So much has been going on in my life lately, and some of it — maybe all of it? — relates to or touches (in some way) my chronic pain experience.
Or maybe I mean the chronic pain experience touches everything else in my life, especially the stuff going on lately.
Or maybe it’s both.
Here’s what happened in my life, and then I’ll tell you what that means for this site.
What Had Happened Was …
Honestly, it feels better to me to simply bullet-point this list of change, but I am beginning to realize that this urge is probably related to my tendency to avoid the subject of my own pain.
And since that doesn’t seem entirely healthy or productive, I’m trying to work on that.
So, deep breath, and here we go.
Several weeks ago, I was notified by my landlord that we were being evicted. He had “other plans for the property.” (I suspect those plans involved another steep rent increase, which he knew I wouldn’t be able to pay.)
As a result, in the space of a few weeks, I had to find a new place to live. Initially, I focused on other places in my vicinity — in western North Carolina, that is — but it soon became clear that the rent situation locally had changed dramatically in the three years since I’d last looked. Simply put: there was nothing around I could afford.
As I was speaking with a friend on Facebook via chat messages about this, I jokingly said, “Hey, you wouldn’t want to get a place together, would you?”
My heart just about stopped when the reply came back: “Actually, yes.”
Please don’t joke with me right now. I can’t take it, I thought.
But she wasn’t joking.
So we talked for awhile longer, then again on the phone, then more and more … and within a few weeks, we were settled. We’d move in with my friend — into her apartment in upstate New York.
Not quite getting a new place together, but she had some unfinished attic space, and been planning to do something with it for awhile.
So as she later explained it to me, she thought, why not fix it up for Annie and her daughter, they can stay for awhile until Annie gets her feet back under her and figures out what to do next, and then whenever she decides to move on, I’ll have the space to use myself.
Getting Up to Our New Home
Getting up to New York from North Carolina was a problem. We had no car, and I had very little money.
Fortunately, my brother and sister in law were planning to give me use of their old car after the purchase of a new one. So that was awesome.
But it was a manual transmission (a stick shift) and I hadn’t driven any car in three years since I’d sold the last car (also a stick shift). So my brother suggested that we take the bus or train, and he volunteered to drive the car packed with our stuff up to NY.
And this would give my daughter time to spend a few weeks with her dad at the beach in South Carolina, and while she was there, I could stay with brother and sister in law.
Well. First I did some research, ultimately deciding that the bus made more sense. But then Greyhound abandoned us in Durham NC at the downtown Greyhound station at 11 PM.
You can read more about that here. It was a whole thing. Anyhoo.
We ended up taking Amtrak, thanks to another incredibly generous friend. We went from Durham up to Penn Station in New York City, 10 AM-ish to 8 PM-ish. Then we had a two-hour layover at Penn (if you’ve never been, let’s just say that it’s an experience).
Then another 2 hour train ride to Albany (Amtrak doesn’t go to the new town, sadly.) Next, at 2 AM, a cab ride to a motel, then a day and a half in the motel, then our friend and new roommate would come pick us up there and take us to our new home, about 2 hours from Albany.
Then my brother will pull into our new town with the car I will have use of and all our stuff.
Phew. But OK, right?
Yeah, no. Almost! Soooo close, as a matter of fact, but … no.
Instead, the clutch blew out on the car the minute my brother pulled off the interstate into our new town. We met him at the mechanic’s garage, and within a day it was clear: this car was dead, and the cost to fix it would exceed the cost to get something newer and in better condition.
So we got the car unloaded and carted over to the new place, brother got the car sold to a junk yard, and then we got him dropped off at the car rental place so he could pick up a car for the drive back to North Carolina.
And here we are. Carless but roomie has access to a car, and we’re in a town with pretty decent public transportation and a grocery store within walking distance. Also, because of the exorbitant rent I’d been paying and the much more reasonable rent here, I’ll be saving quite a bit of money, so I’m confident that I can get a car at some point.
What All This Has to Do With (My) Chronic Pain
Gotta admit: It’s been a struggle keeping my equanimity here lately.
So many challenges. So many unexpected problems to solve. So many people contributing to getting us here, for which I’m eternally grateful, but it also causes more stress for the stalwart “do it all myself” types like me. (I’m working on that.)
