Monday, April 27, 2009

Seeing pain from the outside.

My "other half" John (heretofore called husband) had a ridiculous accident about 3 years ago, and we both learned so much from it. He managed to break both arms playing racquetball! Yes, both of them!! I won't go into the details of how, needless to say, he's not allowed to play racket sports anymore.

He was in the hospital having a cast placed on his badly broken left arm when a nurse walked in and said "oh, by the way, you broke the right arm too." WHAT?!? By the way? That changes everything. Think about it ... what can you do with 2 broken arms? Nothing! And me in my wheelchair with him with casts on both arms - we looked ridiculous. The running joke was "What has 2 arms, 2 legs, and 2 heads?" The answer: The 2 of us at that time.

We had a couple of months of recovery time to figure out how to handle this. But we handled it. We may have looked strange, and some things may not have been done up to our standards (we had a lot of delivered food, and the house wasn't so tidy), but we managed.

Most interesting was the role-reversal. I was used to being the patient, the person in pain; he was used to being the care-giver, the person on the outside being frustrated that he couldn't do more. I learned just how very frustrating it is to watch someone you love hurt. I would have done anything to take his pain away. He had many excruciating procedures to fix the left arm, and I would be reduced to tears every time they manually manipulated it. His face would turn purple and he would try not to scream out in pain. It was a horrible thing to watch. I have never felt so helpless in my life. I had never felt the pain from that side before.

He learned how frightening it is to be facing a painful procedure. He learned the exhaustion of being in pain all the time. He learned the frustration of pain medication that doesn't take all the pain away, but gives you terrible side effects. We each saw pain from the other person's view point for the first time. It was truly an eye-opening experience.

From that, I learned how difficult it must be for my loved ones to see me in pain. How must my mother feel? She's the mommy, she's supposed to kiss my boo boos and have them be all better. How must my husband feel when I cry and writhe in pain and there's absolutely nothing he can do? He's there by my side, holding my hand and saying sweet things to me which helps a lot, but he can't take the pain away. How must anyone who cares about me feel when I'm having a bad day? It's an incredibly frustrating thing.

It just proves that chronic pain affects so many people. You don't have to be the one with the pain to suffer. So here's a nod out to all of the people who watch people that they love suffer with chronic pain. You are appreciated, and, at least by me, you are more understood. Thank you.

And know that just by sticking around, you are stronger than many. I lost a few friends at the beginning of all of this. They had varying reasons for pulling away from me, but I know it was because they just couldn't handle it. I was angry at the time, I thought that was very cowardly. After all, I was the one in pain, not them. Now I have learned that that's not really true. It is very painful to watch from the outside. I have learned to really appreciate my friends who tough it out. And I hope they know how very much they mean to me, and how very much they do for me just by being there. When I'm having a really bad day, I know that nobody can take away the pain - if I can't do anything to ease my pain, and the doctors can't do anything to ease my pain, I don't expect my friends to. Just being there, maybe rubbing my back, saying sweet words ... that does more than I can say. And I know that I'll have friends around for my next good day, and we can go play. If they can be there for the bad days, then the good days are a cake walk!

Thank you all.

No comments:

Post a Comment