Managing Pain: Stay Off The Bridge

I’m not a stranger to managing pain. I have had four surgeries in five years, and every one of them left me in pretty bad shape.

Pain has so much power…

There is a slippery bridge from physical pain to mental anguish. I try not to step on it. I know what’s on the other side, and it’s uglier than the physical pain.  Have you been there?

Ah, the evil snares of pain.  It can take over your every thought, and every minute if you let it. But I give in. Sometimes.

I can’t do a damn thing to control the pain, other than wait it out. It’s healing, I say. Bit by bit. I can’t question the why or how long, because that leads me to that bridge. I can’t think about it too long… or that bridge appears and lures me to the other side.

It’s exhausting.

Attempting to live on one leg doesn’t work too well with my intentions. I’m guessing it doesn’t work too well in anyone’s life really.

Try it. I dare you.

Go get yourself a glass of water…

Pull yourself off of the couch and hop a dozens time to make it over to your scooter, while grabbing at the coffee table for balance.  Then twist the scooter a half a dozen times while lifting it to place it in the direction you need to go, while balancing on one leg.  Wind around backpacks and furniture, causing you to stop and lift the scooter up and redirect it over and over again, to get to the kitchen.  When you reach in the fridge, be careful not to fall or lose your balance, because you no longer have the security of wheels that slide to hold you in place. It takes a leg of steal to steady yourself for weeks and jump from the fridge to the counter every time you want a drink. And God forbid you try to clean out that fridge… all the while balancing on one leg. Don’t take out those heavy casserole dishes or you will truly pay for it.

Twenty minutes later, with sweat pouring from your face- you realize it isn’t worth the battle to calm your mental need to find order and control, while sacrificing your physical screams to stop. So you work your way back to the couch, where it seems you belong.

Another day.

You look at your plate for hours and no longer wanting it in your view, you try to take it to the kitchen, delicately balancing your scooter with one hand and directing it with one leg, while balancing the plate. You still have to lift the scooter multiple times and redirect it’s path while balancing the plate and sturdying your leg to grip the floor with everything you’ve got.  By the time you get to the kitchen, you push through trying to clean the plate leaving your working leg trembling with that tweak of your hip, or sometimes your knee giving out.

Does you no good.

So you work your way back to the couch, where it seems you belong.

For weeks.

You lie there; trying to pull yourself up with your wrists that are so sore you can barely put pressure on them. They are tired of leveraging your weight over and over and over again.

Then of course there is the pulsating original pain… that scratches at your nerves and wrings out your veins with sheer fire as you catch your breath and wait it out, until it turns into a slow hum of tiny knives and throbbing hammers that taunt here and there… the calf wanting some attention too, so it clenches its fists and you can’t do a damn thing to stretch it out.

So it twists tighter…

And tighter.

You want to eat at the cast until it tears off, so you can scratch and gnaw and claw at the scabs and the wounds until they hear you.

“STOP!!”

You reach for a sip of your water… but your arms are so sore you can’t lift them all the way up. They have carried you up stairs and hoisted you off of toilets and into way-too-high beds and slippery bathtubs.

They hate you too.

You can’t put your wounded foot down on the couch, because every placement you try releases more pain from the touch of pressure, so you hold it in the air…

Try this way, and that. Lift here and there, tug the blanket, push the pillow, pull the cushion, until you finally fall asleep… restless. Knowing this vicious limb will wake you with a penetrating seizure of explosive fireworks.

This is a tiny piece of my living.

So I wait.

It out.

Tonight I started to allow it all to get to me. Deep down…to that place.

You know that fragile place that is fenced off with all our faith and functioning and fortitude…

The slippery bridge beckoned me.

Pain can do that. It can break you. Down. To that place of crumbling into despair and rage.

I claimed “NO!! I won’t let you take me down!”

And I flashed back in my mind, to hours earlier lying with my daughter snuggling as best I can with my one working leg around her and somehow we manage. I ignore the pain, as I defy it by embracing this moment. I feel her sweet breath on my face as we fall into each other’s love. I tell her for the 400th time today how proud I am of her, and how amazing I think she is, as I repeat all the reasons why once again.

I had watched her come home from school and get straight to her work, as she anxiously worries about four more tests this week and a project. She organizes her papers and folders at the table and I watch her so focused and driven to do her very best… I ask her all about her day and tell her how proud I am of all her choices and her amazing motivation and commitment to her studies.

She works for hours showing me her completed project with a smile. She eats and is off to her swim practice. She comes back and tells me she did really well with a very hard training, and there’s that glow I so adore, and don’t see often. She believes in her progress… for the first time in weeks. Her eyes are red and her hair soaked as she empties all her equipment and looks exhausted. But happy. Proud.

I squeal with delight over the news and tell her once again, how incredibly proud I am of how hard she has worked all year. I’m amazed at her determination and unbelievable stamina.

We snuggle together while watching football, and she sighs and squeezes into me with her whispering “I love you mom” and I pull her in tighter and start to kiss her all over her face as she giggles.

“You’re my favorite girl in the whole wide world.” I say.

