Motherhood, mental illness and beyond

Pain, pain go away…

I first started suffering from back pain in my mid-teens. Initially it was mild and infrequent but it gradually worsened. I tried all kinds of therapies, medications, exercise regimes etc but nothing stopped the pain. Eventually at the age of 23 I was told that I would just have to put up with it, that it was a degenerative condition and I should expect to be using a wheelchair frequently by my early thirties. I was also told not to leave it too long before having children.

I’m now in my early thirties and I’m doing better than expected. I do have a wheelchair but use it very rarely – I use crutches more often but still only a small percentage of the time. Mostly I just hobble around as best I can and stay at home if it gets too bad. However I am in constant pain; if you count 1 as being pain-free and 10 as utter agony then most days I am a 6. Sometimes a 7. Only when my back goes completely (which thankfully doesn’t happen very often) does it reach 10. It still affects my every moment and every movement though. Over the years I’ve become quite good at gritting my teeth and hiding the pain but sometimes it’s impossible.

While there are only a few things that I am completely unable to do (run, dance, walk any real distance etc) the list of things that I can just about do but really shouldn’t (because they increase my pain) seems to grow longer and longer. At the moment it includes:
Picking up my children
Getting things in and out of the fridge/oven/lower cupboards
Sitting on the floor to play with my children
Carrying shopping
Lifting DS in and out of his cot
Walking on uneven ground, including beaches
Walking up or down hills
And so on and so forth.

I refuse to stop playing with and caring for my children. I am very lucky to have a wonderful and supportive husband but I refuse to let him do everything at home. I want to carry on doing all these things right up until I am no longer physically able to. This often exasperates DH. 🙂

Why am I talking about this today? It’s because I saw my consultant this morning and after reviewing my latest MRI he confirmed the diagnosis of degenerative disc disease (I won’t bore you with the specific details). He’s referring me to a surgeon to discuss the possibility of spinal fusion or a discectomy but he’s not optimistic that either procedure will help. Once again I am forced to acknowledge the possibility that I will have worsening chronic pain (and increasingly restricted mobility) for the rest of my life. Every day for another 50, 60, maybe even 70 years.

And worse than that, my ability to play properly with my children is decreasing all the time. There is nothing worse than having to tell your 3 year old that you can’t play with her because you’re too sore. Actually wait, there is – it’s when she doesn’t even ask me to play, but tells me to rest and look after my sore back instead. That hurts most of all.

But I have recently become friends with someone in a similar position and she gives me the anger and fire to fight this instead of merely resigning myself to it. If surgery isn’t an option then I’ll bloody well find something that is. I refuse to just give up. I will beat this.

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Comments on: "Pain, pain go away…" (9)

  1. I am sorry the news was not more positive. remember though, medical practitioners don’t know EVERYTHING. They don’t know for example that you are a fighter.

  2. I’d be really interested to read something about chronic physical illness verses chronic mental illness – just a suggestion for a future blog! :))) I hope you find something that works for your back as I know how dibilitating a bad back can be even in a short period of time.

  3. Im sorry to hear of your situation, I am 24 & I have heard similar comments from docs. You are your body’s own expert so only you know what is best-the docs can give the info but it’s us that are the real experts here. It always amazes me all the amazing medical things they can do like heart bypasses & organ transplants & give people their hearing back….but they suck at back pain & chronic pain.

    • I’m sorry you’re in a similar situation, it’s dreadful isn’t it? I think back pain is really hard for doctors to treat because the back is such a complicated piece of machinery, and sometimes it can be tricky to tell what the root cause is.

  4. Hi, I suffered from a bad caseof sciatica after my son’s birth. It has caused many pain issues, as you can imagine. The best thing is to keep slim to avoid adding stress to the skeleton and to walk at least 8 hours per week as briskly as you can. This sport walking strengthens all the muscles and tendons so the spine is better supported. It also improves the body’s own chemical painkilling system. The beauty of walking is that you can go at your own speed and stop when you need to, including at a café for a treat.

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