Putting on a Brave Face
Living with Chronic Pain has presented several challenges without many rewards but the hardest challenge by far for me has been answering the dreaded question: "How are you feeling today?" I can put on a brave face and say, 'not bad'. That is the answer that can cover a lot of things without getting into many details. The problem is, 'not bad' isn't good enough for some people and they need to know more. We rate our pain on a scale 1-10 but sometimes that just doesn't work. I can be at the lower end of the scale (for me that is a 5) and feel worse then when I'm at a 10. It is all contingent on where the pain is for that time frame or if it is from a Fibromyalgia flare up.
Flare ups are the worst to quantify into a statement because no two are the same. So, I'll smile and say 'I'm okay', but really I feel like I'm going to die. Sure it's lying to a degree but I don't want the pity party that comes along with 'I'm sorry you are in so much pain'. That isn't what I need. What I need are answers as to why I am subjected to this god forsaken disease? Why isn't there a cure? Why do I need to take all this medication when all it's doing is rotting the rest of my body that was functioning properly. Why can't I stop crying and not sleeping because the pain is so horrific that I can't get comfortable? There are so many more questions without answers that it causes so much depression as well.
I think for me, personally, hiding the depression is the hardest thing to do. I can put on the brave face for the pain but not so much when it comes to the depression. That unfortunately, you can see in my eyes. That is something you just cannot hide. People can see the sorrow in my eyes, the tears that have been shed repeatedly because of not being able to stand the pain. I was never really a 'winter' season athlete, so the winter is not as depressing activity wise. During the summer, however, the depression is much worse. I was very active. I loved to dance, swim, play tennis, play baseball or just to walk on the beach for hours. That is the hardest for me. I live so close to the ocean that it pretty much kills me inside knowing that I can't walk the 'Seawall' like everyone else in Vancouver. Hell it pains me that most days I can't even walk to get the mail (which is in a box 2 houses over).
One of most frequent places I put on a brave face is in the kitchen. I love to cook and bake. Being able to roll dough, fondant or even just stand to peel veggies or prepare a meal is virtually impossible without having to take several breaks now. I loved throwing dinner parties and preparing elaborate meals for special occasions and holidays, now it's a trial just to make a daily meal. But I'll smile and not say a word to anyone except my husband. I've given up trying to really hide my pain from him. As he knows me better than anyone how much pain I'm really in from day-to-day. Sometimes, that is even minute-to-minute. After multiple visits to the hospital because the pain has been unbearable, I'm fairly certain he can read through the facade and see my soul slowly dying inside.
I guess what it boils down to is that I really dislike being asked how I am feeling and would rather have someone ask 'What can I do to make your day go a little easier?' or better still 'How would you like to cry on my shoulder for a while?'. A good cry is sometimes better than a doctor visit. It doesn't help the pain but it does ease the sorrow off my chest even if it is only temporary.
My brave face will be there right until they bury me or so I hope.