Never Judge By Outward Appearances 




During this September 2017, we have been urged by the U.S. Pain Foundation, to share our story on social media.  I was reluctant to do this, but then I decided to share after a mini documentary that my husband & I were involved in was released.  Let me explain:

I was recently involved in a video on Social media, called “Becoming Incurable”, directed & produced by Victoria Suan.  I’ve had several people see that video, which shows only a minuscule piece, of one very small illness that I live with.  People saw me with a nebulizer and now think I have only Asthma.  Asthma isn’t fun even on its own. But between this and seeing me involved with the U.S. Pain Foundation during Pain Awareness Month especially;  many people are assuming things that shouldn’t be assumed.  None of us like being assessed by what we look like on the outside; with regards to Invisible illnesses.  Several persons have told me that they “wish they only had what I have”.  Others have said that “they wish they could do more & be involved more, like I am able to do “. 

My name is Suzanne and I have been disabled since 1999; 1st from PTSD and stage two chronic Kidney disease. In August 2002, I was in a motor vehicle accident which caused multiple injuries,including:   a Traumatic brain injury, hearing loss (I acquired 2 hearing aids), vision lessened & eye issues, many (approximately 8) surgeries, & 3 years of TBI rehab. I still suffer with short term memory loss and other effects from the TBI.  In 2003, I had to have a dual chamber pacemaker placed for “Sick Sinus Syndrome”  (it is a Bradycardia/Tachycardia Arrythmia), along with Dysautonomia/POTS.  After seven or eight surgeries and a pacemaker, I was diagnosed with” Complex Regional
Pain Syndrome”, in 2007. It started in my right foot after surgery and it spread over the years to both feet & knees.

 In 2005, I had an M. I. or heart attack. In 2006 after the heart attack, I was diagnosed with Atrial fibrillation and was put on Blood thinners. But, I suffered a CVA/stroke in 2006. I have Mitral valve prolapse, Tricuspid valve prolapse, mild Pulmonary Valve Hypertension, 

In 2013, I had to have pacemaker replacement surgery (my first pacemaker was placed in 2003). When the Heart Surgeon got inside of my chest, they found that the entire pectoral muscle had to be totally rebuilt. The old pacemaker had been placed in the muscle instead of inside of a bag near the muscle. Over 10 years, It wore a hole right through my pectoral muscle and then had to be rebuilt during a long surgery, which was a very painful recovery afterwards. The Dr. informed me that aside from the Systemic CRPS, the continuing post surgical pain and Lymphedema in my left arm, is similar to the pain that occurs after a mastectomy.  Though, I did not have a Mastectomy.  

 The surgeon, a Neurocardiologist, had researched RSD/CRPS & did an internal surgical wash of Bipvucaine to try and “head off”systemic CRPS, & prevent it from spreading. It ended up being unsuccessful and the CRPS progressed into “Severe, Systemic/Full body CRPS”. It’s spread everywhere including my eyes and my mouth.  

 I have a few other chronic pain illnesses, including: CKDII, Arnold Chiari Malformation I (with Chiari Migraines),
Degenerative Disc Disease, RA, OA, Gastroparesis, S.I.B.O., Chronic Erosive Gastritis, Autonomic Neuropathy, Polyneuropathy in Collagen Vascular Disease (EDS-4/vascular), multiple herniated & bulging discs (with L4-5 Radiculopathy) at L4,L5& S1 + C5,C6 & C7. CID (Combined Immunodeficiency Disease/an Autoimmune disease), Eczema, Prinzmetal Angina (aka “Coronary Spasms”), Lymphedema, Scoliosis, Asthma, CAD, Right Long Thoracic Nerve Neuropathy, Severe Dry Eye, and just too much to mention here today! But you get the idea!  

I’m not the only one! There are so many chronic pain warriors with a list as long or longer!  I’m not a candidate for a Spinal cord Stimulator or an Intrathecal pain pump, because of my “Combined Immune Deficiency Disease”. It could cause paralysis and/or infection in my Spinal cord. So I’m limited in what I can do for my chronic pain. I’m one in a group of chronic pain patients, who has had to resort to taking pain medications. But in doing this, I can have some semblance of a life outside of my bed or the sofa. Believe me, since 2002, I’ve tried many, many medications starting with Lyrica & Gabapentin. I went through 8 years of physical therapy. I had to go to TBI rehabilitation for 3 years. I’ve had many braces, therapies, tests, TENS unit (prior to the CRPS) and more! Depending on the day & how much I need to do; I have:  hand braces, arm sleeve covers, 2 knee braces,     2 AFO’s, a wheelchair, Motorized scooter, walker and a cane. Right now the pain medications are what give me the ability to do some activities outside of my home, bed or sofa.  

