You know things are bad when the first thought you have when you wake up in pain in the middle of the night is, “Crap, now I’m going to be exhausted tomorrow.”
I guess a “healthy” person, someone who doesn’t have chronic pain, would have called 911. But I’ve had enough pain over the years to just sigh, try to fall asleep, then give in and read a book. I learned how to sleep through the pain when I was a teenager. People have been amazed by that, but it’s a survival instinct. Yes, when the pain is worse, I don’t sleep as well, but I can often sleep through the lesser pain. And miraculously, my pain hasn’t been too bad at night, so it hasn’t kept me awake. That’s what made last night even more strange.
When I woke up, I first thought of the dreams I’d been having, so maybe those are what really woke me up. But then I noticed the pain – everywhere. Ok, it wasn’t everywhere, but it was in a lot more places than usual! I did a quick assessment: “toes (not again!), knees (they never hurt when I’m lying down, except for weather-related pain – is it going to snow?), fingers (oh crap, that’s getting worse, and that just started a few weeks ago), shoulder (yow! that’s a bad one, and completely new), elbows (uh oh, those never hurt before), and everything else…. seems ok so far. Ok, some new pain, some old pain, and nothing I can do about either right now. Better get back to sleep.”
After that highly technical assessment, I tried to ignore it all, but the pain was intense. Around 4:30am I gave up and read a book for a while. Luckily, later in the day I was able to fall asleep on the couch, and I took a 4 hour nap. None of this is normal. I never wake up for the day at 4:30am. And I never take a 4 hour nap. But the “healthy” person would have been worse off – I’m pretty sure they would have spent many hours in a hospital and learned nothing.
People are often amazed at the way I handle these things. They say I’m so strong, and they admire that. My response is, if you’d been dealing with chronic pain for 20 years, since your childhood, you’d probably react the same way. What choice do I have? Panicking won’t help one bit. I’d rather roll over and go back to sleep.
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