I experience pain daily. Some people can’t say that, and I’ve never really been able to relate to them. Especially the ones who say “I never get headaches”. I used to get headaches most days in a week. They make it difficult to focus, and while taking painkillers (sometimes) helps, it often results in a continued inability to focus (thanks ibuprofen).
My job puts me at a computer for 40 hours a week. After 5 years of university, that puts me at way too much time at a desk. What had been neck tension headaches spread into my shoulders and arms. It’s called referral pain. Basically the nerves that start in my neck are getting irritated and taking their irritation all the way down my arms. It’s a difficult thing for most people to understand, because unlike most pain, unless it is properly targeted, trying to strengthen the muscles will often just make the angry nerves angrier. I stopped wearing necklaces, then earrings. Eventually, I had to give up knitting. (Try not to cry for me, knitter-friends, the story gets happier).
One day, over 2 years ago. I got tired of the headaches and the pain. They’d been getting more and more frequent. I went to physiotherapy. I was there once a week for nearly a year. A year. That’s over $3000 on just trying to not get worse. I changed my work chair, got a split keyboard, stopped using a stupid magic mouse (the only magic they perform is giving the user wrist pain!). I got(/get) up every 15 minutes from my chair, begrudgingly, usually. Finally, I got in to see a “specialist” (there are technically no specialists in physiotherapy). Finally, there was someone who could help. Instead of just staying afloat, I started improving. Slowly.
Eventually, I was able to knit again. These days, I will have up to 3 headaches a week, but on good weeks, I might not have any headaches. My arms don’t bother me as much, and I only go to physio once a month. I do still do targeted exercises every morning for about 30 min though.
What strikes me in all this is how we get used to a certain level of pain. Now that I have improved, headaches that I probably would have used to brush off drive me a bit crazy–a mere 1 ibuprofen banished headache. My arms used to be painful every day, but now one day is enough for me to attempt to throw in the towel (but throwing inevitably hurts so I don’t end up doing it).
The body can adapt to a crazy amount. Even this completely unnatural lifestyle I lead, sitting all the time staring at a screen. Holding my hands at weird angles. I have faith that one day, things will be better than they are now. Will I ever be what’s considered “normal”? I have my doubts.
However, I am incredibly grateful the pain levels I’ve adapted to are as minimal as they are. They could be so, so much worse. You see, I started thinking about all this after reading a post on The Other Courtney about the incredibly brave Brynn. Brynn deals with a horrendous illness on a daily basis that I, personally, can’t even imagine. It helped remind me to be grateful for the health I do have, and also spend some time marvelling at what humans are able to overcome, even just emotionally.
What are you grateful for today?