 This is my story…. it’s  the “Readers Digest” short version.. It’s a long arduous and continuing saga of chronic pain and surgeries. But I just don’t give up HOPE. I make it a Verb and try to change negatives
into positives. Rather than do nothing, I try to do something. For fun, I make You Tube Videos of my favorite songs or stories translated into American Sign Language (@ASLSuzyQ).

 I’m an Ambassador for the U.S. Pain Foundation. I write in my blog, “Tears of Truth” @tearsoftruth.com. I am a writer
for the National Pain Report.  I also founded & run a few support groups for chronic pain and I’m a chemo-angel. I am part of a collaboration group to help with the Opioid crisis (the crisis being the lack of Opioids now & the government taking pain meds away from legitimate chronic pain patients).  I am a patient leader for WEGO Health and a mentor for newly DX CRPS patients for RSDSA.  Setting all of this aside, just as one of my previous blog posts/ news articles states: “There are no competitions and no winners!”  (Can be read in this blog or here at the Ntl. pain Report: http://nationalpainreport.com/no-competition-no-winners-8833089.html)

In July 2017, I was certified by the U. S. Pain Foundation, to lead an “in-person” Support Group. Without having my wonderful, loving husband/caregiver, Craig; my loving U.S. Pain Foundation Family, my WEGO health friends, my friends, family and my writing, I’d be lost in all of this. 

Here’s the link to my Facebook page for this blog. This link takes you directly to the video called “The Incurables”:  https://www.facebook.com/TearsofTruth.SuzanneStewart/posts/1943805715875595


Dear Editor 


Dear Editor,

Do you remember the last time that you fell & you were bruised? Do you remember how badly it hurt, how distracting it was, how you couldn’t get your mind off of the pain? But after awhile you were feeling better and you were glad that the pain went away. You could get on with your life. 

Now imagine if that pain, but worse, never went away. 

That’s what it’s like to live with chronic pain. I have lived with chronic pain since 2002, after a man ran through a red light and “T-boned” our car. I’m not alone, because 100 million Americans live with chronic daily pain. That’s more than the number of Americans living with heart disease, diabetes and cancer combined. In terms of impact, chronic pain is the leading cause of long term disability and its cost (including lost productivity and treatment expenses) is higher than $635 billion annually. 

Pain has affected every aspect of my and my family’s life. I’ve not been able to work, and a large part of our expenses goes towards my healthcare. Also, the number of office visits has now doubled because of these new CDC guidelines. That means double co-pays, double the amount of time driving and having my husband leave work to take me to the Dr. appointments. My husband is retiring and instead of taking it easy, he takes care of all the household responsibilities. Therefore, I miss out in spending that time with him. I also cannot do the things that I used to love, like going shopping with my friends. Going out to lunch with the girls, and going for long walks. I’ll most likely never be able to actually walk on a beach while being barefoot in the sand.

Despite the prevalence and consequence of chronic pain, people with pain are very much overlooked and under treated. People who live with daily chronic pain are often labeled as “lazy” or over dramatic and not taken seriously. Very few treatments such as physical therapy and even most durable medical equipment are not fully covered by insurance. As of today, less than 1% of the National Institute of Health’s budget goes towards pain research.

It’s no surprise that those living with daily pain are suffering-and not just physically. In one survey, more than half of the respondents felt that they had little or no control over their pain and more than ¾ reported feeling depressed. In fact, research has shown that Chronic Pain patients are twice as likely to commit suicide as the average person. Many chronic pain patients feel alone with their pain and they become cut-off from society and friendships that they once cherished. I can speak from experience when discussing the feelings of aloneness. You can have loving people in your immediate household, but still feel alone with the pain. I speak of this from experience because I was feeling isolated and as though no one was listening to my pleas. That was until I got connected to and started volunteering for the U.S. Pain Foundation.

