Stubbed Toe Woes VS. Toe Curling Chronicles
Personal Pain Shouldn’t Be a Competitive Sport
Personal pain levels are, well, personal. No one can know the level of pain someone else is experiencing. Too often, we don’t give credence to other’s pain. Instead, if you’re anything like my husband and me, we tend to entangle in a bizarre competition;
In this corner of the ring, we have Tommy Topper with his throbbing stubbed toe….and in this corner, we have Lisa Goodman-Helfand with her agonizing foot neuropathy. It’s going to be 9 excruciating rounds of pain endurance for these two contestants! The crowd is going wild with anticipation! Who will be crowned the next Foot Pain Champion of the World? There’s the bell…. Let the complaining begin!
It’s not a contest to see who’s in more pain, and if it were, what nut would want to be the winner? Yet, for any chronic pain sufferer, issues relating to pain can be a slippery slope. Sometimes, answering a simple question like, ‘How are you?‘ can be a minefield. On the one hand, we don’t want to lie, but on the other hand, how many people who ask really want to know? It’s a tightrope walk between giving an honest response while not providing the mailman with a medical dissertation. As a chronic pain sufferer, I also don’t want to scare off friends and family by falling into any of the categories below:
#1 The Rambler
Have you ever innocently asked someone how they’re doing and wound up listening to a rambling session featuring their infected toenail or abundant ear wax drama? I never want to be one of those people who go on and on about my pain until you’d sell your soul to the devil just to get me to shut-up.
#2 The Tommy Topper
I don’t want people to feel they can never tell me they don’t feel well, for fear that I’ll try to top them with some colossal pain whopper from my past;
‘Oh, you think your ear wax is bad, let me tell you about the time doctors drilled a hole in my tailbone to drain out infected fluid.’
#3 The Olympic Caliber Complaint Contestant
I don’t want to enter a complaint competition where I try to convince someone I’ve endured more pain then they have; ‘I’ll see your blocked tear duct procedure and raise you my emergency colectomy.’
Typically, when asked how I am feeling, my knee-jerk reaction is to respond with a smile and say, “I’m doing great!” If I were to tell the truth, my response may be a bit different…..
“Let’s start with my feet. When I was in the hospital for 218 days, my feet hung like weeping willows causing doctors to question if I would ever walk again. I developed a wicked case of neuropathy, which resulted in the sensation of being relentlessly pricked with a thousand thorns on the soles of my feet and ankles. After physical rehabilitation, I learned to walk again but the pain in my feet persists. Although the neuropathy has improved tremendously, my toes remain curled and I visit my podiatrist every three weeks to have calcification deposits scraped off my toes”
I don’t know about you, but I’m bored already, and I only covered my feet! If I went through the rest of my limbs and described the discomfort that accompanies scleroderma, I might be the only one left following this blog. This is precisely the problem many people in chronic pain face. Often, it’s simpler to lie.
In no way do I want to undermine the legitimacy of pain and how it influences our lives. My pain from scleroderma is real, but talking about it all the time is not going to make it go away. I visit my doctors regularly, do what I can to explore new options, attend scleroderma support group meetings, and try not to do stupid things that will intensify the pain. Constantly discussing my health battles will not result in the pain disappearing.
Some of you fellow chronic pain sufferers are probably thinking my pain must not be so bad, if I take such a flippant attitude about it. Trust me, I’ve experienced severe physical pain in my life. Like oh, I don’t know, that time doctors performed an emergency tracheotomy on me while I remained conscious with no anesthetic. See, there I go again. I’ve channeled my inner Olympic Caliber Complaint Contestant with that snarky remark. This is why I don’t like discussing pain in the first place.
The bottom line is, living with chronic pain is damn hard. There are days when I just want to wallow in my pain and throw myself a pity party. Everyone’s entitled to that, right? But I try to throw these parties rarely and don’t invite too many guests. Instead, I try to throw myself into living my life.
You have hit that nail on the head again!
OMG…how often have I felt that way lately! But, like you, I smile and say, “As long as I don’t think about the pain, I am great!” UGH! I hate pain and I would like to have one day where my body doesn’t scream at me and tell me to take something stronger to make the pain go away. But, I don’t because the meds are worse than the pain. They make me sleepy and upset my stomach. Not worth it to take them.
I never under estimate how someone else may feel, even if they are complainers. I have a friend like that and I listen and commiserate, though I tend to listen with only half my mind. However, I also have a friend who is going through chemo and never complains, except to say she gets tired and has to nap sometimes. She is really sick and never lets anyone know.
People will always be people. We think about ourselves and tend to discount how others may feel. That is human nature. But as you say, never under estimate how the person next to you might be feeling. Someone once said, “Smile, things could be worse. So, I smiled and they got worse!” Take what you have and go with the flow! In the long run, you will enjoy life more, even with the pain.
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WOW.. another home run….so proud of all you do to put everything in perspective in a humous way. There’s no way to know how others feel. All we can do is listen, help when we can, smile and let those who are suffering know we are there for them. Some people need to talk about their pain and others can’t. Everyone deals with pain/disease in their own way.
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