So, I’m stuck in a body that doesn’t agree with me. At all. Sort of like Pop Rocks and pigeons (Is that urban legend actually true? Will the bird really blow up? I’m afraid to Google it).
I have had far too many surgeries, have far too many conditions and my body is far too broken-down for a person my age. Thirty-seven. In my opinion, that’s pretty freakin’ young. But two different doctors have warned me that I’ll need knee replacements within a few years. My thyroid has been removed because my body was attacking it. My neck has been fused twice and is injured AGAIN (and before you send me “I told you so” emails, I haven’t mountain biked, dirt biked or street biked this year, so ZIP IT).
I have Fibromyalgia, which is an opportunistic turd-of-a-disorder that flares up any time I’m sick, tired or injured. Umm…..I’m a full-time mom (to a lunatic petri-dish-of-a-toddler), freelance writer/editor, who’s building a house with her husband and likes high-octane sports. I’m pretty much sick, tired and/or injured ALL THE TIME so flare-ups are pretty common. Which means exhaustion, soreness and muscle rigidity.
Most of you probably wouldn’t know that I’m walking around in terrible pain on a nearly daily basis. This lovely photo was shot by Joy Farr of Legacy Photography last week. I was in the middle of a fibromyalgia flare-up and my knee and neck were killing me – to the point of causing a migraine. I was in so much pain I would have sworn that the wind was bruising me. Would you know it looking at the photo? Heck no, because I’M A MOTHER-LOVING THESPIAN, YO!
Unfortunately, this works against me in the doctor’s office. I hate to “inconvenience” people with my pain so I end up smiling, apologizing and making jokes. Apparently most doctors aren’t used to that sort of patient and assume I’m just there for fun. Or drugs. Or fueling neurosis.
Several years ago I went to see a neurologist about some issues swallowing and numbness in my arms. I was told that I needed to see a psychiatrist – that it was due anxiety. It’s true that I’m an anxious person, but GIVE ME A FREAKING BREAK! I knew my body and I knew something was wrong. I demanded an MRI which was quickly followed by a phone call from the doctor telling me I had a big tumor on my thyroid and a ruptured disc. “Don’t do anything; you’re at risk for paralysis.”
It went from, “It’s all in your head” to “You have a serious injury” in the time it took me to get an MRI. That I insisted on. Dear Dr. Dickwad, you may SUCK IT.
After my second neck surgery, the surgeon said, “Well, THAT was interesting,” and went on to explain how they had to bring in a jack to pry my vertebrae apart enough to continue the surgery. After my second knee surgery the doctor told me they weren’t able to completely fix it – they would have had to open the knee up instead of scoping it. Once he saw the damage, he was surprised I was able to walk into his office, let alone ski all season on the injured knee.
From the time my contractions were three minutes apart, I was in labor for 38 hours. Thirty-eight hours of BACK LABOR. You know I will bring this up at Roper’s wedding. My body went into shock, but I never once swore or raised my voice. Me. The one who drops f-bombs like it’s her part-time job and WRITES IN ALL CAPS. I think Toby is still surprised.
Sometimes, I literally CRAWL DOWN THE STAIRS BACKWARDS in the morning because my joints aren’t working.
I tell you all of this not to seem martyr-ish, because I’m so NOT. I’m just illustrating that I can hide pain with the best of them. And I hide pain because I’m terrified of being vulnerable. I’m terrified of being misunderstood, considered a whiner, or worse yet, that people will think I’ve become a “mom jeans” wearing sellout who’d rather be on the sidelines than in the game. I save my crying, kicking, frustration for my husband and a very few dear friends.
Lucky them, right? Pfft.
My point (that I took RIGHT AROUND FOREVER to get to) is that there are a lot of people out there with invisible, chronic, soul-sucking pain. People who are fighting to get through each day and pass for normal. I bet when you really think about it, you can come up with several people in your life. It’s easy to forget that these people are in a constant battle with their body, because they work so hard to not let it interfere in YOUR life.
Do me a favor; give these people a little grace. Don’t assume they’re flaky when they have to cancel plans. Don’t assume they’re washed up just because they have to take time off from activities to recover from a set-back. Don’t EVER assume you’re tougher than them.
And for the love of all things good, if they actually mention their pain, ACKNOWLEDGE IT. Ignoring it or discounting it is often more painful than the physical cause. Toby has learned that the best thing he can ever say to me is, “That sucks.” And it does suck. But pain doesn’t define me, or anyone else. It just adds to our character…and our ability creatively string expletives together.