I can’t sleep because I’m in terrible pain. It’s my lower back again. My lower back almost never feels normal anymore. I either have a constant dull to severe ache or an intermittent excruciating pain making it difficult to walk.
Since back pain is yet another autoimmune-related problem, I can’t talk about it with friends and family. I know from experience that talking about constant suffering causes people to tune you out. I stopped talking to my family about my health after they mocked me while I was being screened for cancer and I’ve lost friends over what has been described as “negativity and whining”. Here I am talking to an internet full of people I do not know. People who can click another link when they are tired of hearing about my experiences or pain.
Imagine that every day activities were excruciatingly painful. Painful like having a broken bone, a nail ripped from your finger, or an abscessed tooth. I have experienced all of the previous pain types and, for those that haven’t experienced severe back pain, you now have a point of reference. Every time I bend to do the most basic chore – feed the dogs, throw away trash, put dishes in the dish washer, or load the washing machine with laundry – a wave of intense pain shoots across my back into my abdomen and down my left leg. Each time I sit on the toilet, I want to cry out from pain – a pain so severe it makes it difficult just to pee because my nervous system becomes in some way distracted by the level of pain.
When I sleep, my legs or arms fall asleep from the inflammation so I awaken every few hours feeling like my skin is on fire. If I move the wrong way during a dream, I am jolted awake by a sharp electric shock of pain radiating through my body. At work, it’s hard to focus because even with an ergonomic seat, sitting at a desk is miserable.
Muscle relaxers and narcotics take the edge off the pain, but cause intolerable side effects. I’m loopy, exhausted, my stomach is upset, I have constant heartburn, and miserable constipation. I try to avoid taking medication if at all possible because of the side effects, but that leaves the severe pain untouched.
This is my daily life with back pain and arthritis and all of the above is why I can’t talk about it. How whiney would I sound explaining this to a friend?