During my visit with my brother, who also has some of the same issues I do (back pain, neuropathy, etc.), he commented on my current pain level, which was admittedly high that day.
I mean, let’s face it — moving all our stuff, staying on a couch for a few weeks, planning a second move to a completely different state and all the stress that involves? That’s not exactly conducive to decreasing one’s chronic pain levels, amirite?
I made some self-deprecating comment and a joke.
He didn’t laugh. He asked me, “What are you doing about this?”
I thought, What do you mean, what am I doing?
I said, “There’s nothing to be done. I could get surgery, if I had insurance. But I don’t. So I just exist. I live with it. I try not to make it worse.”
He said, “Have you ever heard of the McKenzie Method?”
I had to struggle not to roll my eyes. Did he have any idea how many bodywork methods I’d looked into? How much physical therapy? Acupuncture? Supplements? Yoga? Massage? Chiropractic?
Of course he did, I see that now. And he was quick to add that McKenzie might not help me at all.
But he gently suggested I might want to look into it.
I think that planted the seed for me — the seed of maybe there’s more I could be doing.
After all, it’s been months – no, years, actually. YEARS — since I tried a new modality for my pain, or for anything other than temporary relief of the pain. I haven’t been working towards healing except through prayer for years.
For years. (It bears repeating.)
All that time, I’ve focused on maintaining the status quo. Keeping it from getting worse. Thinking someday, hopefully, maybe, I can get the surgery that will hopefully, maybe, reduce the pain and numbness in my feet and legs at least, if it won’t solve all my pain issues.
That was my whole focus.
I didn’t think healing was possible. Or at least, I didn’t pursue it.
But now … now, I’m not so sure.
I’m at least sure of this:
I’m no longer willing to accept that it’s not possible.
I’m no longer willing to not try to heal.
I’m no longer willing to assume the status quo is as good as I can expect, ever, for the rest of my life.
I’m not saying I’ll ever be like my brother, with his cross-country (literally!) bike trip plans and hot yoga and … oh, so much more.
But I do think it’s at least plausible that I may achieve a state of health without the pain and numbness in my legs and feet.
And that’s the one condition among all my symptoms that’s distressing me most right now.
It’s distressing because it means I am vulnerable and at risk for so many unpleasant things, like falling and breaking bones — I did just celebrate my fiftieth birthday, after all, as hard as that is for me to believe.
So I decided just now — today, this morning, a few hours ago, actually — that this is what I’m going to do.
To wit, I am going to pursue healing.
What That Means for Trauma Dolls
I’m not aware that I’ve ever pretended to have any answers, let alone all the answers, for every person suffering from chronic pain.
But for a time, this site was purposed towards, and published as, a lifestyle advice site for people with chronic pain.
That’s not the way it started, though.
It all started, waaaay back when, back when it was called “The Tramadol Diaries,” as a personal expression and resource clearinghouse. We had links to resources for folks who’d received one chronic pain diagnosis or another. And we had personal essays written mostly by me, or by the occasional guest blogger.
And that’s what we’re going back to. Starting now.
I’ll share mostly personal reflections on everything I’m doing to pursue my own healing, as well as the full spectrum of all we CP’d folks endure at the hands of the medical community — good, bad, and ugly.
If I find something that looks like it might be helpful, I’ll share it, of course, but for the most part, this is me, this is my experience, and this is what I think, feel, believe about my own chronic pain experience.
I’ll probably also be turning off comments here soon. I’ll explain why in a separate post later next week.
There’s one more thing to point out in connection with this new focus: the look of Trauma Dolls has changed pretty dramatically.
You’ve probably noticed this already. Gone is the cutesy doll header, the pink and brown and beige color scheme, the rotating box of graphics on the home page.
Instead, we’re now sporting a clean, minimalistic, monochromatic white look. It’s courtesy of the standard-with-WordPress 2015 theme. I don’t promise it’ll stay forever, or even for very long. But until I have the bandwidth and energy for a redesign, it’ll do.
So that’s where we stand. As always, I welcome feedback and inquiries – use the contact form here to get in touch with me.