On Being In Pain

I don’t usually like talking about this subject, but I think it’s high time I stretch my comfort zone. Keeping it all to myself doesn’t help, so I’m going to try to get it out there.

I’ve been in some form of pain for most of my life. I started having stress headaches around the age of twelve, right around the time that my mother passed away from brain cancer. Nothing was really done about it; I took over the counter pain killers and dealt. Over the course of my teen years, the headaches got progressively worse until, at eighteen, I was diagnosed with migraines. Then the doctors started trying drug treatments that, to this day, don’t work.

Along with the migraines, I’ve also never slept very well. Most doctors I talk to attribute that to my weight. I’ve been 6’4″ tall and over 250 pounds since I was thirteen. I’ve always hovered higher in weight than I should. Looking back now, though, I can list on one hand the number of times I’ve actually, really slept a full night. Most of the time, I’m caught up  in a cycle that doesn’t allow me to drop into the restorative sleep that people need.

Recently, I’ve developed extreme pain in my muscles and joints. I’ve always had issues, here and there, with a joint or muscle, but, since I’m overweight, most doctors just ignore it. Rest it, take pain meds, get better. Seems logical, but it never really worked for me. Now, I can’t sit in a car for more than an hour before my sees catch fire, nor can I whisk something while cooking, or brush my hair without feeling like my joints are all afire and ready to run away from me.

In essence, all of this culminates into one thing: it takes a lot of mental effort for me to get myself doing anything. Exercise, sitting at the computer, watching television, writing: each and every activity I think about doing has a certain amount of pain attached to it. Some things I have to do: go to work and get things done, cook dinner, do laundry, etc. For those things, I don’t have a choice: I have to accept the pain I’ll be in because, otherwise, those things won’t get done and my wife and daughter would be negatively effected. Things like writing, exercising, reading a book: they all get dumped to the side because the pain cost is too high.

However, I’ve discovered that there is another cost: happiness. Writing makes me happy. Telling stories makes me happy. Reading a story someone else has written makes me happy. Playing with my daughter and seeing her delight in new things makes me happy. Going out to dinner and a movie with my wife makes me happy.

I’m learning slowly that being unhappy and in minimal pain costs far more than being happy and in more pain. Because if I’m unhappy, I get depressed — and the depression enhances the pain I feel. The happiness can fend off some pain, or at least make me forget it for a time. Which is good.

One positive note in all of this is that my newest doctor believes that I have fibromyalgia and is taking steps to get me treated for it. I’m glad that we are on track for a treatment, but I wish it had come along sooner.