I have been meaning to type this post out much earlier this year, but I suppose it needed more clarity, that I have gained as the months have passed by. I also do not doubt that I was still emotionally fraught over circumstances to be able to write this with finesse.
Some of you are aware of the surgery I underwent in February this year for knee (acl) reconstruction. Recovery and rehabilitation for that has taken up all of my time and energy this year, in order to attain mobility.
About a week ago, I found myself struggling to stand up from my couch due to sharp pains running down the spine, particularly at the lower back. It felt as if someone was pulling away the centre of gravity away from me, rendering me immobile. Even lying down was not bereft of pain.
It was uncannily like the time I was seized by the worst series of back spasms at the end of 2016, resulting in getting sped to the hospital in an ambulance. The pain was beyond anything I had ever experienced. This coming from someone who has lived with chronic pain since her early 20s. It took a full day at the hospital of being poked, prodded, x rayed to verify that this was brought on by Sciatica – pain at the leg that stems from the lower back, glutes and down the sciatic nerve found at the back of the leg. I found myself unable to do anything, except lay down to ease the tension and pain. Seeking physiotherapy made a remarkable difference. The sessions involved deep tissue massages, infrared treatment and electronic pulses. The relief from better pain management however was short-lived.
Just when it seemed like I was feeling better, I injured the knee. A month after ACL reconstruction surgery, I was dealt with a gnarly asthma attack. It has been one health scare after another since late 2016. And they are all of a life-altering nature, which further complicate my quality of life.
I am no stranger to leg injuries, having sustained 2 serious ones back in 2004 and 2006. Nor am I a stranger to chronic pain, chronic health conditions. But as I type this out right now, I cannot help but feel slightly defeated and exasperated.
The fluctuation of moods when coping with pain on a daily basis is not to be trifled with. Sometimes you feel as if you are in control of the illnesses and pain. Other times you fall into deep despair, or you rage against the cards you have been dealt with. And then there are the times when you feel numb, because it has just gotten way past your tolerance capacity.
Since the injury in 2004, it has been difficult to enunciate just how much pain and ailments can impact your life – your job, your moods, your relationships, your future. Because I seemed to bounce back after each injury, it was forgotten that I was still unable to function completely or be as mobile as before. Because I would push myself to meet friends, they assumed I must be doing much better than I said I was doing. They could not detect the discomfort or pain I was experiencing, and so I was Okay. That has been one of the hardest things to convey – unless it is an injury that actually requires me to use walking aids or be in the hospital, it must surely be manageable enough since I have been able to meet up, interact on social media without seeming bogged by pain.
Over the months of recovery from the knee mishap, I have gained myself fellow chronic pain and invisible illness friends on social media who actually empathise, and know the struggle firsthand. Nothing really cautions you about the drastic way your life will change when you are beset with pain, limited mobility and a compromised immune system. Unless you’re already living with these conditions, it is a challenge to put yourself in my shoes and truly comprehend the emotional, psychological strain it places on you.
As someone in her early 20s who took pride in being a woman on the move and a go-getter, it was humbling when I realised I would never be able to sustain a full time job because of the toll it would take on my injured feet. After the re-activation of my asthma due to adult chicken pox, it dawned on me that I was going to have to scale back from part time work due to the unpredictability of my condition.
My active lifestyle seemed to move further and further away from me. It took me a long time to finally concede to the fact that running would no longer be possible. Dancing the night away was to be a thing of the past. Walking for hours on end exploring the sights while on holiday was not possible. Forget about those things, even the littlest of daily to-do’s were a challenge to accomplish. With these changes to the lifestyle came changes to my personality. I began to shy away from attending gatherings or parties. I stopped taking buses and trains to avoid crowds. When struggling with a health flare, I practically hibernate in my bedroom and refuse to see or speak to anyone until the symptoms abate. My once sparkling eyes and jubilant smile were no longer there when I stared at the person in the mirror. It seemed as if the toll this was taking on my body was making me age exponentially. I turned to food and sleep for comfort. By the time my miscarriages happened in 2009, I had become an empty shell of the person I once knew.
Getting started on anti-depressants made a big difference. I felt more in control over my emotions and thought processing, which in turn helped me cope with health flare of the day, whatever it was. It really began to feel like I was once again gaining mastery over my life – I attained my Masters in Counselling after which I embarked upon Curves Become Her.
Unfortunately I find myself grappling with the invisible illnesses and injuries this year. While surviving the back spasms was no walk in the park, overcoming mental obstacles while seeking mobility for the knee was a mountain of a task. You would think that the years of managing pain and illness would prepare me for this. It does not work that way. I found myself swinging between clinging to hope for dear life to get me through my days and crying myself to sleep feeling desolate and isolated. I tried my best at keeping myself motivated for recovery, and sought online resources like The Mighty to turn to when I needed respite.
Months later after knee reconstruction surgery, I found myself a nice little routine and pace: Feed the pets, head to the gym to strengthen the knee, come home to a hot shower and read a book or articles. Take a nap and maybe head out in the evening for a cuppa, plan for blog posts in the near future before heading to bed. It felt like I was getting parts of me back I previously thought had been lost. But you really do not realise how tough and yet so fragile your constitution becomes after what seems like a decade of never ending health issues.
Those sharp stabbing pains down the spine suddenly had me spiralling down to the dark recesses of the mind where nothing good lingers. The loudest voice in there screaming into my head: I AM TIRED.
I intend to make this a regular series since it has taken such a big chunk out of my daily existence. Sharing, venting, finding answers – whatever you may want to call it. Just like plus size fashion and body positivity intersect on this blog, so will other elements that I shall introduce over time.
If you are living with chronic pain/illness, auto-immune illnesses and disability, do check out The Mighty for a place where you can actually feel less alone in your struggles. This is a suggestion from someone who knows the struggle, and this is not a sponsored post. As I find other resources while manoeuvring my way through pain flares and other ailments, I will be sure to share them with you.
I am ending this post with unanswered questions and open wounds, because that IS the reality of my life right now. I do not have the energy to hide behind false bravado when feeling burdened by the struggle.
Until next time,