Ten (thousand) things depression and pain have in common

For six weeks I have had a pain in the neck. As distinct from other times in my life when I have been a pain in the neck this discomfort is inflicted on me…not by me.

I have some sort of cervical impingement on a nerve and also, either through coincidence or dark magic, I have radial nerve involvement. Which means that for the last 60,480 minutes I have been in pain.  This pain ranges from moderate to childbirth transition bad or 4-400,000 on the pain scale. If I were in the hospital and were presented with those black and white happy and unhappy faces mine would be stretched into some sort of grimacing oval lying on the floor between the frowning one and the weeping one. Things are not good.

Every once in a while I have fifteen minutes without pain and I find myself singing, unloading the dishwasher, lobbing the funniest jokes in the world at my boys while riding a unicycle. But then it comes back and I find myself in bed with my arm over my head in my best approximation of traction.

As I move through this muted version of my life I think about how much this feels like my down times. I have always known that Depression is painful, but I never knew how much pain was depressing.

Ten Ways Having Chronic Pain is Like Being Depressed.

  1. There is no place you would rather be than bed, and not in a good way.
  2. You will try treatments from the East and West. There are so many pills and herbs and alternative therapies that you lose track of the reason behind them.
  3. You pull away from your friends. The sound of your own voice talking about your pain bores you.
  4. You lose your sex drive.  The idea of being touched anywhere is horrifying.
  5. You exist in a world apart. So much of your focus is internal that there is a giant chasm between you and everyone else.
  6. You are up at night for hours. You worry about how you are as a mother, how your work is suffering, and how all the other threads of health are being pulled and misshapen and maybe even broken by this particular ailment and all of the lying around you are doing, and crazy mix of meds you are processing.
  7. You become a problem to solve. Friends, family and practitioners all want to solve your problem so much that you become your problem.
  8. You do less work. The work you do is less good.
  9. You have no energy. It goes to bracing against your suffering, and keeping yourself upright for the hours that you do.
  10. It hurts.

All of this is after just six weeks. I think about those of you who walk around (or can’t) with truly chronic pain. I think about my aunt who works and swims and cooks all with pain going on 30 years. I remember a dinner I had with my friend’s in laws. He had been out of work for 6 years with back pain, and he sat at the table while she brought him food. I remember feeling sympathy for her, but not so much for the man, whose hooded eyes barely met mine as I tried to engage him in conversation. I remember my father getting angry as I stole his “hot dog” pillow, which was one of a thousand ways he tried to deal with his life long neck pain. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so angry at him being so angry.

This is just another way to remember that we all need to treat each other with patience. We are all fighting fights no one can see.


Published by

Anna Palmer

Anna Rosenblum Palmer is a freelance writer based in Denver, CO. She writes about sex, parenting, cat pee, bi-polar disorder and the NFL; all things inextricably intertwined with her mental health. In her free time she teaches her boys creative swear words, seeks the last missing puzzle piece and thinks deeply about how she is not exercising. Her writing can be found on Babble, Parent.co, Great Moments in Parenting, Ravishly, Good Men Project, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Playpen, Crazy Good Parent, and YourTango. She also does a fair amount of navel gazing on her own blog at annarosenblumpalmer.com.

4 thoughts on “Ten (thousand) things depression and pain have in common”

  1. I am so sorry. I have a continuous pain in my right shoulder and it’s awful. I can’t say that it is anywhere near what you are experiencing and I am so, so sorry but I get this. I hope you find some relief soon. Good thoughts probably aren’t an effective cure but I’ll be sending them anyway, friend.

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