Sunday 21 September 2014

Chronic Pain, Insomnia and A Persecution Complex Walked into a Bar,,,

As much as my life sometimes feels like someone’s twisted joke, I still haven’t quite figured out what the punch line is yet. Some may think having chronic pain would be the punch line but I think of it more as a set up to a comic story that only the most warped of minds might appreciate.
Although, I can barely remember what it is like without pain, I can live alongside it most of the time. Not to say I don’t grumble and moan about it, I do, quite a bit in fact but usually the things I don’t talk about are the things that bother me the most.
There is nothing more wholesome than a good night’s sleep. It refreshes you and sets you up for a new day and a new approach for tackling life’s obstacles. For a person who suffers with insomnia such a thing is elusive. As I write this I am chuckling to myself because Lord Fester is slumbering peacefully beside me after waking me up at some ungodly hour puking up half-digested cat biscuits outside our bedroom door. Half of me wants to poke him and wake him up, “If I can’t sleep, then you can’t sleep either!” Oh, how I envy that woolly ball of tranquillity, sprawled out in that haphazard way that only deep sleep brings. It makes me hope that in my next life I can come back as a pampered house cat so that I have a good excuse as to why I want to sleep all the time. I have a feeling that this is an unlikely outcome and I will more than likely come back as some sadistic child’s hamster.
When my aches and my pains aren’t keeping me awake (and occasionally the cat) then it is my mind. “Damn you be quiet I’m trying to sleep!”  With that, the overwhelming chattering in my head dulls down to a soft hum as I roll into a more comfortable position. This isn’t comfortable,” the little Gremlins in my head snarl at me. At this point various body parts start clicking and grinding in agreement. 
If you didn’t over do it today it wouldn’t hurt so much, why don’t you do something else to get your mind off the pain? I have a great title for a book, I’m not sure what it’s about yet, maybe it could be about the pain, or possibly about your childhood, you could even write a short story about your dead dog? Hmmm, maybe not, after all, someone will inevitably be offended by what you write, best to keep it to yourself, nobody wants to hear that depressing shit.” 
Only the best and worst of thoughts come to you when you are trying to sleep.  “AHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!”  Now my arm has gone numb, my mouth is dry and I need to pee for the third time since trying to attempt sleep. This usually goes on most of the night, and I find myself having futile conversations with myself that lead me to think that perhaps I am, in fact, crazy and a stint in a loony bin would do me some good. Eventually, I pass out and my bilious thoughts start leaking into my dreams leaving me feeling groggy and irritable when I inevitably pass back through to the land of the living and the relatively sane. Yet, everybody seems to feel the need to say “You should get more sleep.” Sigh.
My better half doesn’t tend to utter “You should get more sleep”, the phrase that turns me into The Hulk’s twin sister with PMS and makes me want to rip people’s heads from their bodies and use them as bouncy balls. He seems to understand that the only thing this phrase is going to change is my mood. However, so many people do feel the need to say it to me. Family, friends, people I meet in the supermarket, taxi drivers, but funnily enough, medical professionals no longer feel the need to offer this “nugget of wisdom” since I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. In fact, once they discover you are not actually a hypochondriac, an attention seeker, a “drama queen” or clinically insane and that the pain is not “in your head”, they start trying to teach you how to manage the insomnia rather than making you feel bad because you aren’t.
I’m sure there are many people who still think my pain is imaginary and worse, actually I know there are and for many, many years I was led to believe the same thing. I still do in my more defeatist hours. The difference these days is that despite feeling dark thoughts about myself and the people who may judge me, I KNOW I’m not imagining these obstacles that have so radically changed my life. They DO exist and nobody else’s opinion can make me doubt myself anymore. In future when somebody utters the abhorrent “You should get more sleep” phrase that makes my hair stand on end or, if someone says to me “You look better today” I will try to remember these are concerns and compliments and not accusations and barbs over the validity of my illness and even if they are, I will smile and politely answer while my alter ego is silently praying for a plague of fleas to infest their nether regions.
There are many set ups to jokes that you can apply to chronic pain, sometimes the joke may start like mine but everybody’s punch line is different, some are so blatant that every uncle across the country has adopted it as ‘the’ joke to tell again and again to their nieces and nephews at the family gatherings and others are so subtle that they didn’t spot the crudity of the joke until someone has to spell it out for them.

Either way, it is not always the joke that is funny but the way that people perceive it that counts.