Work through the pain…

What idiot thought up that brilliantly stupid phrase?

I have had that comment thrown in my face more times than I can count.  And people don’t just use it for physical pain.  They seem to think that people with mental illness want to spend all day in bed. 

So I made it to work today.  That’s definitely a plus in the win column.  As soon as I started my work, the muscles in my back started to tighten up, though.  I admit, though, that I wasn’t surprised since I had only taken the medications for “breakfast” at 2:30pm.  So I waited a little longer and took my pain med (non-narcotic).   Taking my meds as I am supposed to is another plus in the win column.  I also informed the person in charge (my boss is out) that it might be ab issue for me to make it through the whole shift.   I am doing gentle stretches and trying to make sure I don’t stay in a particular position too long.   Another plus for being proactive about taking care of myself.  I have also figured out exactly how much I can do/take before I have to go home.  I know that waiting until it is too late will put me back in the ER and unable to drive.  But I do need the money since I don’t get paid unless I am here. 

Literally, I am having to negotiate with myself to determine what I can and cannot do.  And this entire negotiation goes back to the idea of “working through the pain”.  By no means do I advocate giving up on getting anything done if you are in pain (especially if it is chronic).  And I have certain pain that I live with on a daily basis.

Every time I deal with pain I am not used to, though, it throws me back to my childhood and how my pain was dealt with then.

[Warning: What you read here might make you angry/sad/embarassed/feel like I was abused.  It has mostly been dealt with as an adult, so please do not demonize the adults involved.]

I remember (from what feels like a pretty young age) that I was supposed to take care of myself in many ways.  One of my strongest memories is wetting the bed one night.  I was wet and cold, so I grabbed my blankie and walked into my parent’s room.  I don’t know how much of this memory is accurate, but it is what I recall.  I stood beside the bed next to my father’s side of the bed, crying silently.  I sniffled a little and whimpered, but I didn’t say anything because I knew I wasn’t supposed to wake them up.  Eventually I must have laid down because I remember curling up beside the bed, still crying.  I have no further memory after that.  Although this memory doesn’t have to do with physical pain, it does set up how my mental pain was treated, even when young.

My pain was always less than something or someone else.  I tried to tell my parents when I was in middle school that I was having a lot of pain in my knees during PE (physical education).  They told me I was too young for it to be a real problem, that I was imagining things, or that I just needed to “work through the pain” until I was used to the exercise.  None of this made the pain go away.  It would lessen at times according to what exercises we were doing, but it stayed around through high school.  I had problems with running throughout high school, and they required a 1.5 mile run for the PE requirement.  Oddly enough, I was actually in pretty good shape in high school, so I came the closest I had ever come to completing the requirement with a reasonable time.  The pain got bad enough that I had to quit running, though.  Since I was running side-by-side with a friend, I asked the teacher to give me the same time as her since she and I were together up to when I had to quit because I was crying from the pain.  Instead, I (and everyone else that did not complete the run) was given the same time as the last person to complete the run, which gave me very low score.  So the teacher obviously felt that either my pain was faked (with tears streaming down my face) or that the pain was not an excuse for failing to finish an arbitrary requirement.  This especially made me angry as the rest of my fitness scores (barring chin up which I have never been able to do) were in the average to high average range.  So the pain in my knees was never important and I was always treated as if I had no right to complain about it.

I didn’t have much pain in my hips until I was in high school, but at that point the pain was much worse then my knee pain had been.  Once again, I was trying to prove to the people around me that I was in pain.  I wasn’t taken to the doctor, I was told to “get over it”.  One more phrase that makes me want to strangle the person who dares to tell me how I should be feeling/acting. 

Aside from physical pain, I had a huge amount of mental and emotional pain inflicted on me, especially after I hit puberty (around 11).  I was physically, emotionally, and mentally abused for years at this point on top of the neglect that I was already suffering.  By no means was my childhood a horror story.  But it was a very hard childhood for me.  (I will leave the lecture about relsliency for another post.)  From the time I was young, I was compared to both of my brothers–the reverse was also true, with all three of us failing in some area when compared to the other two.  After puberty (as far as we can figure out) all three of us kids (11,11, and 13) went completely nuts.  Althugh we don’t know whether it is true at this point, it might be that all three of us were bipolar.  One of my brothers has no contact with the family, so I have no idea of his current diagnosis, but back then he was ADHD, anger control issues, amongst others.  My eldest brother is Adult ADD and bipolar.  And I am bipolar.  Yeah, the fact that my Mom didn’t kill any of us is impressive.  Actually, the fact that all of us survived to adulthood is pretty impressive.  But I was going somewhere with all of this.  Because my brothers’ issues were more visible and manifested in stronger symptoms and reactions, I was pushed aside.

Not only was my pain ignored and discounted, I watched my mother ignore her own pain and “work through it”.  It seemed that it just made her more miserable.  She was able to accomplish a lot, but she seemed so unhappy.  It also seemed to me that, when she did finally do something about the pain, it took twice as long to get better because she waited so long.  But my mom hated “to be a bother”.  The one thing that taught me was that I needed to take care of myself even if no one else would listen. 

