I would like to take a vacation. I imagine this sounds strange and more than a bit self-indulgent considering I already AM on a vacation, but hear me out. The vacation I really want is one I am doubting I will ever have to opportunity to take. It’s an epic trip, really. It would not cost very much, it would make my life basically perfect, and I don’t even have to leave home to embark upon it. So what would make the perfect destination for me? What is this amazing journey I may never take? The answer: any place, any step my feet could lead me, any mode of transportation that will take me into a land with no pain.
Not many people in my life really get the fact that my chronic pain is truly chronic. Like, every day. Every minute of every day. Chronic, as my dictionary tells the world, can mean “continuing or occurring again and again for a long time,” or “always present or encountered.” Let me tell you, my “encounters” with this pain do not end. It is, indeed, “always present.” But it is not welcome when I travel, or any time, for that matter.
But my pain is not something I can shrug off when I leave home. It is not an item of clothing I can slip on or off. It’s not a fleece-lined jacket, protecting me from cold and rain. No, this thing is embedded in my skin. It lies just underneath, kind of a subcutaneous vulture that is attempting to claw its way out. And like something under my skin, I cannot remove it. It would be easier, in fact, to remove my actual skin.
And just how does my pain manifest its glory upon my body not matter where I am or who I am with? I have two major areas of pain: chronic tension headaches and searing neck pain. The headache pain ebbs and flows like the tides; sometimes it is nearly unbearable, very much like the migraines that are now managed by Botox, and at other times I simply cannot function. Sleep is my only escape. My neck pain, on the other hand, is like this: you know the Charlie horses, or cramps, you get in your calves sometimes? That’s what my neck feels like ALL THE TIME. The heating pad is a temporary and comforting fix and at times I feel like I am tethered to it because it is the only thing that helps. I have muscle relaxers that provide minimal relief. And yet it remains, relentlessly robbing my life of joy. It is difficult, if not impossible, to feel joyful when your neck muscles are seized up and frozen into a rock-life formation barely holding your head up.
So yes, I AM in vacation but my pain has traveled with me. I did not invite it. I did not buy it a ticket. It does not have a reservation at our hotel. And yet it will be there with me, as always, laughing as I try to medicate, meditate, and sleep it away.
But this time in Florida? This time right now? I will NOT let my pain take over. If I listen to my body closely enough it will tell me when to rest and if it is possible, I will. It will let me know when meds might help and when heat or ice are the only solutions. I will listen, and as my pain and I try to communicate, we will make this trip a good one.
Someday I will take a journey, even if it’s out to our mailbox, without pain. But for now, we are together, my pain and I, as we travel ever onward.