Saturday, January 18, 2014

Learning to Live with Pain

This morning I tried to think about when the last time I could move my right arm without pain in the elbow.  I can't remember.  I think it's been a few months.  I recall that the day after Christmas was when I schedule my appointment with the rheumatologist, and that was after I'd waited a week or so for the rheumatologist's staff to contact me about an appointment.  Before that, I'd had some x-rays and lab work done, and that was about a week after I'd seen my primary care physician.  So I probably saw him sometime in early to mid-December.  And I'd been having pain for at least a month before that.  So probably it's been two months at least.

There comes a time, I guess, when you realize pain is probably not going to go away.  I don't wake up anymore and move my arm to test to see if it hurts today or not.  It hurts every day.  Now, my left knee, that I stretch and flex to see if it hurts and how much.  It usually hurts a lot when I first wake up.  But the pain usually gets better after I'm up and moving around.  Not so with my right arm.

Of course, that's the way it is with my back.  It's been about a year since I've slept through the night without back pain waking me at least once.  It's been about a year since I could bend without pain, without having to worry about whether or not I could get back up again.  I've gotten used to living with the back pain.  Sometimes the pain gets worse and I feel I can't bear it any longer but most of the time, it hurts and I don't like it but I've accepted it.

And I've adapted to it.  Isaac picks up my keys when I drop them in the parking lot.  He picks up the dish towel when I drop it in the kitchen.  He picks up the mouse when I knock it off the arm of my couch.  I put the food I eat the  most on the top shelf in the fridge and do not put anything in the vegetable drawers on the bottom - it's too hard to get things out of those drawers.  There are two washing machines in the laundry room  here but I only use the top loading machine because it's too hard to bend over to use the front loader.  When I have two loads, I do them one at a time, both in the top loading machine.  Now that there is snow on the ground, I keep my winter boots beside the couch, so I can put them on while I'm sitting down, because it's too hard to stand up and then bend  over to zip them up.  I've changed the way I do things, I've rearranged my home, all to accommodate my back pain.

I have not yet done this with regard to my right arm.  But I'm starting to think about it.  Starting to consider how I might rearrange things to accommodate an arm that hurts to bend, that hurts to lift a glass of water to take a drink, that hurts to hold a brush and brush my hair.  Do you know how hard it is to brush your hair with your non-dominant hand?  It's ridiculously hard.  But I've thought that I probably need to learn to do it. 

I've thought about rearranging things in my living room, so that I can keep my drink to the left of me instead of on the end table to the right of the couch.  Now, sometimes I reach across myself with my left hand to pick up the glass, but that's awkward and inconvenient.  I've thought about rearranging my living room but I haven't actually done it yet.  I don't really know why not.  Maybe I just don't want to have to.   Maybe I don't want to say OK, this arm thing is going to be permanent.  It's going to dictate which end of the couch I sit on, where I put an end table, where I put my drink.

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