People with pain, like me deserve better. My family deserves better. Imagine if we took that $635 billion in lost productivity and health care costs and invested it in preventative care, new treatments, research and emotional support for pain patients? In honor of September as Pain Awareness Month, I encourage all Michiganders to join me in advocating for positive change for the pain community. Our Governor, Rick Snyder and the Supervisor of Canton Twp. Michigan have joined me in helping to raise awareness this month. They’ve each signed a Proclamation & a Resolution proclaiming that in Canton Twp.and in all of our great state of Michigan, they are recognizing September as “Pain Awareness Month” for 2017! To learn more or to become involved, visit: http://www.uspainawarenessmonth.org ,

Sincerely,

Suzanne Stewart 

Canton, MI

#WhyISign


This is my story for # Why I Sign? Transcript: Hello,, my name is Suzanne, last name Stewart. #Why I sign? I have a story: I was born Hearing & my family is hearing. I’m the past, I babysat for 6 Deaf kids, children. They lived next door. A Deaf family, full Deaf with 6 Deaf children. One day I was babysitting & something happened. But before that, we were playing games, learning signs for colors, numbers, Fingerspelling, days, months and family signs and different things. One day, one of the little girls, ohh about 9 years old was behaving badly. I said “come here… go to your room and stay there”. She was crying a little bit. She ran out and came to me bawling. She told me something but it went over my head and I understood nothing! I was thinking “hmmm… No, you need to go back to your room and stay there. She ran out to me again bawling, crying so hard. I said to her, “what’s wrong? What’s wrong? What happened? Whaaat? She started to slowly Fingerspell “b-e-e in my r-o-o-m”! Ah haa “Wonderful!!” I finally understood what was wrong! “Ohhh..Poor baby!” I felt awful! …..I said “I’m so sorry, I feel awful!”  I said “please forgive me”? She said it was Ok, she was fine! I became more fascinated in learning ASL/Sign language. I just love it so much! (*No English word exactly for “hand kiss”- but it kinda means I just love it so much” or “it’s my favorite”) … I got books and learned more signs on my own. I went to College and graduated 1985! Then I worked as a hospital Interpreter, a school Interpreter and I worked at a Deaf school in AZ. I flew to Arizona and lived there for 2 years! I worked there and enjoyed it and had so much fun! I missed my family so I went back home.Then in 2002, I was in a very bad car accident. I had so many injuries, it was bad. So many pain problems and 10 surgeries, they kept adding up! My hearing deteriorated! Isn’t it Strange for an Interpreter to get hearing loss? It’s true, I have two hearing aids. But it doesn’t matter,I’m fine. I don’t care. I’m happy and proud! I already know ASL/Sign language! THATS #WHYISIGN ….bye ..Love you!

Click here for video #Whyisign
Made with #VideoShow-https://itunes.apple.com/app/id1112850631

Please Take 1 Minute


I am excited to announce that I have been nominated for the Wego health “Best in show-Blog” award category in the sixth annual Wego health awards.

Wego helped is a mission driven Company connecting healthcare with the experience, skills, and insight of patient leaders. They are the worlds largest network of patient leaders, working across virtually all health conditions and topics. Click here: to learn more about their patient leader network.

The WEGO Health Awards were created to celebrate those who tirelessly support the mission of Wego health: to empower the patient voice. The 16 award categories, the Wego health awards are the only awards across all conditions and platforms, that recognize the over 100,000 inspiring patient leaders who raise awareness, share information, and support their communities-but often without recognition.

First, I would like to say “thank you” to those who nominated me for this award. I appreciate the time, the kindness in your heart and thoughtfulness that it took to nominate me & this Blog, “Tears of Truth”. To be nominated for this award category “Best in Show-Blog” means so much to me. It means that I am reaching people and they enjoy reading what I write. I truly pray that I am helping people and reaching people who otherwise wouldn’t get some of the information that I offer and share. In being a patient leader I have gotten to work with many wonderful people, made new friends, and have had chances to do research on bio similar medications and other subjects to do with many aspects of various illnesses.

This year, the 16 Wego health award winners will be honored at the 5th annual patient advocacy summit in Washington, DC October 23 and 24th, 2017. I would love to be able to attend this advocacy event and collaborate with the industry leaders. If you’d like more information about the summit you can learn more if you Click here

I am now looking to my incredibly supportive network to help endorse me for this award. There is an easy way to endorse it only takes seconds of your time!  Click here to be taken to my Wego Health awards profile where you can click “Endorse” under my nominee photo.

