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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Emotional and Psychological Responses

Last night I said I would write a little bit about how living with chronic pain has affected me emotionally and psychologically.

I was 24 when I was told that I could not work anymore. At the time I was working as a pharmacy technician in Children's Hospital, Boston. I loved my job and was finishing final preparations to attend Mass. College of Pharmacy to become a pharmacist. My job was so very rewarding to me and made me feel very good about myself. Like most adults I viewed myself in part based on my job and how well I performed at that job. My profession was very much part of who I was and how I saw myself. To have that taken away from me was devestating. I had been raised to be independent, to work and support myself. Suddenly here I was unable to do those things anymore. My self-esteem took a major blow. So I turned to being a good stay at home mother and wife. But I still struggled from time to time with feelings of worthlessness and frustration.

When my condition got worse after my second child, I ended up spending a year mostly bedridden. I had little to no pain control during that time. I could not walk, I could not drive the car or go anywhere and I was in constant pain. When they finally got around to doing the surgery I did well for a few months, until the fusion broke. Being bedridden took away what self-esteem I had been able to build up because I could no longer function as well at my job (what I considered to be my job). Cleaning, running around playing with the kids, running the errands, cooking and everything else were no longer things I could do at all. On top of this I had an infant, my son, to take care of. For months my bedroom had just the bed in it, to make it safe to have the baby in the room with me. His crib, high chair, and toys were all in the room as well. This way I could feed him, play with him a little bit and watch him from my bed.

After the second fusion attempt I had very high hopes to once again be able to function and do all the things I enjoyed doing, but it didn't work out that way. I am not stuck in bed all the time, but I do have many days where I can't walk very well or am in so much pain that I have to stay in bed laying down. This has wreacked havoc on my self-esteem. To no longer be able to do many of the things I enjoy, to no longer be able to do the things I needed to do to care for my family and even myself just tore me up inside. I've struggled since then with bouts of depression, and self-incrimination. To have so many things that made me feel useful taken away from me with nothing to replace them (such as changing jobs; lose one job but gain another so the identity as a worker changes but remains intact) but days of pain and increasing disabilities as the years pass, is enough to cause depression.

Right now I am mostly struggling with finding myself having no desire to do anything except sit around staring at the television. Part of this is I fear causing higher levels of pain. Part is having too many days where I am unable to do anything (pain crisis days, or days where my legs don't work). Part is the chemical imbalances that are created in a person's body when they live with constant pain. My doctors have told me that chronic pain reduces serotonin in the brain, which is believed to be one of the chemicals that controls mood and causes depression when it gets unbalanced.

I am waiting for my insurance company to approve the new anti-depressent my doctor has put me on. While I wait I am doing my best to fight that apathy, sadness, tiredness, insomnia, increased pain, and lack of enjoyment in anything. This blog is one way of doing that. I know that right now it doesn't seem that way since all my posts so far have been negative as I attempted to give some background for possible readers. I've also forced myself to participate in two cross stitch surprises for friends. I normally enjoy cross stitching a great deal and I am good at it, but since I no longer enjoy doing anything, I don't enjoy stitching. I've found though that if I force myself to do something, I will find myself enjoying it after a little while, or glad that I did it once it is over. After finishing the first stitched piece I didn't get that whole body fantastic feeling of accomplishment that I used to get, but I did get some good feelings which made me glad that I did it.

To help me recover my self-esteem when I was healing from abuse in my past, I would make lists of things that I did right that day. This was to train my mind to see not only those things I did wrong, but also those things I did right. It helped me to have a more balanced view of myself and my actions/activities. So I'm going to try something similar here.

I am grateful for having such a wonderful husband. He is so very supportive and loves me despite my physical disabilities and accepts me no matter what.

I am grateful for having such wonderful kids. My daughter, who also suffers from chronic pain and my son are wonderful, caring, loving people. I am proud of them and grateful for their assistance when I have needed it.

I went to the store today even though I did not feel like I wanted to go out I went anyway. I am glad that I did.

I continue to decrease the amount I smoke in a day.

I did wash some dishes today, finished washing the cross stitch square, straightened up the bathroom a little bit, and moved a load of laundry into the dryer then started a new load.

I may not have gotten as much done as I wanted to, but I did get some things done and that's better than nothing.

Now I have to pick a design for the other square and will hopefully start stitching on it tomorrow.

Ron, thank you for everything. I don't know how you put up with everything and remain as calm as you do. You are my strength. Without you I am sure I would not want to continue fighting to live despite everything instead of just existing like I have been. I love you with everything that I am and I feel blessed to know that you love me just as much.


  1. Hi Missy:)
    Firstly good on you for writing what you have! It will help and also you will branch out and meet other people who really do empathise or try and understand what you are going through.

    To many people judge others. When it comes to pain it is yours, your feeling it not them.
    The ones who make arsy comments about your pain are generally two types.
    The martyrs who may suffer themselves but want everyone to see them in high esteem so they pat themselves on the back while downing everyone else for being weak. Well they usually end up very bitter, burnt out and lonely.

    Or people who have never experienced any real pain (besides maybe childbirth for some(i.e women),which one tends to forget thankfully). So these people haven't got any understanding or empathy towards your plight.

    All I can say is try as much as you can to stay motivated and find any sense of purpose which may help you get through any dark and tough patches!
    Thank you also for reading my blog, take care and I will keep on reading.

  2. Thank you Kirst. I appreciate you reading my blog. It was reading yours and a couple others that gave me the idea as an additional way to try and motivate myself to once again fight the depression that had overtaken my life.

    I agree that many people can't understand what it is like to live with chronic pain as they do not have any real experience upon which to base a comparison.

    I am trying to find ways to keep myself motivated and things to do to make me feel more useful. It is a tough battle but I am trying.

    Thanks again!


Thank you for taking the time to read and/or comment on my blog. For people who are chronically ill and/or in constant pain, it can be difficult to socialize as frequently as we would like to do so. Talking with others online is a way for us to socialize, chat with others, make new friends, reach out to others in similar circumstances and many more positive effects.

Knowing that someone has read my posts and commented on it, helps in many ways. The biggest two being that it helps ease the feeling of being "alone" and that no one could possibly understand. Secondly, it reminds us that others truly do care and that just feels wonderful!!

Thank you very much for taking the time to read and/or comment on my blog, it really does mean a great deal to me and is helpful too!