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.


2 thoughts on “Chronic Pain + Depression

  1. my dearest kat,
    this entry touches such a deep and personal spot for me…I understand exactly what you mean, understand what you have and are going through…the pain, frustration, guilt, and, yes…sadness. it has now been 4 years since I broke my foot–snapped the bone….nothing unusual…just walking too fast around a corner at the end of day Friday at work in my nursing shoes…and SNAP.

    and that was that….and I knew…by the time they got me to urgent care I knew everything was different, and I was in a boatload of trouble…by the time they put the temporary splint on and my doctor came in trying to cheer me up, I was crying…he asked if it was pain, I said no…I was upset because I was going to lose my job now…would not be able to be a clinic nurse anymore…I was broken…and we all know what happened to broken nurses (at least I had seen it enough in 13 years to know it was beginning of end)….

    and being in the position of not being able to walk…or even get into my own house…was horrible…for 6 weeks just sat in front of computer…knowing every day was one day further from ever having my job back…so..i signed off too early on my foot and returned to work….causing more problems in long term than I knew…and I still lost my job as they said I was just not the “same person”…between loss of my sister, and my foot, which had left me with a permanent limp…and yes…the whole body hurting due to being out of alignment…and they were telling me that I didn’t smile enough…it broke my heart, as at that time, it took everything I had to go in and do my work…but no,,,no real smile….

    and I know you remember how much I used to love dancing too….and it breaks my heart that you, too, got “grounded”..which is how I viewed myself…cobbled….could no longer dance…and knowing there would be a day one day when I wanted to again…and not to be able to dance..was hard…not to be able to do many yoga poses…yes…the fear that came with anyone getting too close to my foot that first year after it happened….the pain…the lack of sleep then the overall resulting sluggishness and wt. gain…

    and I tried…tried to look for the bright side…looked at it as the opportunity to learn the deeply humbling lesson of what the patient in the same position feels like….to understand what chronic pain sufferers experience…looked at it as God’s way of getting me out of a bad situation and making change direction….which,….I realize now…is true…the clinic was killing me….my blood pressure was high, my headaches were daily and beyond…I would come home crying from holding in the pain and fatigue all day…

    well..i won’t tell you how badly the housekeeping deteriorated…could no longer stand on my toes…or even walk around much, my time at home I had to jealously use to rest and try to catch up on sleep…the house deteriorated…which left me angry and even more frustrated…
    and it still is always a relative mess…
    I have just come to expect it, and accept that right now, that is how it is…

    and…I listen to music….and dream of dancing again…dream of DNA and spinning on the floor with friends and sister…

    and…when i am out…and see someone else who i can tell is hurting…i know without having to know them…feel a connection…inside my head i cheer them on…keep going, keep going…

    because,,,in the end…i am not really ready to stop…my mind still waltz’s to its own tune…i am still pretty in pink–

    and even though the moments are far between,,,i still have those moments of escape…away from the painful and sad diurnal

    • Thank you, Lady Eliza. You’ll always be a hero to me, one whose influence and amazing spirit and heart I remember always.Thank you for being
      genuinely you, and thank you for hanging on. Love and light, K@

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