Taking the Long Way Home

Suffering Silently

“The truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering the more you suffer because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you in proportion to your fear of being hurt.”
– Thomas Merton

Taken in Lisbon across the street from Eleven Restaurant

I have been missing for quite some time now. There are days, more than not, that I simply am incapable of finding myself. A few of these days I was absolutely certain I was lost forever. I sometimes feel like a stranger in my own body. No. It’s really my body that is strange these days. I remember a time – not so long ago – when describing pain was a simple affair. In the past couple of weeks I have actually responded to the question, “How would you describe the pain?” with uncontrollable tears. Pain has become complicated. There’s the “normal” burning pain throughout my right leg. I experience strong sharp pains in my ankle every time it moves or barely bumps something. And a new, alarming pain has begun shooting through my foot, almost electric. The muscle spasms appear to have returned regularly. Combined with full time graduate school and working full time professionally, all of this pulled me into an incredibly dark place.

Discovering the Blessings that Derive from Darkness

I have been blessed with an abundance of people concerned about my well-being. I tend to be reserved, to listen more than speak. It has taken me some time to adjust to this new attention. The difficulty of being social has been the balance of pure honesty and assuring those around me that I am doing well. I tend to err on the side of assurance rather than explaining I can hardly think through the pain. Though my ability to concentrate through distractions has markedly improved.

The people I interact with at my new place of employment are not fully aware of my condition. I am almost certain some of them see me as emotionally immature, as I work through my new disability, learn two new jobs, and balance classes with work. I considered the option of not working in order to complete my graduate degree, but I can no longer afford to go without good, inexpensive health insurance. Now I must consider whether I can complete my degree with only five classes left to complete. To be honest, my writing ability has significantly been hampered by medications and general pain. At one time I complained about the difficulty in attending graduate school and working full time. Times change.

Unexpected Paths

Since my last post, I have walked many new roads. After a third surgery in less than a year, they discovered Clostridium perfringens in the final piece of hardware removed. It was a devastating diagnosis, but my infectious disease specialist took quick action and avoided IV antibiotics, though the decision was nearly altered when I experienced severe side effects from the oral antibiotics. After completing my round of antibiotics, I was finally released from all of my specialists, even wound care. I have one final follow-up visit with wound care next Friday, and I’m afraid there is still a small open area on my foot. I hope they will reassure me it is nothing I should be concerned about. My dream is to finally take a shower for the first time in ten months, but the reality may still be a month or two away.

My physical therapist and I at the end of my final PT session.

I love to travel – anywhere and everywhere. My new place of employment offered me the opportunity to fly to Portugal for a few days. Every morning I walked about a mile to the university. It seemed like a rather simple task, but I quickly discovered that cobblestones are not the optimal stepping stones for someone with a severe foot injury. But the walk was so peaceful. I took in every moment and every new encounter, painfully but breathtakingly. Most of my time in Lisbon was dedicated to meetings and marketing, but I did manage to find one afternoon to travel to downtown. The sights were amazing, but I really overdid the use of my foot that afternoon after getting lost for three hours. I had to have walked at least four miles in that one day. Traveling with this disease is not easy by any means, but I have to admit that it was nice to feel almost normal again.

The cobblestone sidewalks in Lisbon.

Finally, my neurologist decided to refer me to a pain management specialist in Houston. He cannot pinpoint the cause of all of my pain. Because of my hectic schedule, I could not get in to see one of the doctors until the end of October. I am nearing the end of my pain medication prescriptions so I am attempting to push through the pain without any medications. It is terribly frustrating to require a pain management specialist before the age of 30, to worry about the quality of my work due to my cloudy head, and to fear that I may never live without pain again.

Learning to Live Again

Although I still struggle with the emotional and physical hardships of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, I have somehow unveiled these amazing blessings I overlooked for so long. I have regained some of my confidence, while losing other pieces. I contribute to class and work in ways I never would have imagined before, while still feeling inadequate. I walk at least half a mile every day, while suffering internally. I have tremendous support, even while my attitude has been unbecoming at times.

After so many days of despair, I have come to the realization that I was not at all lost. I simply took the long way home.

“It is easy to be pleasant when life flows like a song, but the man worth while is the one who will smile when everything goes dead wrong. For the test of the heart is trouble, and it always comes with years, and the smile that is worth the praises of earth is the smile that shines through the tears.”
– Irish Saying

A picture taken of me taking a tour of a winery in Portugal

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About Journey to Optimism

I have a perfect dental record and a heart of gold. I volunteer my free time at every opportunity because I believe we can all make a small difference, and through the accumulation of numerous small differences, together, we can make a large difference in this world. I enjoy politics and public policy but not divisiveness, and I absolutely love writing.
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1 Response to Taking the Long Way Home

  1. chiquitar says:

    I see it as a good sign that you’re able to talk about it today. Congratulations on that step! Your first quote struck me as being in accordance with a lot of my reading and thinking lately: the concept of suffering as being caused by resistance. We suffer when we want things to be other than they are. My current work involves learning to be in pain without suffering, and I’ve begun to really be able to live in that place over the last few months. But to get there I went through a lot of resistance, giving up my career, and then my ability to work at all. Losing my favorite activities, some of my friends, and most of my social life–none of those came easily and they were all filled with suffering. But as I start to get to know and appreciate this new me, figure out what I can do and all the potential I have (even though it’s been shifted in direction, I still have quite a lot), I often find myself in moderate pain and content, or even happy. I haven’t been able to achieve that at the higher pain scores, but I’m still working on it!

    I hope you are able to finish school and keep working while you make peace with your body, but if you do end up having to give one of those biggies up like I ultimately did, make sure you have someone to talk to who can tell you there’s more to you than that. If you don’t have anyone like that, come to me and I’ll tell you. With CRPS, you simply can’t do everything you want to do–you can push your way through the pain for a long time, but CRPS won’t let you ignore it forever. I’m sure you’re already making more concessions to your pain than you’d like. In case someone else isn’t telling you this, you are amazing whether you are able to finish school and work full time with a crippling pain condition or not. Don’t give up on yourself, just take care of yourself. Best of luck with the Pain Specialist–it could turn out to be a wonderful thing, if you can get the right meds to manage your pain properly, it could be what enables you to get those things done that you are really wanting to do right now.

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