I’ve been living with chronic pain since being diagnosed with Chronic Myalgia in 2014, and if I must be quite honest, my life has never been the same again. Living with chronic pain makes day-to-day life really difficult. The pain has taken over every single part of my life, from tidying up, to cooking, to working, relationships, to walking, to sitting, to sleeping… I mean EVERYTHING! According to the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP), the definition for chronic pain is, any pain that’s been present in any part of the body for a period of three months or longer. This ongoing pain is also known to be a “major cause of disability and distress”. The difference with my kind of pain and acute pain (non-chronic pain), is that it “doesn’t serve any purpose”, says Dr Alan Fayaz, a spokesperson for the British Pain Society (BPS).
Chronic pain comes in a number of different forms, and symptoms. A few of the symptoms that I experience is for one, my skin is very sensitive to touch, and if anything touched it on the days that the pain was severe, then it would feel like I was burning. I constantly also get shooting pain that feel like bolts of electricity in my knees, ankles and feet. But one of the biggest impact of chronic pain is the exhaustion and low mood swings. Determined to be free of the pain, I am trying everything I can to try and minimise the pain. Before the Corana virus pandemic, I went swimming at least twice a week, had my weekly body massage and acupuncture with the physiotherapist, and took long daily walks. As I’m self-isolating, I’ve replaced all that with a walk here and there (not enough), and as they are of high impact, I’ve also started doing a 1 hour mixed cardio workout every other day via YouTube. Under the current circumstances, every little bit helps, but would have preferred my normal keep fit routine.
Do you live with chronic pain? If you do then you’ll probably relate to the following.
- You’ll never know how you’ll feel in the morning: When you live with chronic pain, everyday is an adventure. That goes double for the start of the day. I never know how much pain I’ll wake up with or how it will change throughout the day.
- People don’t seem to understand what “chronic” means: Friends and loved ones often mean well when they say things like, “hope you feel better soon!” The reality is the pain doesn’t stop, so it’s hard to know what to say.
- “Have you tried …?”: Again people mean well and want to help. That said, I see professionals in order to get help with my pain and condition, and more often I read and do a lot of research on the condition myself. Which means, I know my body best.
- Some days are easier that others: I’ve been dealing with varying levels of pain every single day for the past 6 years. Some days are a lot easier. Other days are an absolute struggle.
- The relief you feel when painkillers start working: Pain affects so much of my life, including how I interact with others. When relief starts to hit, it eliminates so many of those symptoms of pain. I even become productive, instead of someone struggling to survive the day.
- Still, medication doesn’t completely remove the pain: Pain is still a constant companion. It’s always with me, even when I’m on medication.
- Pain changes everything: I’m starting to forget the life I had before chronic pain. Chronic pain dulls your life and changes how one uses their time and energy, what jobs (if any) we are able to do, and every single relationship we have.
- Support is everything: Not everyone will understand what you are going through, so trying to find those who do is vital. I have my people that I go to when I want to vent about the pain, stigma (chronic myalgia is an invisible illness) or simply speak without being judged. These people are a Godsend and have completely changed how I’m able to process my feelings around my pain.
Having chronic pain means you are required to make a lot of lifestyle changes. Managing the pain, can feel like, or even be, a full time job. Fortunately I have a variety of medications, tools, techniques and a support network to help manage the pain. Living with chronic pain can be challenging too. I try hard to overcome the challenges by keeping busy – which is a form of distraction, and focusing on the positives in my life.