KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – I once understood nothing about chronic pain. Not until my diagnosis in 2012, relating back to a workplace injury two years previous.
It all began with a repetitive injury that would require three months of physiotherapy, an examination by an orthopedic specialist and then back to work. But after three months I still experienced pain. The professional advice and opinion given at that time: “it would resolve itself”. “It” being the pain.
Well, to this day the pain never ended as predicted.
My injury has left an impact on every hour of every day of my life. It will be with me for the rest of my life.
For me, I went from being someone capable of working forty hours a week at a physically active job to only managing fourteen hours a week.
Living with pain has increased my isolation and separates me from the so-called norm, especially in the workplace, where I am now considered different from my coworkers.
I can say that I lost so much. But that is looking at the glass half-full. And as a pain management psychologist once advised me—back when I was first diagnosed—find the good, find what you can still do. Do feel good activities in small amounts.
It became all about looking at the glass half full. Not about what I can no longer do, but what I can still do. For these “feel good” activities are like drops of gold to the soul that have allowed me to find a sense of purpose and accomplishment in my life.
Chronic pain brings with it so much more than pain. There’s increased anxiety, there are sleep issues, depression, and the question of medication. There is also the matter of time and added expense in managing all that goes with never-ending pain.
Let us also not forget—a much higher suicide rate. It being known at roughly twice that for people without chronic pain.
Pain becomes a day-to-day companion that walks along with me. I’ve had to learn to invite it in, befriend it. Not fight it, because there is no way to push through it, to cast it from my world.
Sometimes I think we remain too silent about too many things. Often we wait for someone else to be the change we want to see.
This is why I want to share some of my personal experiences with Nova Scotia Advocate readers over the next months, in the hope that it may benefit someone else, in some way.
After all, they’re my personal experiences, but they’re far from unique. Many people have had to learn to navigate a world meant for so called abled people. Many people have had to take on the Workers Compensation Board. Many people have looked for help when it all became too much, and discovered that that help wasn’t always readily available. Then there is stigma.
So stay tuned.
Barbara Carter is an artist and writer who lives in HRM.