Pain : my annoying friend

Pain slunk into my life one hot, sticky day in July about 7 years ago. It doesn’t have an exact date of birth. It doesn’t have a name, and for a very long time neither of us was really sure why it had chosen me. But chosen me it had, and once it had settled down and made its bed in the roots of my teeth, it began to poke its bony fingers around the rest of my head, nosing about to see what other misery it could impact on my unremarkable life.

I made it quite clear that it wasn’t welcome, but it just laughed and embedded itself into my ear, nose, cheek, lips, neck, shoulder, arm and hand. It started out by whining softly but stepped up its attack with screaming, shouting, thumping, cramping, pinching, itching and burning. It drilled through the side of my skull, and stuck pins in my fingers in the middle of the night. It had loud parties when I needed to be quiet, but was remarkably shy in front of doctors and hid on MRI scans, helping to perpetuate the idea that maybe it wasn’t there at all and I was merely suffering from was an overactive imagination.

Of course, it liked nothing more than to resurface on the bus ride home, bouncing on the seats and throbbing in time to the engine. It crashed into rooms unexpectedly, demanding attention, and never mind that there were deadlines to meet at work, or two small children in my life that really needed me. It threw tantrums at family gatherings and behaved appallingly on longed-for nights out, refusing to stay at home with the babysitter.

I tried to persuade it to leave, gently at first with paracetamol , and when it didn’t take the hint, I hurled stronger stuff at it, recommended by countless GPs and hospital consultants. It simply consumed the medication and burped in my face, and laughed at the acupuncture needles, and was extremely rude to the osteopath.

Sometimes it brought its even more terrible friend Migraine with it. I could never get anything done then, and it was easier to let the pair of them walk all over me.

I did my best to get on with life, but every day was a bitter battle because of this awkward thing sitting on my left shoulder, yelling in my face all the time. It tried its hardest to drag me down to its level, to the pits of despair. Every day was frustratingly miserable, every new medicine or treatment was a game of clutching at straws, a game I seemed to be losing at.

Eventually I found a straw I could grab hold of, and Pain agreed with me that it would sit still in the background for a bit if the doctors fed it with botox every now and again. It also doesn’t like physiotherapists very much, and will stay on the naughty step for a short while when I bring out the heat packs and try to slow down.

I don’t know when I realised that Pain was here to stay, and that I was the boss. It took a lot for me to accept that it wasn’t going to just melt into oblivion never to return, and that I would have to be the one to take charge.

It turns out that I have been put together a bit wrong and it’s a long and slow road to correct the misalignments and the physical discomfort that brings. But if Pain wants to come on this journey with me it will have to follow my rules, and I will have to compromise sometimes.

So here we are, seven years on, and it’s hunched up on my shoulder right now, trying to goad me into letting it have a massive blow out celebration and a sleepover with its new friends Sciatica and Lower Back Pain. I have tickled it under the chin with my repeat prescription and told it a resounding, “no.” We are trying to rub along together and make the best of things. Tomorrow it might slap me round the chops when I’m not looking, but today is a good day.

19 Replies

  • Teamaker, that is brilliant! may I copy it and send it to friends? to me it is as useful and thought provoking as the "spoon theory.

    You made me cry. it so sums everything I would have said if I could have.



  • oops my bad! I meant Teadrinker, but perhaps the inner me was thinking tear-maker!


  • The articulation of your experience is amazing, teadrinker. I think it would be a useful piece for health care professionals to use in pain management training - as often the effect of pain on the whole person is greatly underestimated.

    Making a 'choice' to take control of the pain (with its side-effects such as fatigue) is hard but as you say, really important.

    Thank you for sharing this.


  • Brilliantly written. Thank you for sharing.

  • isn't it funny how you can have a conversation with your pain, i do so everyday. sometimes you win but most times the pain wins, ive called it you b____r most days. my wife often ask's who are talking (swearing) to. your letter cheered me up, many thanks. docnai

  • Thanks for your lovely comments.

    Sandra, please feel free to send this on- I wrote it in the hope that it might help someone, somewhere. "Teamaker" is fine by me - I'm the one who usually makes it before drinking it.

    As I write this the damn thing is pushing red hot pokers through my teeth (the same teeth my dentist pronounced as "tip-top" yesterday). Hurrah.

