Pain and joy

29 Sep

I have not mentioned much about pain or my shoulder injury in this blog.  I try to NOT think about it most of the time, but sometimes, no matter what kind of pills they give me, it seems to be the ONLY thought that sticks around.

Today is one of those days.  It’s a “bad day.”  I try to not snivel, I try to be tough, I try to manage pain well, I try to be the person I should be.  Unfortunately, I’m not.  Today is one of those days when the niggling is more than that, when even breathing hurts.  I want to lash out, even though I know its pointless.  I try to rationalize with myself, because on the scale of things other people have to endure, I’m sure it is nothing.  I tell myself I have partial use of my arm, that I can still do a lot of things.  I tell myself the pain really isn’t that bad.  I tell myself that I am smart enough to figure out ways to do things without having to use my right arm.  I remind myself that as a child, I was ambidextrous.    I actually start to succeed, and a trickle of sweat tickles on my forehead…and I go to wipe it off.

Sharp stabbing pain all over again, and the hand doesn’t make it to the forehead.

The litterbox smells, and in these close quarters, you can’t ignore it.  It needs cleaning.  Because of the close quarters, I carry it outside to clean it.  There isn’t room to work inside this tiny travel trailer.  I have a really convenient one too, it is a covered sifting one, which makes it easy to carry.  But a few days ago, when I cleaned it last, it bumped against the bench and knocked off one of the latches.  I’m not going to be able to carry it, so have to as GM to carry it out for me.  I hurt enough that I am not going to even be able to sift the litter and reassemble it, which means that GM is stuck with that chore, after spending all day working on the van so that I can go to a doctor appointment in New Orleans tomorrow.  I can’t even drive myself to New Orleans.  If I have to take anything for pain, I get drowsy.  To drive over there, go to an appointment, and then drive back is roughly 7-9 hours, depending on traffic and the doctor’s office.  Only 5 hours of that is driving time, as it is normally about 2 1/2 hours to get there, if traffic is flowing normally.  It would be easy to drive without the pain, because if I take the pills, I’m drowsy, but if I just let the pain wander around unfettered, I get really sleepy.  I can’t go to New Orleans alone.  For a woman who thought nothing of driving across the country alone, this sudden dependence is traumatic.  I rarely go anywhere alone anymore.  I’m normally accompanied by GM, my daughter, or a friend…just in case.  Even if I’m fine when I leave and can drive…that may change before I get home, if I venture far.  I don’t know how many times I’ve had someone else finish the driving when we’ve gone to New Orleans or Mobile.

It feels like muscle cramps in my shoulder, stretching over my shoulder blade to the spine.  Sometimes, it’s under the arm, running down my ribs.  Other times, its on the front of the shoulder, where that sore spot has felt bruised and tender…since last November.  I can’t sleep long because of the pain.  I can’t get comfortable.  Riding in the car aggravates things too, and I know that the next two days with two trips to New Orleans will be a real joy.

Insomnia, mood swings…I also know I’m showing signs of depression.  That worries GM and everyone else, and believe me, it worries me.  I have so much to worry about, I don’t have time to deal with being depressed.  But months of physical therapy, appointments with doctors, appointments with “occupational rehabilitation specialists” and a gazillion phone calls to the workman’s comp insurance company have me more than a little worried about what is going to happen.  I’m 49 years old, and if I am not going to regain use of my arm, how am I going to find gainful employment and support myself?  NONE of the various fields that I have worked in previously will work with the current level of limited use of my right arm.  With the pain, there are days and times when I’m largely incapable of working at anything as well.  How am I going to cope with these limits?

Then I chide myself.  People have supported themselves with far larger obstacles than what I face.  I need some creativity, some ingenuity, and I can figure out something that I can do well and earn a living at.  Just because my former employer was not willing to work with my limits doesn’t mean that they are impossible to work with.  Maybe being self employed would be the answer.  Maybe I need to go back to school and be trained for something entirely new.  Twenty years ago, I supplemented my income with handcrafts and artwork.  I haven’t tried doing those things since I was hurt, and while I may not be able to run a sewing machine for 4 hours straight or use a scroll saw for more than a half hour…but could I do it at all?

At first, I merely followed the directions of my doctor and therapist, believing that they would help me regain use of my arm and put the pain behind me.  After all, I’d always healed when I’d been hurt before.  Unfortunately, I have seen very little improvement since the first time that the insurance company denied further physical therapy, I was thrilled when I could lift a dinner plate into the cabinet, but now…despite doing the exercises at home, I still can not dependably do that simple task of lifting ONE dinner plate into the cabinet.  Forget lifting the entire stack like I used to before the injury.  I can’t pick up a coffee cup when the arm is being uncooperative, and that consistently happens at least part of every single day.

I’m a camping fanatic, it is the one thing that I have always loved doing.  I can still do that…IF someone is along to help set up and take down the tent.  I can’t build a fire, I can’t light a fire easily.  I can still do the camp cooking (another hobby) but I have limits there too.  Someone else has to do a lot of the fetching, toting, lifting, and I don’t do recipes that are going to require too much of my arm.  I usually recruit help just with simple repetitive things like stirring gravy or grits.  For someone who used to do a lot of solitary camping and hiking, these new dependence on my companions is hard too.  Someone has to do most of the tent set up, even using the “First Up” tent that is so incredibly easy to erect.  I can’t hammer in the stakes, nor pull them out again.  I have trouble folding tarps or stretching them out on the ground for ground cloths.  Even when we were using a simple lean to for a late summer camp out, something I thought could be done by anyone at all, I had to have help stretching the ropes and staking down the tarp.  I can’t fold up my own camp chair either.  I can’t pack the van, nor can I do much along the lines of unloading.  I have no idea where things are anymore, since GM normally has to do all of that.  Where would I be without him in my life?  How long can he take doing everything for me?

So, despite depression, stress, and pain…I do have something that I am immensely thankful for and gives me great joy.  GM is part of my life and willing to help, as well as willing to help me cope with the stress and pain.  He’s tolerating the side effects of my injury, medication, and change in our lifestyle.  That’s something that all the money in the world could not buy, the love and devotion of your life partner.


One Response to “Pain and joy”

  1. Alice September 29, 2010 at 11:10 pm #

    so sorry you’re still dealing with this. I still have mine too (right arm also). At least my pain level has gone WAY down and I’ve learnd to do so much with my left arm. I’m a bookkeeper, so I’m able to work ok. Here is a website that has been tremendously helpful:

    I’ve learned a lot about the various therapies and such from the people on that forum.
    Get well soon! I know exactly what you’re going thru!

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