Guest Blogger Wednesday: When Chronic Pain Steals Your Life

Wednesdays I host a guest blogger – professionals, clients, friends, strangers; stories of success and failure, people who are suffering, some who are opinionated, all of whom are a work in progress. These are struggles about real life issues. If you are interested in telling your story email me at info@scott-williams.ca.

Here’s one that maybe you can relate to:

When Scott asked me to do a guest blog he sent me the following message over Facebook: “you should guest blog about how your life got screwed by your medical problems.” Far from being the most offensive thing he’s ever said, I think it’s still apparent that the average person would probably have worded it more politely. Scott is not the average person. Neither am I. To know me is to understand that if what you say is intentionally horrible I will probably laugh at it, especially if I know you. If you’ve ever heard of “dead baby” jokes you’ll understand my humor.

That sense of humor sometimes quite literally keeps me going.

I’ll preface my medical story by saying that by no means do I believe that mine is more horrible than others. I know that I’m damn lucky compared to most people on this Earth.

In my glory days I was active and spontaneous and embarrassingly unembarrassable. In what I think was the summer of ’07 I was visiting someone when, at dinner, I suddenly got a muscle cramp in my leg. It was the worst pain that I’ve ever felt and I’ve broken both of my arms. I recovered quickly, but never forgot that moment and I’ve feared that pain ever since.

A few months later I was walking home from work when a twitch and a strange sensation went down that same leg. I thought for sure that it was happening again and panicked, but the cramp never came. Since then the twitching and strange sensation has coupled with aching, tingling and weakness in both legs and it’s never gone away.

Soaking in the fear that at any time I was about to have a rematch with the worst pain of my life, and living with the aforementioned symptoms for four and a half years without a diagnosis (not even a hint), I developed a nasty little anxiety problem with tendencies toward agoraphobia and hypochondria. But not knowing what was wrong was the worst part. The more anxiety I got, the more I obsessed over what I might have. Was I dying? Was I delusional?

After my legs went, so went my belief in God, followed by who, at the time, I thought was the love of my life. Disabled, alone and feeling very defeated I moved home. If Scott dares have me back after this then perhaps I’ll tell about leaving my religion.

Suffice it to say, I lost a lot of friends. I not only pushed them away, but I also felt unable physically to be with them. Very few have remained. I became inactive. In my own eyes I became useless. For two or so years I fell into a depression. One night I went outside to cry so as to not wake my family. I sat there and decided that jumping off of a bridge would be the best way to go. The next day, due to some fluke of hormones or sunlight, I was feeling better, stronger. I went for a walk to try to keep my legs strong (which is often physically painful). I told myself then that I was going to university. If I could not make use of my body then I would make use of my mind. I acknowledged that if I failed in this that I would likely end up looking over the railing of a bridge getting ready to use my defective legs for one last jump. University would not be easy, it would indeed be painful, and with my anxiety it would also be scary, but I considered it my only option.

I started school the following winter. My main interests are psychology and philosophy and without conceit I can tell you, I’m damn good. Maybe it’s my passion for the subjects, or the threat of death, but I’ve been very motivated to succeed. For four consecutive semesters I dealt with the anxiety of leaving my house, speaking to strangers, taking a bus to school, wearing out my legs causing pain, cramps and twitching on top of the usual stress of school itself. By the end of the fourth I had beaten that anxiety nearly to dust. I no longer needed the Xanax that my doctor had prescribed. I was studying like a dead baby (because I had no life!) and I was getting ready for my next set of final exams. Two days before the first one something new happened. I don’t know how it works with others that suffer from anxiety, but to me something new was terrifying. Suddenly and for seemingly no reason I felt swelling in my throat. Of course I knew that this was the end. I’d be dead any minute, choking to death. That was not my ideal way to go. My anxiety shot through the roof and although my throat never closed up (I was never in any real danger of that happening) I just knew that it was about to happen at any second.

The swelling never went away. I got 60% on my final exam in Philosophy 100, my favourite class. I’d been getting above 90% until then. My anxiety was back with a vengeance, stronger than ever before. Before I had leg pain to worry about. Now I had nausea and choking and cancer and a million other mysteries to fear.

Ironically the problem with my legs was diagnosed soon after – Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. All I ever wanted was a diagnosis. But now that I have one, I can’t enjoy it. Life’s funny like that. It’s been five months since then. There was a point about a month ago when I went in to my doctor to get the results of two separate tests. These would tell me whether the problem in my throat was hypothyroidism or thyroid cancer. I was almost praying for hypothyroidism, but even if it was cancer, at least then I would know. I got what I perceived to be the worst news possible. Both tests came back negative. I was back to the beginning, the not knowing, the fear, the helplessness and hopelessness. Depression started coming back. I dropped my classes for this Fall semester. I could barely leave my room never mind go to school. It was obvious that I needed help. So, I’ve started seeing a psychologist (one that doesn’t suck). She’s taught me some meditation, encouraged me to exercise, and taught me how to argue with myself, tell myself that I’m being irrational when I obsess over my health.

I still don’t know what’s wrong with my throat. I don’t know what the future holds. I’m not particularly hopeful about it either. But I’m also not hopeless. Who knows? There’s still a chance for me. I can beat this anxiety crap. I’ve nearly done it once before, and now I’ve got backup. And as long as I have the ability to laugh at the absurdity of my own horror, I’ll be able to hold on.

Coming tomorrow: Dealing With Your Addiction: Why A 12 Step Program May Not Be Enough

One thought on “Guest Blogger Wednesday: When Chronic Pain Steals Your Life

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