Pain: Why Doesn't Any One Want To Listen
The Debilitating Effects of Chronic Pain
Over the past 17 years I have dealt with chronic back pain. I injured my back in the spring of 1996. I worked at a Hardware store in our community. A customer came in to rent our floor sander. When I went to pick the sander up, he politely asked if he could help. I said sure. So there we were, he on one side and I on the other. We lifted the sander to waist height, and then out of nowhere he let the sander go--without warning. He just let it go. The sander was 150 lbs of dead weight which drug me right down. From that moment on, I have never been the same. An MRI revealed that I herniated my L-4 and L-5.
I went to a chiropractor for years. It seemed to help when things were out of joint. However, it got to the point where even the treatments were no longer effective. Eventually, I had no choice but to see a surgeon. At first, he suggested I stay away from surgery as long as possible. He referred me to pain management doctor to see if epidurals would not calm the spasms in my lower back accompanied by shooting, stabbing, radiating, and burning pains down my left leg. But even those proved of no value.
I was then referred back to the surgeon to discuss other options. It was then that I decided I had enough of treatments--surgery seemed to be the only option left for me. Since then, I have had three other back surgeries in an attempt to make my life as normal as possible. I know, I am possibly looking at a fifth surgery.
Over the years, I have learned that no one really understands or wants to honestly listen to people who live with chronic pain. And believe me, those suffering do not want to live with it either. I am a forty eight year old man who is not only losing the use of both legs, but also struggles with bladder and bowel issues. It really gets old after a while. You are afraid to leave the house because you do not know what to expect: am I going to lose the use of my legs? What if I can't control my bladder or other bodily functions. It is as if you are imprisoned to your own body...it dictates your every move. Sure I have had tried to work my schedule around what I have learned.
Thankfully, I am in a position where I can go into the office in the morning, work until noon, return home, rest, and finish my day either at my desk or in bed. That I can deal with...my struggle is in the things I can no longer do...such as playing softball, running, doing things with my family and friends, working on projects around the house or for other people. Every time I believe I have redefined my situation, I am slapped in the face with another sign and another symptom...It gets old after awhile.
I know those around me care...however, they just do not understand. I took this week off to honestly pray and discern what I want to do. Do I want to go through another surgery? The answer is "No." But when people ask me about the possibility, they are almost abhorred at the thought that I do not want to go through with another procedure. I try to explain that I have been pricked, prodded, poked, and placed on the surgery enough times: if four surgeries have not fixed me, then what makes me believe a fifth one is the charm. It is a difficult surgery...one that would require me to be off for 8 months to a year...with no guarantees. HMMMN? What would you do.
Furthermore, at times, I feel as if I am being babied--pampered. I get lectured when people see me doing something that they believe I should not be doing. I have to thoughts. First, it is my body and believe me, I have learned to listen to it. And finally, if they would only see the regimen I put my body through to stay in shape (things I learned in therapy).
So how do you deal with pain that is debilitating? Throughout the years, I have learned that it is not all about me...there is something far more important at stake--say my character and who I stand for. For the past twenty years, I have been in the ministry. I have studied the Bible and have preached from the pulpit. I have learned from the examples found in Scripture that God uses the situations we find ourselves in to strengthen and stretch our faith. Every time a shooting pain goes down both legs know, or I am unable to use my legs, I look unto God for the strength and the stamina to deal with the situation. Is it pleasant? No..not by any means. But I can say this, I have never been closer to God than I am today.
Furthermore, I have learned to listen to my body. Though I may push it to the peripheries at times, when I start to hurt, I stop whatever I am doing and rest. Please, bear in mind, that I am obsessive compulsive. When I get my sights set on something...watch out. Well, that is slowly eroding...maybe it's because my spine is doing a little eroding itself.
And finally, I know there are people far worse than I am. When I say that, and as I say that, let me preface it by first encouraging you to never underestimate your pain--your pain is your pain. No one understands it better than you. I believe we try to minimize what we are going through by comparing ourselves to others....that can be dangerous: dangerous in the sense that you do not give yourself to grieve--yes grieve...remember part of you is dying. Nor am I suggesting that you put on a front to impress others...that serves no purpose as well. That is called pride...and we are told pride comes before the fall. Be real, genuine, sincere, and sympathetic...but also be strong. Every Sunday morning I stand to speak, my congregation can just tell by my complexion and my expressions I am in pain...but what speaks to them more is that I am there doing what I am call to do.
If, at all possible, be above your pain. I would be dishonest if I did not say that there are times I am dependent upon pain medications, because I am...but then, there are times I rely upon the strength that can come from only God. If you are reading this my friend, do not--and I mean do not declare defeat. For those struggling with chronic pain, you know exactly what I am referring too...you may get discouraged, disgruntled, and dismayed...but never defeated.