It is a spiked dog collar tied around my neck pricking me here and there throughout the day reminding me I am not alone. The pain is a constant presence in my life. But for the most part, it has also become a predictable pain. Pricking and digging into my consciousness at certain times of the day or brought about by an indulgent food choice, like Friday night pizza and beer.
The pain is a constant presence.
The pain is expected. Sometimes, it is a decision I consciously make in which I choose to accept the consequences of my food choices. Aching joints and swelling hands. Feet and gut pain are all expected with the indulgence. And there is the everyday pain. Burning in my feet, sharp spikes striking me randomly throughout my body. I know it is coming. I know it will happen. I have meds for that. I know what to do and I am prepared for the tiny cuts and slices from that particular spiked collar.
I pass on most family pizza nights or make an alternative cauliflower pizza; instead choosing the safe route to avoid gluten-induced inflammation. Either way, I make the choice. And when I make one that causes me pain, I accept the consequences, because I had control over my decision. Margaritas and enchiladas, yes. Every so often I am more than happy to indulge in the excessive salt and alcohol even though tomorrow will undoubtedly be a day of pain and swelling.
This new pain I am experiencing is not the same.
This new pain I am experiencing is not the same. I cannot connect it to a particular food or activity. I cannot diagnose a cause or reason for the constant pain. It has come in and slithered itself under my normal everyday spiked choker and taken hold of my throat
I feel it wrapped around my body penetrating my bones. The pain is ceaseless. I ache. I ache and ache and ache. It does not stop. My daily meds are useless against this enemy. I cannot find relief.
I know I sound dramatic. But pain IS dramatic.
I feel I am losing the fight. The pain makes me irritable, angry, and downright nasty to everyone around me. I cannot sit or read or work. I cannot watch a movie or enjoy my morning coffee or a family meal. All of my thoughts are overtaken by pain. Why am I hurting? Where exactly do I feel the pain? What does the pain feel like? Knives? Electric shocks? The deep ache of arthritis? What else can I try to control the pain? I cannot play or cuddle with my children. I am unable to joke or laugh with my husband. My head is full of pain and there is no room for anything else.
This is why chronic pain is so dangerous. It is a beast that cannot be blocked by the castle gate. It is black smoke that slivers in under the doors and through the windows. Attacking….attacking…attacking, until you give up. The only refuge is sleep. Sleep brought on by prescription pain meds, tequila, and mental exhaustion. The smoke creeps into every corner of your home, your mind, your happiness. There is only the black smoke of pain.
And now there is COVID-19.
I tell myself if there was no quarantine I could be distracted
My doctors are only working and seeing patients half days. They have no openings. The phone line is nothing but a voicemail. Calls are returned in business days, not the same day. The phone line is busy. The office staff is overwhelmed. The doctor’s visits can no longer be in person, but rather is a voice call; and she (my normally attentive doctor) cannot see the anguish and desperation on my face. How can I convey the desperation if she cannot see it?
I tell myself if there was no quarantine I could be distracted. A perfect Starbucks latte and a Target run. I could chat with my coworkers and stop by to hang out on my girlfriend’s couch. I could find a way to stave the incessantness choking. I would go to the physical therapist and the masseuse, and the gym. I would be able to take some kind of control back from the pain. But I cannot. There is no going and doing. There is only being and waiting. And right now, the being and waiting inside the black smoke feels like it is strangling me into submission.
I know even without a quarantine I would still be miserable but I do not think I would feel so desperate. It is the inability to connect to someone who might offer solutions. The inability to commiserate with my friends. The fact that my family has no escape from my pain driven wrath. It all feels too much.
I cry and cry and cry until I sleep to escape and pray for a better day tomorrow.