If I had ever supported you, made you laugh, or inspired you to keep fighting-please consider endorsing me for this award? In advance, I would like to say once more “thank you so much”. Without you I wouldn’t have a popular blog and I wouldn’t be nominated for this honorable award.

@WEGOHealth

The Happy Challenge


The suffering of the chronic pain patient can be mostly silent, somewhat invisible.  People will sometimes ask “where are the bruises, the medical machines or the marks on your body”?  Let me explain about the “hidden bruises”, the “quiet bleeding inside” and the sporadic silence.  The “silent screams” are more often quiet because we are seen as complaining if we are too vocal.  When we don’t say anything or we look “fine”; then we must be Okay because we appear to be fine on the outside and we are not complaining. We may verbalize that we are tired and then they say “Oh yes, I’m tired too! I know what you mean. It’s normal to be tired at our ages. You just have to work through it!” They don’t realize that we have to “ration our spoons” throughout the day (see the “spoon theory” by Christine Miserandino, at http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com).  There’s no sense trying to explain it to them because it is not a battle of words that we have the energy to argue about.  Most people who do not live with and deal with daily chronic pain, just cannot understand or fathom the idea that just taking a shower and getting ready for our day, can use up so many of our “spoons” or so much of our energy.

We may agree to attend an event or a family outing if at all possible.  We don’t intend to break a “promise” but when we go against our own best judgement; we may then suffer.  Sometimes we go, but cannot stay very long; they say we are “phony”.  We try to hide how we are feeling, but sometimes even with our greatest strength, we have to submit to the pain and fatigue. We need to listen to what our bodies are telling us.  That’s when we start losing friends and family members. We start getting invited to social events less often. Though we really wish to be invited and truly want to go, if we possibly can.

Next, we have the other chronic pain patients who have knowledge of the “Spoon Theory” and some of the similar feelings that we all experience daily.  Then for one reason or another, maybe because we are not all at the “same place at the same time”; we may be judged again by our peers. It hurts, because we all experience the chronic pain and fatigue, but we may each handle it differently. I try not to judge anyone for doing what they need to do to take care of themselves. When you only “know” someone through social media, you don’t really know them or their daily struggles. You only know what they choose to share.  It hurts when someone judges me for appearing to be active on social media. It’s true that I am an Ambassador for the U.S. Pain foundation, I’m a freelance writer, a blogger, a mentor, a patient leader for WEGO health and I am a health advocate. But I don’t have to do anything on any day or days, if I don’t choose to. I may be in my recliner for 20 out of 24 hours some days. But that doesn’t mean that I cannot encourage, counsel, connect or give TLC to others.

If I do an event, then I am literally “down” for several days afterwards. It is worth it to me, just to stay as positive, helpful and useful as I possibly can be.  I also don’t admonish others who are not in the same place as me.  I remember times when I didn’t feel as happy inside and I still have periods like that. The ups and downs are pretty normal within the lives of chronic pain patients.  Sometimes when in horrible pain physically and/or mentally; people generally think that others should be able to see or feel things the same way as they do.

Now, I have a different strategy for dealing with the pain. I utilize every possible venue to express my own pain and my reaction to the changes that it has made in my life and our lives. I am not always positive, nor am I constantly happy and upbeat. But I do try to be positive as often as possible on Social media. Sometimes people’s lives depend on it. Naturally, we all have our darker times; but I try to rarely share those publicly.  I’m not saying that I’m right or this is right for everyone. I’m just sharing how I deal with my own personal pain.

