Remembering to Cut Myself Some Slack, or Not Allowing Anxiety to Take Control.
Alright y’all. I’m going to make with some extra transparency today.
I’m going to touch on a topic that I have, up to now, avoided or hidden from because I wasn’t sure I wanted the whole world to know all of this about me.
I had my first creeper spam incident a couple of weeks back when someone made some really grotesque comments on my blog and I had to pull WordPress staff in. That made me a little extra fearful of full transparency because…
What if more jerkfaces happen upon my blog and use my transparency against me?
What if potential employers see it and use it as a reason not to hire me in the future?
What if my family gets annoyed and thinks I’m sharing too much?
What if some of the folks I work with at my current organization (although I’ve been out of work for five months now) go all mean-girl on me and talk shit behind my back like they’re kind of known to do?
I suppose all of those things could happen, but I don’t know that it’s probable and I’m almost certain it’s not worth censoring myself for.
So, here goes…
I was a child of trauma, an adolescent who lived with toxic stress, and I have survived several traumatic accidents or injuries. These include automotive crashes, physical and sexual assaults, and physical and emotional abuse in domestic partnerships and other relationships.
I have done a lot of hard work in therapy throughout my adult life. I’ve had two therapists especially who I credit with helping me to make my biggest breakthroughs so that I could function as a healthy (albeit imperfect) adult.
Because of all of this hard work I am generally able to maintain my moods and emotional well-being with extremely low doses of a particular medication and a heaping mountain of self awareness and self-care practices (thanks social worker friends!) Diet and exercise also play a roll.
Throwing chronic pain into my mix, though…I didn’t see that freight train coming, y’all.
Chronic pain can play tricks with one’s mind in a variety of ways, most notably causing depression and anxiety disorders to flare quite a bit.
In addition to the hopelessness that can be brought on by debilitating and crippling pain, some (like myself) may experience drops in self esteem. We feel like we are letting everyone down: our families, our friends, our coworkers and colleagues.
Financial stress becomes a burden for us (especially those of us who can’t work) and we in turn begin to feel like a drain on our famillies. We lose joy and may feel trapped in our bodies and in our homes. I personally definitely feel like my body and I are at war, like we are having a battle of wills.
Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week and I was having a particularly hard time so I found it appropriate to finally address this topic here.
When I spoke to my doctor back in May about the need for further medical treatment and scans I told him that my depression was flaring. (I think he could tell without me saying so because I was just about sobbing in his office telling him about the pain.)
He asked me if I was willing to try a medication called Cymbalta, as it was found to help both with depression and chronic pain. I decided I would try it, and it seemed to help some! Winning!
The last week in September, my pain had suddenly increased and stayed at a 10/10 around the clock, every single day. I wasn’t even able to wear pants (jeans or yoga pants) because the pressure on my back was too much. My specialist ordered me to stop physical therapy until after my injection and advised me that he thought that one of my discs had herniated.
I went to see my primary care doctor that week to let him know the status of my care. He asked me, “How is your depression doing?” I admitted to him that the hopelessness had come back, especially so since the pain spiked back up and was sustaining such high levels.
He asked if I’d had thoughts of harming myself. I told him no, not specifically, but that I would find myself literally begging for relief and mercy, crying from the pain, and wishing for an escape. We decided that my Cymbalta dosage should be increased.
Last Monday, October 2nd, I went for my second set of epidural spinal injections in my lumbar spine. The first time I had this done was in June of this year and it failed to improve my condition. This time the pain specialist planned to take a different approach and perform the injections at different discs than before.
By the time I was sitting in the waiting room of the surgical center on Monday I was depserate for relief. I had been crying daily from the pain, had gone days without sleeping…
That’s the thing about the chronic pain; there are layers and layers of complications and byproducts that fuck with you in a myriad of ways.
Chronic pain is my misery onion.
So here’s something about epidural spinal injections that you may not know:
They may or may not work for any given person and even if they do work, you have to get worse before you get better. Then, if they work, the effects may last weeks or months or years. No one really knows why they work for one person and not another.
I received my injections some time around 9AM.
I had about two hours of blissful numbness.
I didn’t feel a damn thing, and man did that feel good.
That’s the kind of feeling that makes you understand how people become drug addicts, really. I’m dead serious.
When you’re used to being in a chronic state of pain and misery, in my case for a solid six months, you start to lose your grip on personal morals and ethics. Especially when someones gives you something that makes the pain disappear.
After the two or so hours of bliss, the sedation and numbing wore off and the pain came back ten-fold. Now both of my legs were throbbing and the pain was radiating throughout my lower back.
Nothing helped. It took me forever to fall asleep that night.
On Tuesday I woke up with almost no pain. It’s such a strange sensation to me at this point that I was like, “What feels off?”
Now here’s where the anxiety disorder comes in…
All day Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday I mostly slept. It was the most bizarre feeling of exhuastion I’ve ever had. Even during the hours I was awake, I was mostly staring off into space. I couldn’t get a damn thing done.
Why did I feel like I had to get anything done last week? Wasn’t I doing what I was supposed to be doing by letting my body rest?
Remember what I said earlier about low self esteem, feeling like a burden, the financial stress, etc? My mind started running away from me again.
What if everyone who’s been reading my blog gets annoyed because I’m not writing frequently enough, and they stop following along or caring what I have to say?
What if there are people who want to buy product or talk to me about the business opportunity but I keep sleeping through everyone’s phone calls, texts, and Facebook messages? What if they go to somebody else because they think I’m unreliable?
Oh my God, what if I lose like half my clientelle?!?! This is my livelihood now! It’s not a side hustle, it’s an only hustle! I ca’t afford to just lay around!
What if I disappoint everyone and I’m not really cut out for this?!
What if my teammates get annoyed with me because I’ve been MIA for a week and not helping anyone with their business?
Thinking like this was only making me feel more exhausted but I couldn’t stop myself! I found myself having to talk me out of panic every few hours.
Friday I was much more alert and felt much more like myself, which was great because my company released three new products and I was actually awake to hear the anouncement and share the news with my VIP clients.
So Friday was good! I even got to have a date night with my love and watch a movie over takeout from my favorite place.
Then guess what happened?
Friday night, over night, the pain came back. Sciatica creeped all the way down my left leg, into my foot and toes. I woke up at 3AM and couldn’t fall back to sleep until sometime around 8AM.
Ain’t that some shit?
Four days with nearly no pain, driving myself crazy worrying about what I’m not doing because my body is so tired from six months of adrenaline pumping through it constantly…
…and the fucking pain comes back.
I realized over the course of the weekend that I am much less kind to myself than I am to other people. I grant myself a lot less Grace than I do others. What kind of shit is that?
Note to self:
Work on this.
Be kinder to yourself.
Treat yourself with as much humanity as you treat others.
Did y’all learn a lesson in this? I did.
As always, thanks for indulging me.
P.s. I truly hope that there are folks that read this and feel less alone in their struggles, both physical and emotional.
I also hope that if You Out There take nothing else away from my blog, you take away the knowledge that you don’t have to stop living or working if you’re plagued with chronic pain or other invisible illnesses.
We live in a world in which we can creatively problem-solve just about anything, including this. Please reach out if you ever want to know more about what I do.