The Wall

To people who suffer chronic pain “The Wall” is just as real as the Great Wall of China and sometimes just as daunting.  Those who suffer chronic pain work very hard to live a normal life, they are experts at setting aside their pain, ignoring it, or distracting themselves, in order to get on with their daily lives.  The problem with that is sometimes we are just too good at what we do and out of nowhere the pain that you were ignoring at about a four suddenly becomes an eight.  What happened?  You hit a wall.  We call it that because that is exactly what it feels like, one minute you have everything under control and the next you have surpassed the amount of pain you can handle and unwittingly wandered right into a pain storm.  At that point everything stops, you are at a pain level that you won’t abate with an hour of rest and some pain meds.  Finding your way out of a pain storm can take days, every trick you know, and a lot of meds just to level you out.

No matter what it looks like it hurts when you hit it.

It’s called hitting the wall because everything stops.  If you are driving, you are pulling over and making calls to get yourself home.  If you are working you are going home.  If you are having lunch with friends, lunch is over.  Additionally all plans made for the next few days are forfeited, it doesn’t matter if you have tickets for a pleasure cruise to Europe or tickets to your favorite band on their last tour ever.  None of it matters any more.  For you, the world has ceased to rotate outside of your every attempt to calm your pain even the slightest.

This is never going to cover it!

This is never going to cover it!

Your and anyone supporting you should be focused on calming you and your nerves.  If ice calms your pain use it, or heat, lie down, sit up, listen to music, watch TV, read, whatever centers you, use it.  Remember that this is not just a struggle of the body, but also the mind.  As the body experiences pain mentally we experience stress, accordingly we tighten our muscles, which increases the pain, which tightens the muscles, which increases the stress, which tightens the muscles, and now you aren’t breathing regularly, you are holding your breath, your muscles are tightening, your pain is increasing, you are holding your breath and so on until you break the cycle.

This will not help.

This will not help.

During the pain storm physically your body is completely overwhelmed by pain, you have no ability to experience any other sensation.  If a well-meaning significant other were to offer a massage if would be best to turn it down as the only signals your brain is able to recognize is pain.  It would only aggravate your situation.   Once you are in such a heightened state it is best to reduce the amount of sensation and slowly let your body calm down.

Try to relax.

Try to relax.

While we are in a pain storm many of us want to scream and yell and cry.  Some give in to those urges and other hold back because we don’t want to look like we are complaining, whining, or weak.  Even though inside we are inside so much pain any outlet would be some level of relief.  Again, sometimes the pride gets in the way, especially if we find ourselves in this position in a public place.  We don’t want to be the crazy person dragged out of the mall screaming and crying for no visible reason.  Although sometimes it is unavoidable, sometimes the tears just leak out.

I'm fine...really.

I’m fine…really.

I have found myself in the middle of a pain storm twice in movie theaters.  Talk about awkward!  I had a death grip on the arm rest, trying to get enough of a hold on the pain to get out of the theater without falling or screaming or something equally embarrassing on my way out.  I’ve been in a car full of friends, only two of which even knew about my chronic pain.  I found myself in one walking down a sidewalk, I have absolutely no memory of how I got myself home, but somehow, I managed without anyone calling an ambulance, which is one of my major fears.  What I have figured out works in really awkward and (to me) terrifying situations like those is referred pain.  A good solid pinch, or stub the toe, or punch a wall, whatever is available or preferable not with the intent to do damage, but to get the brain to focus on pain somewhere else is actually a relief, albeit a brief one.  Still any amount of relief counts in a situation like that.  Trust me.

That is NOT my ride!

That is NOT my ride!

While this will happen to anyone who suffers from chronic pain and it is important to know how to deal with it.  It is much more important to know how to avoid it.  To pay enough attention to your body and take your meds before you hit your wall, not after.  The trick is maintenance, not after care, but that is a whole different post.

Stay in tune with your body.

Stay in tune with your body.