I felt the need or the urge to write about this because I received a private note from someone. It really hurt at first and I was crying. I participated and usually do participate in the various online events and “photo challenges”. It may be for U.S Pain foundation, for WEGO health or for RSDSA etc.  It’s just therapeutic for me and I enjoy being a part of these online events. If I can cheer up one person then it is worth it for me.  If I can show one person, a light at the end of the tunnel, then I have given them hope.   Someone sent me this private message and it said;   “Not to start anything but….why do you devote so much time and trouble to your blog, your websites, groups and writings?  Why don’t you just deal with the pain, like the rest of us? YOUR “Happy challenge” was yours not mine…. I guess we don’t see it the same way. I just try to get thru the day w/the least amount of pain possible and thank God when I awaken the next day.  No drugs, no docs, just PT and pain shrink….”.  Like I said, at first I cried and I was hurt by these words. For a few moments, I felt like it was and has been all for nothing.  But it’s not for nothing. We are not all in the same place at the same time.  There are stages of chronic pain, just as there are stages of grief; they are pretty similar. But one thing for sure, I don’t put others down for taking or not taking medications or if they choose to use an SCS or a pain pump (for which I’m not a candidate, due to an Immune deficiency disease). I feel strongly about doing whatever is necessary to achieve the best quality of life that I can possibly have.  I don’t choose to go to as many Dr’s as I once did. I try to just visit the specialists that my life depends on.  I don’t just “wait for the next day to arrive”.  Though I do thank God every day, for giving me life. I also don’t do PT after 9 years of doing it and I don’t go to a “pain shrink”.  But that is my choice.  I do take a normal dose of Opioid pain medication, of which my life “depends on” now.  I’m not “addicted”, but “dependent” on this medication. But guess what? I was able to attend my youngest granddaughters’ first birthday party because of this.  I GOT the pleasure of attending a U.S. pain conference this past weekend.  I got to do it and got through it, because I am able to take a pill that helps me get through these events.  Yes, of course I suffer still, for a few days afterwards, but I have the memories and so do the “little ones” and the other people who I got to spend time with. I also got to experience other persons like myself, who want to make a difference and try to help in the world of chronic pain.  It’s not for everybody and that’s OK.  We are all different, it’s supposed to be that way.  I don’t particularly enjoy things like gardening or cooking. Some people couldn’t imagine life without those things. I am me and that is OK.  I cannot please everyone and it’s alright.  I’m not crying any longer about the message. Instead I feel badly for the person who wrote it.  They are in a darker or more sad place than me. I will be there for them if or when they are ready.

It’s a difficult kind of life to explain when you look fine on the outside, your photos look like everything is “normal” on the outside; but my body burns and aches even through the smiles. I’m just like some of the other chronic pain patients, but I choose to outlet my pain in different ways. Nobody says that my way is the right way, but it’s the right way for me to express my pain and try to help others in the process.

 

 

From Mini Van to Wheelchair In 10 Seconds!


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I awaken each day; the first thing that I do is cry. I cry because I’m in pain and it is as though someone stepped on my back in the night and feels “broken”.  My husband hears my cries and he goes and gets my pain medication. Medication that I’ve taken since 2005; and never more but sometimes less. He proceeds to start making breakfast, coffee and give tap water to our Cat. It’s her favorite thing in the morning aside from running up the stairs to get me after about 20-30 minutes. My husband says “Luna, go and get Momma”!  She bolts up the stairs and “Meows” at me to get up. She doesn’t stop until I am upright and together we go down the stairs. It’s almost 7:00 am, and most likely I just went to bed at 4:00 am. I have some tea and toast. We chat a bit and he goes to work.

I have choices to make and they are not easy ones. My oldest daughter only lives 2 or 3 blocks away, with her husband and our two eldest granddaughters, ages 4 and 2 1/2.  We see each other often but it’s so hard for me to fight the deep, deep fatigue and pain to do  a lot of outings and I just am not able to babysit alone, without my husband there.  I think it upsets her and I feel so bad inside because I cannot do what I wish I could do. The first year and a half that we were reunited (**my daughter left home at age 18 and was away for 10 years. This is not a story about those very sad times. This is about the reuniting of a family that was broken because of a car accident.  My daughters were used to me being and doing everything and suddenly I could not do anything, not even dress myself. My eldest ran from the pain and surgeries), I think I ran on adrenaline.  I saw her/them daily and then afterwards, I came home and crashed. Was that fair to my husband? No, it wasn’t! Did he say one word about it to me? No, because he was so happy to see my heart whole again. It was broken for 10 years!