She’s exhausted. She knows she can’t make it another minute… so up she goes to bed and I climb up the stairs behind her and crawl down the hall to hoist myself up on her way-too-high bed and roll over to throw my good leg over her body and pull her in tight.

This is where my mind shall go… oh the joy! Oh the love! I inhale it in, as I soften with such beauty to behold.  I decide to stay there, instead of stepping onto that bridge.

I am blessed.

I know people who are in pain for more than a few months… they are in pain for years. I don’t know how they bear it, really. I feel weak just rambling on about mine. But it is exactly where I am – so this is what I write.

I have laid for hours through the night, writing in my mind about all kinds of things aside from this relentless pain. Oh, how I long to pour it all out here!

But for now?

I pray for those who are in pain. I know many. I think I learned the greatest way to defeat that monster is what I did, and continue to do. Claim the beauty in your life. Relive it. Soak in it. Let it take you out of that taunting place where you fall deeper into despair. Let it lift you into tears of joy and gratitude. Bask in it. Revel in it.

Pull out the wider lens, if you need it. Or focus into the pieces of your perspective that have more power than that snarling pain.

Perhaps the pain will live on, but your new-found strength will surpass it, and joy will defeat it, and love- oh the breath of love, will outlast it.

I will NOT step onto that bridge. I have too much beauty to behold…

On this side.

Managing Your Pain Stay Off The Bridge

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Comments

  1. Amy-Lee says

    Dear sweet friend,

    I pray that the Lord will take you well away from that bridge. That through His strength you need not be tempted to cross it.

    Soak in His love, peace, joy and comfort.

    Love Amy-Lee xxx

  2. says

    Oh to take that pain and turn it into something beautiful. A true talent you have. I’m sorry you are there, though. Hanging onto that bridge by your finger tips. I do not know how those in chronic pain do it. How they persevere. But I hope with your faith and your family each day gets a little easier.

    On another note, when we did Challenge Month at Abby’s school last year we made the kids do that exercise of having to cross the room and do something without using their legs. It was quite eye opening for them.

    • says

      That is a cool challenge that Abby’s school did last year! Very eye opening, I’m sure! Thanks for your sweet words of encouragement Kerri. I appreciate them and YOU so very much. XOXO I don’t know how people with intense chronic pain do it either… it takes a special strength to persevere through a LIFE of pain. Wow. I’m amazed at so many I know that do that.

    • says

      OH Janelle! I had no idea you suffered with all of that! Bless your faithful heart, my friend!! Have you ever written about enduring chronic pain? If so, I would love to read it. If not? I would love to read it!!! (hint hint) 😉

      Praying for you daily, my friend.

  3. says

    My darling Kitty, how I wish I could take some of that pain from you. I hope that this will be the LAST surgery for years and years and years.

    Meantime…would a shoulder bag to carry things help?

  4. says

    I knew there was a reason that I was awake around 2:00am last night – it was just for you!!!
    I wish that I could do more than pray in the middle of the night but….
    Stay away from the bridge and all high places – you are going to survive this!!

    • says

      Now THAT is when I was writing all of this Kim!!!! Isn’t that interesting?? Mmm… this revelation when I was really starting to slide… Mmm…

      Thank you God. And thank YOU my friend, for your prayers!!!

  5. says

    Chris, if I could reach through this computer screen and give you a hug (a remarkably gentle one, of course, as there’s no place for a slap on the back and bear hug when the person you’re wanting to hug is wracked with pain), I would do so.

    You have an ability to draw beauty from ashes. My prayer is that there will be much more beauty — less and much ash and pain — in these days ahead!

    • says

      AW!! You could hit me really hard in the arm or something, and then that will take me away from my other pain!! 😉 Thanks so much my friend. Slow going over here…. but going. That’s the good part.

    • says

      Oh Stephanie!! I was SO worried about you with that horrible injury and your precious cargo inside of you!! I prayed for you so much… and I’m just SO glad you and the baby are okay!!!

      You blessed me by coming by. Thank you, my friend!

  6. says

    You are tough, Chris, and this proves it. You can be honest about how easy it would be to slip and yet you still see what is good about it all. I pray hard for you every single day, my friend. Hang in there. If I were close, I’d bring you soup and take your dishes to the kitchen!
    Hang in there!

  7. says

    You are so beautiful. And I HATE your pain. What is your favorite treat, by the way? I may need your mailing address.
    I’ve never really been in pain so I don’t relate well to it. I’ve been in labor pain, but I knew it would end and I’d get something great to boot. Granted, the after-birth contractions with Des were so horrendous and unlike with birth, I didn’t know when they’d stop and that was hard. That made me reach for the meds. I know we all learn to adapt but it was at least my taste of what horrific pain feels like and not knowing when it will stop.
    However, I knew it would and it did.
    I feel for people in pain because I don’t know how I’d cope but I’d probably call you up.

