Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Depression, pain, and the lies they tell.

Before I stopped writing almost two years ago, I wrote a small piece that I never published. I thought, on the second anniversary of the day my body betrayed me, I would show you where I've been.
I am absent.
I am woefully and deeply lacking. I am empty and echoing. I have nothing to offer you.
In the past, I have talked about depression but I have never delved into the cavernous emptiness that houses depression in a person's mind.  Well, not any person, I don't know your body.
Mix depression and chronic pain and you have another ball game altogether. That is where I have been for 6 months or so. That is what I have to talk about.
So here it goes.

I never finished the post. That's where I was. I didn't have it in me. All I had was pain and depression.

Pain, depression, and the lies they tell
My life felt black and white

Two years ago, I was cocky and assumed that every dumb thing I put my body through would be okay. Sure, I had aches and pains here and there, but it always bounced back. I lifted things I shouldn't, carried too much at a time, hauled children all over the place, and did nothing to make sure my body could handle it.

Then, I got injured at work. I turned too far one way while the rest of me stayed the other way. WCB claim went in and my life for the next year was doctor's appointments, pain, and still going to work because I was stupid stubborn.

Pain controlled my life for almost 2 years.

I could not sit for more than 15 minutes, stand for more than 10, lay down for more than 45. I had to prop myself on pillows to gain any sort of relief. Ice and heat became my best friends. I went to physio and chiro each twice a week. Massage helped, but WCB will only pay for 5 sessions and I ran out of money in my health benefits within 2 months.

I couldn't lift anything over 10lbs. I couldn't even pick up my dog. Or my purse!

After 6 months, I was still in pain and not getting better. I started into tertiary physio treatments -- intensive treatments on a daily basis which included an exercise routine. 3 hours a day plus working 10 hours. No one suggested I stop working even though I wasn't getting better. Finally, in my second week, they took me off work so I could concentrate on getting better.

I got a lot stronger during this time. 9 weeks of working out 3 hours a day meant I was developing muscles I hadn't seen since I was 20. I had abs and shoulders. (Sadly, having to return to work means I got lazy and no longer have this. Boo!)

But the pain was still there. I mean, it went from an 8.5 to a 6, but it was still way higher than it was supposed to be. I finished the program with all the professionals confused about why I had pain. Not once did anyone suggest any medications stronger than ibuprofen.

I pushed for more tests to find out why I was still hurting, but apart from repeated X-rays (which they all admitted would show them nothing) I got nothing. No MRI, no CT scan, no trust that something was going on.

I was miserable.

I couldn't go out with friends for longer than an hour because I could hardly walk if we'd been sitting for any length of time. I didn't want to leave the house because I knew I would be in pain and not have any fun. I had to cart around a back pillow with me anywhere I went just so I could sit for 45 minutes even though I knew I shouldn't be.

This is where the depression came in. I started to hide from my life because the pain was always present. The more I hid, the more depressed I became. The more depressed I was, the more I hurt.

Turn, turn, turn.

Added to this we moved into our new house during this time. I couldn't help with the move because of my weight lifting limitations. We didn't have a usable bedroom for 3 months after we moved in, so we were sleeping on an air mattress. There was more stress than I knew what to do with and I made sure everyone around me felt it.

I got to a basic level of functioning. I returned to work because I could finally lift 50 lbs (the weight of a baby in a car seat) and could pull and push while crouching (trying to get a toddler ready to leave). I took a heating pad to work (thank God for my mother-in-law who suggested this life saver) and that is how I spent most of my evenings.

I moved on as best I could.

18 months later, I got an appointment with a rheumatologist to discuss my pain levels, how to control them, and what might be the cause. She was furious no one had thought to give me anti-inflammatories during the last year and a half and immediately prescribed them. She advised that, if they worked, it was likely I had a spot of arthritis in my spine that had been brought on by the injury. If they didn't, it was likely I had chronic pain that would need to be handled in another way.

They worked.

light at the end of the tunnel
My world is in colour. I can't forget that.

I had forgotten what it was like to not be in pain. You get so used to it. Your mind tells you this is all there is and you get mired down in the weight of knowing this is your new life. You move trying to avoid more pain and, as such, insulate yourself from so many things. If you try and reach out beyond your limitations, your body suffers.

It's a horrible way to live.

Since December, I have had pain free days. Not just days, but weeks!! It was heady. The Guy noticed a change in both my behaviour and my mood. I felt great. It was like I had been given a new lease on life! I could make it through an entire set of shifts at work and not need two days to recuperate. I was on fire.

I might have gotten a little too crazy, because I immediately forgot to follow up with my chiro and massage and threw my back out two months later, but it was such a wonderful reprieve.

What it taught me is that my mind had lied to me. Yes, I have to live my life a little differently now than I did before. I have to be careful and listen to my body and acknowledge it's fragile. I still have aches and pains -- some worse, some better -- but those do not define my life.

Even in pain, there were things I could do that made it better. Yoga was a life saver for me. Pacing myself was another. I had to learn to be kind to myself and patient with what I could and could not do. I had to be thankful for things that I had and am and hold dear to me.

Because pain could come back.

But if it does, I am ready for it. It is not the boss of me.

Not any more.


  1. I can't believe no one suggested anti-inflammatories in all that time, but at the same time I can, because inflammation isn't often visible to health professionals, and pain in women is often ignored.

    I'm so glad you have relief now!

    1. Just realized I tried to respond to this on my phone and it wouldn't go through so I meant to respond later... Well, a month or so is later, right?

      It does seem very true that pain is often ignored in women. Every time I mentioned it, they just shrugged. A guy I was in physio with mentioned his and got a lot of attention. It is so hard to advocate for yourself when you are so tired and hurting.

      I hope I will never have to go through that level again. I'm at a nice level 5 or 6 now (some days I'm a 3!!) and I can function with that.

      Thanks for the words of encouragement, Elan!

  2. Your dad sent me a link to this, so I read it. (I usually do that when he sends me a note or a link; he finds important stuff.)
    I have lived with chronic depression and chronic pain for a very long time. I nodded by head as you listed what has been happening in your life. Been there, done that, have the scars.
    I'm having much more success in living with the depression than I had in the past. The chronic pain is getting worse, and I think the increased medications are causing an added problem. I have been wondering about inflammation, and about getting the doctor to check my C-reactive protein levels (sign of inflammation carried in the blood).
    Best wishes as your travel through this aspect of your life.
    Blessings and Bear hugs, too.

    1. Dear Rob, I'm sorry you have been there for so long. It is a hard and very heavy road to walk. I hope for relief for you and peace in your heart.

  3. I actually have a rather similar story. When I was sixteen, I was diagnosted with lyme disease. I went from being a very active, happy teen who was in theatre and dance, walked to school, the mall, the gas station and anywhere else I wanted to go to not even being able to get out of bed without being in excruxiating pain. After several months and the same arthritis medication my great grandmother took, I was finally able to return to my normal life. It is so easy to become depressed when you can't do any of the things you love.

    Leonardo @ U.S. HealthWorks Medical Group

  4. I have always been telling everyone that depression is one of the more underrated illnesses in the world. When I was injured at work I began to feel worthless sitting at home all day and developed severe depression. It does not get near the attention of all other mental illnesses, and for that reason the cure is far from being discovered.

    Joanne Krueger @ Kurtz And Blum


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