There are so many variables. Is the pain subtle? Is it sudden? Continuous? One or two on the silly 1-10 “pain scale” or is it a twelve and heading into the stratosphere? Are you at home or at work? Able to stop everything and focus on dealing with it, or must you somehow keep on working? Have you slept well, or not? Do you have tools you use to help you mitigate the pain (a paraffin bath, heat or cold packs, compression gloves and splints, a TENS unit, painkilling medications)? Is the weather a factor? Does cold make you cry? How about humidity?
Another variable is how we, as individuals, perceive pain. My “bearable” pain may be your “terrible” pain, and vice versa.
It’s no wonder that doctors cringe when someone with chronic pain shows up in their exam room or ER asking (begging) for temporary relief in the form of narcotic analgesics. They’re a whole ‘nother problem that many of us would prefer not to evoke.
Before the rheuma dragon made his den in my wrists and hands, I was often able to distract myself from even severe RA pain by reading a book, watching a good movie, losing myself in my work, or writing. It’s a mind-trick, is distraction. Writing was my favorite method. Like most artists, even when pain was present in my knee or foot or shoulder, I could disassociate myself from it by “falling into the page.” In the corporeal world, time passed, but it was suspended for a while when I away, visiting the world of my imagination. I took a certain amount of pride in the ability to do this.
It’s become much more difficult for me lately, though, since the dragon now lives in my hands. Most days he merely nips at my joints. My right pointer finger might be swollen and a little sore, but the other joints are quiet. Or my wrists might ache, but if I put on my wrist splints, he can’t hurt me as much. I’m never sure from day to day which part of my hands he might choose to attack or how tenacious he’ll be, or how savage, but the meds I’m taking seem to make him fairly sleepy and slow most of the time. I’m very grateful.
Here’s the thing, though. To slip into the page, I must use my wrists, hands and fingers as the conduit between my imagination and the glowing computer screen. Keyboarding, even though it takes far less pressure on the keys than an old fashioned typewriter did (yay technology!), can still hurt a lot when the dragon is awake and snarling. I’ve not quite mastered this particular form of distraction when the pain is random in focus and intensity – and manifests itself only in the joints at the end of my arms.
I’ve considered trying voice-activated writing software for my computer, but that particular technology is still an unsteady toddler who frequently falls on its butt and throws tantrums. With all its glitches, using it to shift my consciousness “into the page” sounds maddening. In addition, I’m fairly intimidated by the idea of translating my imagination into the spoken word before it appears as letters and symbols, rather than the reverse. I can’t help but wonder about the tedium that would follow as I edit and rearrange my thoughts into something resembling coherence. And of course, that would require keyboarding by hand again, which sort of negates the whole point.
In the meantime, I’ll just keep on keeping on, even as RA forces me to write less than I’d like.
Living and working with RA continues to be a challenge. How do you “distract yourself” from pain?
Update: Thanks to everyone who told me they hoped I’d feel better soon, but actually, I’m feeling pretty good overall, just a bit frustrated when I can’t do everything I want to do, like just about everyone else who reads my blog. I wrote this post because I wondered how the rest of you handle your pain on a day-to-day basis, and I hoped that your comments would give us all some useful ideas. Thanks for reading!