It was the scream that woke me up. It was a horrible sound, full of pain.
It’s odd the way your brain notices things. First I realized I was sitting up in bed in the middle of the night. I heard the screams. Then I realized the screams were coming from me. And it was after that that I noticed the pain. Of course, this all happened in
a just a couple of seconds, but I definitely figured out the screams before I noticed the pain, and that surprised me.
I looked to my open bedroom windows and wondered if I’d woken anyone up, even as I put all of my effort into not screaming again. I had a firm grasp around my knee and there was nothing else to do but wait.
I don’t know what this is. It started happening about two years ago. It only happens occasionally, maybe once every 3 or 4 months. It only happens during the night while I’m asleep. And it’s excruciating. Unfortunately, I think it’s been getting worse. I don’t usually scream. Or even sit up. Whether it’s worse or not, it’s still just as mysterious. My naturopath and rheumatologist are stumped. When I told my father today, he asked if I’d seen an orthopedist. With all of my other problems, it never occurred to me to do anything about my knee locking up in my sleep. It’s horrible, but it’s rare, so why bother? Still, I’d like it to stop. Maybe seeing an orthopedist isn’t the worst idea.
It was around 1:15am and I was cold. The windows were open and it was probably 20 degrees outside. I like sleeping in a cold room. But I couldn’t lie down. I couldn’t even move a hand to pull up the blankets. I had to hold onto my knee because if it moved a bit in any direction, the searing pain would just be too much. After more than 20 years of chronic pain, this was the worst I’d ever experienced. The memory of that initial pain has been haunting me all day. But at that point, I just wanted it to go away. Then I was aware that I had to go to the bathroom. There was no way I could get off the bed, though.
After about 20 minutes, I still couldn’t unbend my knee, but I could shift my body a few inches and reach into my night-table drawer. I pulled out the cream that my naturopath had given me months ago for this very problem. I rubbed it on gently and waited. It didn’t help. I waited longer. When enough time had passed, I decided to make my way to the bathroom. I knew it would hurt, but some things can’t wait. I hobbled over, managed to sit, and was thankful (not for the first time!) to have the sink right next to the toilet so I could lower myself and pull myself up without putting as much pressure on my knee. Standing to wash my hands was hard, but I managed it, then I made my way back to the bed. [Note to self: make sure next apartment has bathroom right next to bedroom again.]
After a while I felt into a fitful sleep. I had weird dreams. I dreamed about Downton Abbey. I just watched the first season this week and it was in my head. I think my brain was mostly trying to not think about my knee. I dreamed about the email I would write to my friend, canceling today’s plans. I dreamed things that made no sense at all. And I dreamed about pain. I woke up too often, but at least I did get some sleep. I managed to keep my knee straight. Every time I shifted, it hurt. I wanted to roll over, but gravity’s effect on my knee was too painful. It was a lousy night.
I knew what to expect in the morning. Each time this happens, my knee hurts a bit the next day. I stay off my feet, and the following day it’s fine. I hated to cancel my plans for tonight, but they involved walking to the T, riding the T, and then sitting in cramped theater seats for a while. It was unlikely my knee could handle it, but I held out some hope. For some reason, though, my knee wasn’t just achy today, like all those times before. Today it was painful. Really painful. I’ve spent little time on the computer, because it hurts to sit in a chair where my knee can’t be straight. I mostly sat on the couch with my leg up today. But no matter where I was sitting, even with a brace on it, all would be good for a bit, and then WHAM! PAIN! It’s disturbing, and it’s one of the reasons I know this is getting worse.
It was a frustrating day. I couldn’t do my errands, of course, but I also couldn’t do things around the apartment, like laundry. It was a day of reading, tv, reading, tv, tv, reading, and tv. On the other hand, the pain has been a nice distraction from my other recent problems, so I guess that’s a silver lining.
Over the years my pain has come down on the pain scale. I’ve been thankful for my 2s and 3s. I’ve been glad my 4s and 5s weren’t worse. And today, as I keep feeling twinges of 5s, 6s, and 7s, I keep remembering last night’s 9.5 and I hope I don’t experience that again any time soon. And I wish none of us ever would.