I have several types of chronic pain, which leaves me debilitated more often than not. I suffer from degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, ME/CFS, arthritis, and a case of bursitis that should heal, but it won't. The discs in my spine are nearly non-existent, which caused my spine to grow bone spurs that narrowed my spinal column so much it pinches my spinal cord from top to bottom. ME/CFS is basically a diagnosis of fibromyaglia and chronic fatigue. Fibromyalgia is an overactive nerve disorder that causes me to feel as if I spent the day running marathons and exercising. At this moment, I can't even stand without wanting to cry.
It's difficult to look at my kids and wish I could take them on a never-ending summer adventure. I die a little inside every time one of them asks me if we can do something fun, because when I say "no" they ask if my back hurts. It's excruciating to look into my 3-year-old's eyes and tell him I can't give him a piggy back ride to bed because his 32 pound body is too heavy for mommy. It's not his fault I hurt, and he shouldn't have to miss out on the little joys in life because I can't handle them.
I have my days when I feel sorry for myself. Chronic pain is a bitch and I don't deserve to have it. I'm 28 years old for Christ’s sake. I should be at the prime of my life, not filling my purse full of pills just so I can go out with my husband and then planning to be stuck on the couch for days after. I shouldn't have to tell him that I need him to do the dishes after working a 16-hour day because cleaning up some toys was all that I could handle. I shouldn't have to feel like he made a bad decision marrying me.
Some days I can talk myself into just sucking it up. I'll take a few pain meds, and take the kids to do whatever they want to do. I look at myself in the mirror and tell myself that it was my choice to have children. While I was choosing to have children, they were born to the mother that God gave them. I tell myself we are going to the zoo even if I have to limp around and cry in the bath when we get home. We will go to the spring festival even if I'm using my walker to go to the bathroom the next day. I will be the mother that they deserve, even if it's just for a day.
What I have learned is that I can't compare myself to other mothers. Some days I feel like a super-mom. Not because I'm doing anything that other moms can't do, but because I'm doing things that I generally shouldn't be able to do. On a decent day I'll take my babies somewhere special, make dinner from scratch and have the house clean before my husband gets home. By then, I usually can't move at all. But the pride that I have about all of my accomplishments is worth it. The smile on my angels' faces is worth it. Then I remember that other moms do this stuff on a regular basis without so much as aching feet, and I feel the tears begin to well up in my eyes.
I think I can speak for most chronic pain sufferers when I say that we are way too hard on ourselves. It's easy to do when we're being judged so harshly by others on a regular basis. Don't get me wrong, I have a pretty large group of supporters, but there are always people who think it can't be that bad. If you call yourself disabled, they think that you're full of it just because you aren't in a wheelchair full time. If you say you can't hold a job, they think you're exaggerating because you had a good day and cleaned the house. It's hard to sympathize with what you can't understand.
Living with chronic pain makes everything difficult. You have about 2.5 seconds of peace and that's the time between when you wake up and when you open your eyes. It's the couple of seconds when you forget that your life is what it is. As soon as you open your eyes, you remember that you need your pain pills and coffee to make it through the morning. Of course, your kids are ready to bounce off of the walls while your spine feels like someone beat it with a hammer all night. A three-year-old doesn't care how you feel at breakfast time, nor should he have to. I spend the day cooking, cleaning, and playing the best that I can. By the time my 7-year-old daughter gets home from school, I'm ready to completely fall apart. But I can't fall apart. She hasn't received any of my attention yet today, and she needs her mommy too.
As if the daily, physical battle isn't bad enough, the mental one sure is. Chronic pain comes with a chronic depression that just eats at the last bit of normalcy that you try to maintain. Some days, all I want to do is stay in bed. I want to curl up under my blanket, watch TV and have no one who depends on me. Some days, I fantasize about what I might be reincarnated as one day. (I hope it’s as someone who can go to the grocery store without considering a trip to the ER.) Some days, I think serving my husband divorce papers would give him and out and he wouldn't have to put up with a burden for a wife anymore. Some days, all I can do is cry.
Mothers out there with chronic pain, you aren't alone... not by a long shot. You aren't alone in your dark thoughts of wanting to run away to a private island where you never have to pick up another toy or wash another dish. You aren't alone in your dark thoughts of committing yourself to a mental hospital because getting drugged up and sleeping all day sounds like a vacation. Being a mother is difficult, and being a mother with chronic pain can feel impossible. Don't compare yourselves to the mothers that spend all day baking and cleaning, while simultaneously teaching their children quantum physics. All we can do is the best we can with what we have to work with. That’s what I strive for every day.