What about you?  What you do you find helps you come back to the world after you hit your wall? What places have you been when it happened?  How did you handle it?



About leitis23

I'm an adventure, living life to the fullest, and doing stupid things enthusiast, whose life took a serious left turn into chronic invisible illness. My saga of adventures in the world and in medicine never fail to keep life interesting.
This entry was posted in anxiety, caring, chronic fatigue syndrome, Chronic Pain, compassion, conditions and diseases, coping, depression, fibromyalgia, health, helping, invisible illness, Medicine, pain management, understanding and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to The Wall

  1. Thank you for this….you articulated what happens so well. I hit the wall last night (thankfully at home), but hit it so hard I had to crawl from the couch to my bed, and barely managed to get in bed. It’s such a hard thing to go through, and if your pain management medical team isn’t particularly helpful (like mine…i have nothing for breakthrough pain) it’s even more difficult to pull out of that deep hole.

  2. Reblogged this on stitchgnomercy and commented:
    I’m posting this because I hit the wall last night, but can’t manage to put into words what that feels like. Thankfully, this post does it better than I could right now!

  3. david lee says:

    Someone who understands . The wall of pain falls on me when I can least defend , middle of night . Your nurturing and kind with your pain where I feel angry and defeated . They took away my all my pain meds because of an affection for cannabis and I got the god question wrong on the form . I’m in the kind of pain no human would let a dog suffer and yet in plain view I feel to be the victim of cultural apartheid in modern times ! I need a support group for pain and another for the grief over losing every prerogative of value in life , and another to salve for anger and deep disappointment over the unfairness . All this on top of fearing this night on top of this day . The only deeply similar talk is the folks talking about waiting for the bus .It was new slang for me too . I never dreamed it would come to this . This is a face of brutal undertreated treatable physical pain . Read me and weep as my body is a house on fire , I stand at the upper window faced with to jump or burn alive some more . Never predicted this and that means that this , even this can happen to even you .

    • Jimmy says:

      I hear what you are saying. After 20 years of chronic pain I still have a lot of anger, bitterness and resentment about the whole deal. After my work accident in 1995 I did 8 weeks of physical therapy and I came out of it still in agonizing pain. I was a 22-year-old long-haired rocker that was incredibly naieve about the workings of the world and specifically the prescribing of pain medications. I got the drug question wrong on the form and the doctor straight-up asked me about my drug habits. I told him I smoked pot a few times per week (which was a true answer). He told me that it would be wise for me to stop smoking pot completely as it reduced oxygen to muscle tissue and would seriously impede healing. I don’t know if this is true or not. During PT he had me on 3200mg of Motrin per day and within a month I had severe stomach ulcers. On my last appt. with my back specialist he said I had two options: stay on the Motrin and end up with no stomach or get off the Motrin and basically just learn to live with the pain. That was it, and he sent me on my way. So I quit using Motrin as I thought having a stomach might be somewhat important to my survival. lol

      To this day, I have a sneaking suspicion that my ‘hippie rocker’ look along with being truthful about my pot smoking habits is why I was not offered any other types of pain medications. He knew I wasn’t faking the pain as x-rays showed a ruptured disc in my thoracic spine and the best he could do was Motrin or ‘suck it up.’ I really felt like his attitude was, ‘this kid is just a drug-seeking hippie.’ That whole experience totally soured me on the healthcare profession. I’ve never been back to a doctor since regarding my chronic back pain and I avoid them as much as possible.

      Regarding the wall, for me it usually hits when nerves roots start getting pinched off. It only takes one small wrong movement. When it hits it is immediate and I am in the fetal position. Sometimes the pain is so intense it feels almost like I am high and sometimes it feels like I’ve partially left my body. Talk about a coping mechanism! lol I shouldn’t laugh but sometimes that’s all you have left is your sense of humor.

  4. Tricia says:

    This is beautifully written, and spot on. Thank you!

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