Chronic Pain + Depression

Three years ago, I had a bad fall down a flight of stairs. One minute there I was, at the top of the stairs, calling goodbye to my husband, yoga mat jauntily slung over my shoulder, mood sparkling, in the best shape of my life – with the muscular curves that four years of belly dance and yoga and hiking on the Yorkshire Moors granted me.
The next moment, I lay crumbled at the bottom of the stairs, my right arm stretched behind me at an odd angle, confused, broken, and unable to agree with my husband that I should go to a hospital (we were in the UK at the time, so it would not have cost us anything).
And I’ve never been the same, ever since.
My yoga practice lessened, and then stopped entirely when my right shoulder developed into complete adhesive capsulitis. I had about 5% range of motion for 18 months and couldn’t sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time due to pain for the first 8 of those months. I had to cancel what would’ve been my first paid belly dance gig and mini-class, thus extinguishing a newly-formed dance duet team before it even had time to properly develop.
My spinal alignment was terrible, and I developed vertebrae problems. I put on weight at an alarming rate, and, to this day, have yet to work it all off. I was terrified walking down the street, for every time I accidentally bumped into an object or a person the jolt of pain starting at my shoulder was so intense that I yelped and nearly passed out on the street. Eventually, I went to the doctor and got some strong painkillers, which increased my appetite and played havock with my complexion. And the doctor told me if I had come in right away after the fall it was possible that something could have been done so that the injury didn’t develop into adhesive capsulitis, and would probably have healed well in 3-4 weeks.
Enter guilt.
Loads and loads of overwhelming, self-perpetuating, pain-driven guilt.
I still feel this guilt.
I still morn the dancing I should have been doing, the deepening of my yoga practice, the beautiful walks in the Dales I missed, the carefree spirit I had felt from just being healthy and strong.
After my shoulder could move again, I begin the long process of rebuilding, and attempting to counteract the extra damage caused by two many hours sitting in bed when I couldn’t do anything else. It was slow. My yoga now feels like it’s at the level it was during my first six months of practice. I never did re-start belly dancing (partly because I moved to an area with NO Tribal Style bd classes).
Then, last September, a car coming the opposite way from me down a busy street decided to plow right into the front of my car. Now I’m rehabilitating a painful back injury and I feel like just when I was starting to re-build another debilitating injury set me back again.
Perhaps it is too obvious to say that none of this pain made it easier to deal with my Depression. And the isolating aspect of Depression is only amplified when people cannot _see_ an injury…. no cast and crutches to make my pain obvious. No big surgery to get flowers at; no end to the pain in sight; no time when I know I’ll be able to work out. Hard. Every day. Because that’s what it’d take to get my body back.
I’m not sure I have any answers here. Chronic pain is exhausting, omnipresent, and quite frankly, depressing. It is apt to make you feel alone in a world of pain, having to push through every day while the rest of the world bounces around able to do things that you cannot. Personally, I have guilt every time I reach out and tell people I hurt, and guilt for not accomplishing more in my free time.
The HOPE here has to be just that. Because you don’t know when you’ll have a pain free day again. Because you don’t know if you’ll ever feel healthy and whole and strong again. And so I say, cling to the hope wherever you find it. If you meditate, build a place inside where the pain is gone and dwell there for a while every day. Listen to the people who say they love you and you can vent to them, and believe that if you do they will not abandon you. Push through and give yourself the patience and grace you need to heal. Because you don’t know when you’ll feel better.
But you also don’t know that you won’t.
Because you don’t know that others are suffering as well.
And maybe they need you to be their light.
Because you know you need a hug and a kind ear.
And someone else you will see today does also.
Because neither Depression, nor Pain
are who you are.