The Acute Disappointment of a Chronic Pain Flare-Up
A few months ago, I started getting daily headaches.
They seemed to come out of nowhere, and my life was thrown into a spiral as I tried to figure out what was wrong. My anxiety was firing on all cylinders 24/7. I couldn’t stop worrying that I was going to die, or that I would be in pain for the rest of my life
When the problem was finally revealed to be related to issues with my jaw, my anxiety about reaching an untimely end subsided, but I still worried that pain was going to be my constant companion.
Since then, I’ve received a variety of treatments and made some lifestyle changes that have combined to get my pain to manageable levels most days. Some days, I have very little pain at all.
My Life Has Been Derailed by my Health. I Want to Get it Back.
But everything feels so slow.
But chronic pain is called chronic for a reason. It doesn’t go away. For some, it might be constantly debilitating. For others, it might come in cycles, with some days worse than others.
During periods when I’m having less pain, I feel great. Happy. Optimistic about the future. I start to feel in control of my body, as if I am personally responsible for my pain and if I just keep making all the “right” choices I won’t ever have a bad flare-up again.
And then I have a flare-up.
When my pain levels rise I am reminded of just how not in control of my body I am. I can take care of it to the best of my abilities and it might still fail me. My anxiety kicks back in, and I experience a sharp disappointment toward my body for not working the way I want it to.
When I’m having a bad pain day, I start to suspect that all of my days will be like this from now on. The lower-pain days were a fluke and this is the reality. But of course, the flare-up doesn’t last forever. Eventually, I start to feel better.
And with feeling better comes the thought: Hey, maybe that won’t happen again!
Having struggled with depression and anxiety for years, I’m no stranger to black-and-white thinking. I tend toward thinking in extremes even on the best of days, so I shouldn’t be surprised that those thought patterns creep in when it comes to dealing with my chronic pain.
I also know that this way of thinking isn’t healthy or helpful. I’ll never be able to effectively live my life with chronic pain if I keep viewing it as either something that is going to be cured or something that is going to ruin my life forever. Which is why I have been working on cultivating a healthier mindset towards my pain, and try to remember that everything is temporary, both good and bad days.
But I would be lying if I said that I didn’t feel disappointed every time I get a pain flare-up. Maybe someday, I’ll reach a point where I can be completely at peace with my body and my health. When I can have a bad pain day and not feel like that is going to be my terrible new reality. Or get tricked into thinking that a few good days means that I will never feel pain again.
And if I ever figure out how to do that, I’ll be sure to let you know. Today’s just not that day.
Grace Carlson is a writer from Washington. She writes fiction, creative nonfiction, and the occasional poem. She also writes articles on travel, mental health, writing, and books. Sometimes she’s funny, or at least that’s what her mom says. Visit her blog, A Passport And A Pencil.