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.’
“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.