    • says

      Oh how blessed you are to not have endured horrible physical pain Tamara!! Count that as a HUGE blessing in your life, sweetie!! I pray you never have to deal with it. NO. FUN. And if for some awful reason you land yourself in pain- girl, CALL me!! 🙂

  8. says

    Chris, I’m so glad that you finally poured out your pain here. That, alone, has to be pretty liberating. I pray that this pain doesn’t last much longer for you, but that while it’s here, God wraps his strong arms around you and helps you through the struggle.

    • says

      Oh Laura, thank you so much for coming over to read this and share such sweet encouragement! I wrote this until about 3am one night- after my ‘revelation’ and oh yes oh yes… SO liberating! I slept good for those three hours after! lol (Could have used about 10 more) 🙂

  9. says

    praying for swift healing for you my friend!

    I felt like this after my 3rd C Section (oh yes, and no free tummy tuck, imagine that!) – I had caught a cold as well and every single cough was torture. Fear that I would tear my stitches and spill out onto the floor! a bit paranoid perhaps, but still. it HURT. So much so they actually gave me morphine.
    I am sure it wasn’t as bad as what you are experiencing, but it is true what you say: the mental anguish was far worse. and dark, if you allow. I couldn’t hold my new baby. I could barely care for myself, let alone new baby. I would cry while nursing, instead of those beautiful peaceful images you expect. It was just…. ugh. So many emotions along with the pain.
    But, it passed of course. Certainly assisted by the new baby smell, and baby cooes and smiles. Just getting lost in those moments – letting them invade my thoughts instead.
    How wonderful you had moments with your daughter that did the same!

    • says

      Love that story- because that is WHAT WE MUST DO to get through our painful seasons, yes? Hold on tight to the elements in our lives that are beautiful. Our babies are the best pick!

  10. says

    Hi Chris! You could be talking about me. I have the same scooter, the same pain, the non-weight bearing, the climbing the stairs backwards…all of it. I understand you and your pain/giving in feelings.

    I have to admire the way you are coping, and refusing to give into hopelessness. A tear or two is okay, just not settling comfortably on the chair of self pity and doubt. That’s what I tell myself.

    Not sure what kind of surgery you had, but I will include you in my prayers once again. We gimpers need to stick together. God bless your sweet daughter who gives you such joy in the midst of such trial. What a great job you did in raising her.
    One more day. I tell myself the same thing. The day of independence and no-more-pain is coming my compadre. Let’s look that direction…
    Blessings and a hot cup of tea,
    Ceil

    • says

      Oh Ceil, I really feel comforted knowing you are out there going through similar trials. I think about you SO much, my friend. Praying for YOUR recovery and your mind set as well. It truly is a slippery bridge, isn’t it?

      Sigh.

      I had my toe joint fused (30 years of pain needing to be done with!) And about an inch of my Fibia taken out that broke and wreaked havoc in there, so he mended the torn ligaments around it. Double whammy!

      One day at a time. My ‘working leg’ has given up on me after 6 weeks of hopping and standing and pulling all my weight on it. My knee and ankle joint are rebelling against me! That can’t happen. Praying for endurance for us both, my dear friend.

  11. says

    Love always wins out. I can’t feel your pain, but I know it must be so hard for you. I think when we are challenged the most, it’s our perspective that helps us get through. The pain may seem unbearable at times, but we get through. Somehow. Praying for you, my friend. You have been on my mind!

    • says

      Thanks Jen. This has definitely been difficult… both physically and mentally. Endurance is key. My ‘working leg’ is giving out on me now- which isn’t GOOD at ALL. My knee and ankle joints have had enough. *Feeling old*

      Just gotta hold on, do what I can do… and keep my eyes peeled for the good. There is ALWAYS good.

  12. says

    Aww Chris, was I supposed to bawl while reading this? I’m so sorry for your pain and I’m holding you up high in prayer my friend. You have such a beautiful perspective in the midst of this pain.

    Sending you much love and encouragement and healing in Christ Jesus.
    xoxo

    • says

      It must have been God. I was really falling hard in my spirit one night- just done. And like a warm breeze, it spread through my heart just as I wrote it… so glad God reminded me of such joy and love in the midst of my pain and discouragement!! Thank you so so much for your prayers my friend!!!

  13. says

    Oh, Chris, my sweet friend. I’m so sorry you are in so much pain. I have become well acquainted with that over the last two years. Oh, the things we take for granted. I think of the times I complained about chores and cleaning. What I would give to be able to do those things without pain. It is like at the beginning of the day, I am given x number of minutes. These minutes must be rationed among all that needs to be done. After they are gone, I’m done. I have to make choices when spending those minutes. Tough choices. It’s frustrating. Praying for a quick recovery for you. Please be careful and take it easy. I would hate to see you hurt yourself and set your healing back. Take care, my beautiful friend. xo

    • says

      Oh, do I get that Topaz! It’s been an ongoing battle for me, and it doesn’t get easier as time goes on- just more frustrating!! Trying to just pace myself and hold on and have hope that this will go by fast and it will all be a blur of a memory. I must really try hard to keep my perspective in tact. It’s been incredibly challenging. BUT- I can still count my blessings… it’s easy when they are RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. <3

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