  • Well done for allowing your humorous talents to shine out. Having a sense of humour when having to live with debilitating pain, will ALWAYS keep you on the winning side of the battle lines. You are an inspiration to the rest of us to show that we have a choice in how we view the challenges we are facing. You are cold water on a fevered brow....thank you :-)

  • Thank you, what a lovely thing to say. I suppose I have always had a slightly sick sense of humour so that has helped, particularly in getting through numerous hospital appointments.

    However, it's not exactly been laugh-a-minute, as you probably know, and it took a very long time to reach this point. What I wrote is exactly the sort of stuff I would have hated to read a few years ago when I was down, so I don't want people to feel put off by it. I am composing a post on this topic which I'll hopefully get round to putting on here soon.

  • Hi teadrinker, I think that people with chronic pain have to go through a lot wanting to find a cure or relief and when its not found then a crossroads is reached. It takes people different lengths of time to get to those crossroads where they have to decide to accept the reality and what and how they think about it. You have reached your crossroads and have accepted where you are with humour which is so rarely found where chronic pain is concerned (but so very much needed :-) ) Of course you want relief and healing from the condition you are suffering from and that will lie ahead but I truly believe that when the crossroads of acceptance are reached then it is the person's real character that comes to the fore and that is a powerful place to be in. Until people reach that place they are still living in a place of wanting to be as they were before and overwhelmed with the condition, and that makes them angry, depressed etc. Acceptance doesnt mean that you wont feel that way but it does mean that you have reached a place of who you are in the here and now and, no matter the struggle, you can shine through. You are not your condition but it takes time to come to that realization. You are a wonderful person just the way you are. :-)

  • I have never read a better description. Thanks for sharing it. I hope you don't mind if I print it out and take to my pain management course. I can identify with so much of it. It is an inspirational piece of writing. Look forward to reading more posts.

  • Thanks, Nedd, no I don't mind, because I wrote it in the hope that others might get something positive from it.

    It's slapping me round the chops with a vengeance today and sticking its grubby claws in my neck & Migraine is squashing my skull and tickling my stomach, all started kcking off whist cooking Sunday luch when my parents turned up, which is typocal. Only came on the internet because I had to sort out stuff for the kids going back to school so it was a nice surprise to get a message.

    Next load of botox is due tomorrow week & I can't wait! Might post about it.

    (Sorry about the spelling, migraine makes me a bit dyslexic).

  • Dear Teadrinker, thank you for such an eloquent and informative description of your journey. Wishing you much strength.


  • Good luck with botox. Children light up you life but it has to be said even the the most mild mannered can drain you energy. And if there is one thing pain does is steal your energy. Hey do you think it eats calories as well? After all we seem to use a vast amount of energy just to stay upright.

  • Nice idea about the calories but I suspect it doesn't work. as for children, I think I might rename this post, "Pain : that extra child, you know, the difficult one..." It's more of a stroppy teenager / toddler than a friend at the moment.

  • Oh gawd. I remember the teenage stage. It was a grunt here and a groan there rather than tantrums. At least with tantrums I could have thrown one back.

    Like the idea of renaming post!

  • wow love it so funny it wold be if it wasnt so true, I think your way of dealing with pain is the way forward !. Silly or should i say Sally Sciatica my new best mate,, guess what she was joined today by Nigel the knee joibnt grater ! Sally made me fall over again. ,All the preganalin im taking she says. Today I will find a plan to tackle the both of yhem head on !Like you let it arive on my terms! Trouble is the night times are the worst times as Pain seems to have Dracula as its servant as after midnight it comes ot to play with excruciating reprocussions be deaveled with it. So out with the garlic and stakes,i will prevail! Speak later to tell you the latest nightmare on thisstreet!

  • Hmm, Sally & Nigel, what interesting names. I've never thought of a name for my pain & wouldn't know where to start. Think it might be best to treat it with the contempt it deserves and not give it a name at all. Don't want it to think I'm encouraging it.

  • Love this. I recently named my prolapsed disc 'damien' and threatened him with tramadol, diazepam and codeine. He didn't take much notice but gradually I got him to tone down his 'noise'. Your post was spot on and made me smile. Keep up the great writing. I may wave this under Doctors noses!

  • I'm assuming "Damien" as "The Omen"?

    I've been doing a short course in creative writing and have to take something to read out to the group tomorrow. Am thinking of taking this, but that means admitting to a bunch of strangers to having pain, and I've been enjoying being with a group of people who have no idea about the "other me"...

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