Okay, fast forward to college and the years since then.  A lot has happened, but in relation to this history I have spewed all over the screen:  I found out that I not only have two separate birth defects that directly effect my hips, but one could have been corrected when I was a young child with othopedic shoes (yes, similar to Forrest Gump, but less obvious).  I am currently being tested for fibromyalgia, which can cause severe pain when touched.  So I know that pain is not something to be ignored.  But after being told for so many years that my pain was a figment of my imagination, I was whining, it was much more minor than I felt it was, or that I was looking for attention, it is so hard for me to admit to being in pain. 

I do take care of myself because one thing I did learn is that no one is going to take care of me except me (although I certainly wish it was different).  But I hate admitting to the people around me that I am having difficulties.  (BTW, my friends are not included in this, as they can tell you that I whine to them quite frequently.)  For the first time in my life, I am working with a boss that trusts me when I say that I am sick.  He doesn’t make demands or question me when I call in.  But I still feel the need to justify missing work.  It’s not like I call out frequently or for no reason.  Granted, it might be a mental health day rather than physical, but I don’t just call in.  I need the money.  I like my job.  It took working for the man for over three months before I stopped trying to explain why I might be a few minutes late or sick.  He trusts me and doesn’t need or want to know.

Even with all of this, I find it so hard to even think about leaving early due to pain.  It’s not like the others can see the pain I am in.  There’s also the voice in the back of my head that says, “You are being a baby…You made it here, so you can’t be that bad off…If you keep leaving, they are going to know that you are a lazy, good-for-nothing slacker…No one believes that you are in pain, they just think you are lazy…etc.”  I know that this voice isn’t telling me the truth, but it is still there after all.  If I wasn’t any of those things, the voice would STFU, right?  And I know that these things don’t work that way, but I still feel like they should.

So I sit here running all of these thoughts through my head.  (And honestly, I am really not sure how much sense this post is making since my thoughts are confused to begin with and then I am medicated as well.)  Not surprisingly, I have a terrible headache.  And now it has reached the time that I need to make a decision…

Am I going to eat and take the next dose of meds here at work, or am I going to head home?  Or I could skip lunch, delay the meds a bit to finish what I am doing, then leave.  *sighs*  I think I am going to finish what I am doing and then head out.  This post has taken hours for me to type, I have gotten a lot of my work done, but my right arm and hand are starting to be effected as well as the range of motion in my neck.

I hate having to admit that I am in pain because in the back of my head it sounds like, “You are weak.”


~ by theartistryofthebipolarbrain on February 27, 2012.

10 Responses to “Work through the pain…”

  1. *hug* Yes, you said it, and I am angry.

    And on a completely different note:

    Something to keep in mind when you (or me) are being to hard on yourself (myself)

  2. You make me want to attach myself to you with duct tape and talk to you all day to eventually drone out all of your self depreciating thoughts and leave you with nothing but happiness and rainbows and love. So there.

    • Is it bad that the ending of your beautiful comment made me think of Skittles? “Taste the Flavor!”

      Honestly, I could say the same to you. You have gone through so much. Most of the time you are all fine with it, but every once in a while, it hits a tender spot and I see you hurt. *hugs* You know I am here for you, too.

  3. It doesn’t seem fair at all does it? But one thing that will help you is to make that little voice shut the hell up! I hate the little voice. You can do only what your mind and body will allow you to no matter what anybody thinks or what negitive, degrading thoughts that little voice puts in your head. I hope that one day someone will be there to make life easier for you. Hugs

    • *blushes* I cannot believe I missed replying to this!

      You are so very kind. I have learned over time to tell the voice to STFU and make it a lot quieter. There are certain occasions, though, that, like a senile Old Uncle, it just won’t shut up until I put something in it’s mouth. [For those that care, yes, that was an Anne McCaffrey reference from DragonSinger.]

      I am thankful every day for the friends in my life. It would be nice, though to actually have a partner in this mess. 🙂

  4. I’m really happy to have stumbled upon your blog. My wife has recently been diagnosed with bipolar type II after living for years with untreated depression and co. You’re an inspiration, and I am wishing you a healthy path. I’ll follow your posts from now on.

    • Thank you so much for the compliment!

      I am lucky that I was diagnosed as young as I was. Living with bipolar is a very personal and involved process. You and your wife need to work together to get her the treatment she needs. It will not be easy for either of you, but I certainly hope that you make it through to a more stable place!

      • It was indeed a learning curve, especially that it was diagnosed so late in her life. We are lucky to have an amazing support net, and a good team of therapists around us. Her going public about is also very recent (I just blogged about it this morning), so we’re really taking baby steps forward towards a healthier life, knowing that it won’t always be easy. I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts.

      • I read your post and am now following both you and your wife. You each have a wonderful voice from your different perspectives.

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