Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Gnarled Tree and Me: A Chronic Pain Flare

It started when I got a simple, 24 hour flu. Most people would be better in a day. But my body is already so depleted by the constant strain of chronic pain that, for me, the flu was just the beginning. I threw up, just once, but, for a back as compromised as mine, once was enough. For weeks afterwards, my ribs hurt so much, I would scream if I moved the wrong way, and moan just trying to get in and out of bed.

My bra was a torture device. I simply could not wear it. Being amply endowed in the chestal area, I had to get very creative with my outfits when I was courageous enough or restless enough to go out in public. Here, I wore a maxi dress with an elasticized bust, and a nipped in sweater for warmth, modesty, and a little definition at my waist. It was not my best outfit but it was better than one would expect, given that everything hurt and hurt and hurt.

From the moment I got that flu, it was two months of cascading health problems, one after or even on top of the other, each preying on my weakness, further weakening me, and then further preying on that weakness.

Once my back got so much worse, leaving me crawling around the house, I had to take prescription pain killers which always wreak havoc on my stomach, so, again: nausea, heart burn from hell, and other gut problems best not specified. Then my period was the most brutal I'd had in years. (I have endometriosis, which makes my periods far more painful than those of most women.) So: more pain killers. So: more gut and stomach problems. Then I got an inner ear thing, the name of which I forget, which made me dizzy and nauseated, with a roaring in my ears, all so bad I was again crawling on the floor. Oh, and I got a cold sore somewhere in there too. I'm sure I'm forgetting something.

In the midst of all these problems, Beau sometimes made me breakfast in the mornings. This was lovely and very like him, but it broke my routine and I forgot to take my morning medications. So then my whole system got wonky and I had to wait that out too!
And, through all of this, the rib pain, like I'd been repeatedly kicked in the chest by someone wearing heavy, steel-toed boots. If I'd looked the way I felt, I would have had huge, swollen, deep purple welts under my breasts. But, as we know, chronic pain is invisible.

If I'd looked the way I felt, I would have been as gnarled as this old tree, twisted and scarred but, oddly, still here.

Boots: Seibel; Dress: Yummy Plus; Sweater: Active; Right hand ring: Birks; Necklace, sunglasses, earrings, and bracelet: vintage
I don't believe in the kind of God who can permit or banish pain, so I wasn't exactly praying to God for relief. But I was getting a bit superstitious about things. I was begging my body, "Please stop! Just calm down. Let me rest! Please!" It would not. It could not.

My body's weakness is not my body's fault. It's not my fault. It's the fault of those who raped me over and over again when I was child. It's the fault of those who destroyed my back for their own pleasure.

But I was angry with my own body, not my abusers. I knew it was wrong, but my body was right here, right now, hurting, aching, suffering... making me suffer. It felt like my enemy. Usually, I do not have an adversarial relationship with my crippled body. But I did now. 

Bodies are mere organic beings, like trees, like any other animal. They are not perfect machines. Misuse and abuse them, and they will bear the marks and effects of that misuse for as long as they live, if, indeed, they do live.

People talk a lot about the invisible scars of childhood trauma, by which they mean the emotional injuries that linger all one's life, no matter the therapy, the prayer, the meditation, the hard work to "heal." I've got all that, the PTSD, the nightmares, the sudden fears, the triggers.

But I also have several visible scars from the abuse. They are mostly in private places so no-one but Beau sees them, but they're there. I also have all those invisible, physical "scars" in the form of back, shoulder, neck, and leg pain. All this pain weakens my entire system and creates a horrible domino effect, when something relatively minor throws my whole body into chaos for weeks or even months.

It's one hell of an endurance test! I try my little tricks of beauty to make myself feel better: a crazy, 70s pendant ...

... a great, organic styled, Trifari earring and bracelet set (a parure) that I got for a steal, an outfit that almost works, despite the pain that prevents me from wearing what I'd really like to wear. It helps -- some, a little.

And when I get to the other side of one of my "bad spells" or "flares," I'm not better, not all better. I'm still in constant pain, still struggling.

So congratulate me on managing to smile at all through such a brutal and unjust test of endurance. I'm doing better now. Knowing the rhythms and realities of chronic pain as I now do, I know that I will have another bad flare some time, probably this year, hopefully not on my wedding day. But I'm learning not to live in fear of these spells. I do what I can to prevent or reduce them and that's all I can do. The rest is just living day to day, enjoying the days with less pain, and enduring the days when there is more pain, knowing better days will come (and go) again, as they always do.

(I'm sharing this over at Visible Mondays on Not Dead Yet.)


  1. I think gnarled trees are more beautiful for their are you.
    Looove that bracelet! We take joy when are where we can. You are an expert.
    Xo Jazzy Jack

    1. Thanks Jazzy. Did you notice that the earrings match the bracelet? I got the set for a mere $10, which was a very good deal indeed!

  2. Love your cardi I practically live in them! I host a link up every Wednesday (still live). Pop by if you get a chance :)

    1. I will. My pain (or my age?) tends to make me a bit forgetful but I do my best to remember! I love cardigans. They're so old-fashioned and sweet, yet also practical and dressy.