So now it’s been about 3 years and so much has happened. I lost my Dr. of 12 years and the old pain medications that made easier for me to do more, it seemed.  My pain Dr. is much better now and the regimen that I’m on is safer.  But I’m unable to do the activities that I wish to do with them.  If I was the person that I had been, I would be making snow angels with them in the snow.  I’d be baking cookies and running around playing tag and “Duck, Duck Goose”. I do play some “sit down” (for me) games with them and we have tea parties. We watch Disney movies and I love it when they sit close to me and play with my hair. I used to take my walker to the zoo or on daily outings. I sat down when I was tired and I just was happy to be together.  I’m still so very happy to have everyone together. I could never have had a happy life without both of my daughters and my grandchildren it.

Time has changed me and now I am tired and in pain much faster;  more deep than before. In 2013, my CRPS changed from being in my feet and knees; to “severe systemic and disseminated”.  It happened after what was supposed to be a 45 minute surgery but turned out to be a 3 hour heart and pectoral muscle rebuild surgery.  I’ve never recovered and have felt a deep deep fatigue since then. If I do something for 2 hours one day, then I’m in my recliner for the rest of the day. I don’t want it to be this way, I don’t like it at all.  I want to spend a whole day at the zoo with my granddaughters.  I feel that my oldest daughter gets so frustrated when I cannot do the things I pushed myself to do at the beginning.  Nobody understands “Invisible Illnesses”, not even our own families or friends. We used to go to dinner each Friday with my best friend and her husband. I’ve cancelled a few times in this past year and now I can feel a difference.  Things that I wish I could do, I no longer am able to do.  I love and look forward to babysitting when my husband is home and he is with me.  He is there so that when I start to be too tired and in too much pain, he takes over.

But I lose friends and have lost people related to me. My own family cousin, who’d been my best friend for years; stopped talking with us after the car accident.  My husband had called and asked her to come over because I could not be left alone at the beginning. I couldn’t dress or undress myself.  I couldn’t even go to the rest room without help.  My cousin and another person who was a good friend of ours, told Craig “No, I just can’t help because it’s too sad.  When I get sad, then my family is sad and I cannot do that to them.” She took herself out of my life and so did the rest of my cousins, and family.  I called my own brother after the accident from the hospital. I had been unconscious and when I finally got to a room, I tried to reach for the phone and missed. I hit my cheek instead.  I called the only number that stuck in my head due to the TBI, it was my oldest brother. He answered the phone and I told him I ‘d been in a car accident, a bad one. I told him I was in the hospital and he answered back by saying, “Oh…you need someone? …..CLICK” and he hung up on me. Craig is my hero and the only person who’s ever truly loved me unconditionally. He’s there when I need him and when I think I don’t think I need him so much.

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What You See Is Not What You Get!


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Having Chronic Pain is unlike the pain following a surgery or even the pain after an injury. Many things about Chronic pain are not seen with our eyes. There are so many “invisible diseases” that involve living with exhaustion, illness and pain.  Many people think they know about these issues. If they’ve not witnessed life with a chronic pain patient, then they truly cannot understand or know what we live with on a daily basis. People are misinformed and sometimes quick to judge persons living with pain day after day.  Some think we are lazy, anti-social or just rude.  We cancel appointments, shopping trips and dinner dates with our friends and family. But we are not any of the above. We are people who have hopes, dreams and inspirations; just as anyone else. The issue is that our futures don’t include many of those same things after we become chronic pain patients.  We must grieve our losses and find new hopes and dreams.  This is the price that we pay for living with chronic pain 24/7/365.

I am still “me” underneath the chronic fatigue and pain.  I still want to talk with you and hear about your day, family and dreams.  In between the days of staying in my PJ’s and lying in my bed or on the sofa, I try hard to be a part of your “normal” world.  Some days I may even look “normal” to you. In fact, most of the time, I probably appear to be “just like everybody else.  I try to wear nice pants, cute dresses and sometimes I put on make up, just like you do! If you visit my Social Media photo feeds, you’ll see someone who “looks normal”, holding onto her grandchildren’s hands, smiling and actually joyful underneath the pain somewhere.  Sometimes even sitting on the floor with them.  You may read about me “babysitting” for our grandchildren; or going out to dinner with our friends.  You may even want to “judge” me by saying to yourself “How can she be that sick or in that much pain, if she’s doing all of these things?”  If you think like that, I can’t blame you because I once thought those same misinformed thoughts.  What you don’t see, is how I get to the floor or how long I am actually down there.  You don’t see my husband helping me (and doing most of the work) to get me up and off of the floor.  You don’t actually know how long I am down there or how many pillows may be behind my back. You also don’t know that I most likely stayed home in my pajama’s all day until 4:00 pm when we had dinner plans at 5:15 pm.  You also aren’t privy to the information of how long I might’ve stayed at dinner and “if” I was able to even eat anything that night.  Not only do I have several chronic pain illnesses, but many of them are invisible to you. They are very much visible to me. I can “see” them with each new line on my face and each new grey hair that gets covered up each month. I can’t only “see” the pain, but I feel it with every part of my being. It doesn’t go away, not ever.  Though some days are better or worse than others; the chronic pain of “Invisible Disabilities” and “Invisible Illness” is apparent to me every minute of every day.  Often I fight with myself about going to sleep at night.  Do I try to go to bed at a more normal time and maybe get 4 -5 hours rest? Or do I stay up until I drop; then fall asleep quickly and wake up in just 2 or 3 hours?  If I sleep more than 2 or 3 hours, I will awaken and cry.  Whether it be inner tears or outward ones, I will cry from feeling as though someone set my body on fire due to the CRPS. I will have tears from feeling like my neck and back are broken from the Degenerative Disc disease, Spondylosis, Scoliosis and/or multiple herniated/bulging discs in both my cervical and lumbar spine; not to mention the Chiari malformation I in my neck. Yes, if I move or get up before I’m ready, I definitely will cry.  It’ a routine that we have, you know?  My husband gets up at 6:00 am every day to give me my medicine; just so that I will be able to get up with him a couple of hours after that. He is my hero.

You cannot feel Gastroparesis, but if I eat one wrong food at dinner time; I will be up all night and very sick. My husband, who is also my soul-mate and my caregiver; knows all too well about these long nights.  I have worries, though he continues to tell me that they are unfounded; that he will get tired of all of this one day. It’s not much fun to be with someone who is constantly complaining about pain, so I try to keep it to a minimum.  But even to him, my pain is not invisible.  He knows the grimace of  CRPS and the fidgeting of the intensifying pain on an outing.  He knows that when I start rocking back and forth, it’s his cue to step in and say “time to go home”.  I know that my own family gets frustrated with me because I’m not able to babysit “alone” or have kids dropped off on the spur of the moment.  I cannot commit to babysitting for the little ones under school age for a week.  I’m not able to help take the load off of my children and their spouses, so that they can go on a trip. There are many things that I cannot do but there’s so much that I still have to give.

Please don’t judge what you do not understand. If you think you know, then go and read some more about chronic illnesses and pain. Spend time with someone like me and see how impaired the activities of daily living have become.  I’m probably not always much fun to hang out with, but I’m still “me” inside.  Digging through the pain and exhaustion, there’s a real person inside, who still has a heart and feelings that can be hurt.  Feelings that are probably more fragile than most because of the judgements, stares and hurtful words that come from some people who are misjudging and misinformed.  I’ve had nasty notes put on my windshield, that would make anyone cry.  One note said this “How dare you take this HC parking space! It must be a “mental thing”! I hope you become handicapped for the rest of your life, so you know how it feels to have someone take your parking spot”! Yes, indeed; that was the note left on my car at a little market right across the street from my house.  I had my cane in the grocery cart and the little blue HC parking permit on my rear view mirror.  But I was still judged and torn to shreds because of the way I look.

Please know the difference between being able to stand for 20 minutes and being able to stand all day.  The difference between having the flu and feeling that same way for many many years! Try and understand that what I might be able to do today, I probably won’t be able to do tomorrow.  Don’t say “Oh you look happy and healthy” or tell me that I’m looking or sounding “better”.  I’m just trying to cope with the life that I have been dealt. Please don’t judge me if I try to do awareness events or fundraisers for the causes of my illnesses and those of my friends.  Though I may “do” these things; I definitely know that I will “pay” for it later.  I will rest for days in between and sometimes weeks.  But I deserve to do things and to try and be happy; even if it is in between the pain at its worst and best.  Please know that getting out and doing things doesn’t make me feel better, it actually makes me feel worse for days at a time.

Chronic pain is hard for you to understand. It wreaks havoc on the body and the mind.
It is exhausting and exasperating.  I’m doing my best to cope and live my life to the best of my ability.  I ask you to bear with me, and accept me as I am.

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