Matthew always asks me to rate things out of 10. Meals, dates, shows – “So… out of 10?” I always, without fail give him 7 as an answer. I’m not sure if he would have caught onto this if I hadn’t have told him. I just don’t really care about ranking. I just don’t think that way and struggle to make the decision. Scales are all relative anyways.
Doctors and physios always ask you to rank your pain from 1-10 which I have always had a hard time quantifying. I reserve 8 and 9 for the worst of the worst, to me they are the screaming in pain, get-me-to-the-hospital-right-absolutely-freaking-now pains that I’ve yet to face. For me, 10 is completely out of bounds. It’s like shouting fire in a crowded theatre. Never to be used… unless there is a fire.
This won’t necessarily come as a surprise if you’ve been following along but I’ve been having some rather annoying and frustrating back problems. I started having back troubles 14 year’s ago but ever since our car accident in March things have escalated to a level I hadn’t yet experienced and I’ve been dealing with some rather significant sciatica.
For the last little while, part of my life has been living around a 6 or 7. Even while writing this I started with 7 in my mind and decided to put in 6 because I’m sure that my pain 1-10 map hasn’t experienced the worst pains yet which would move these down the scale.
I know how to stay away from that dreaded 7 I hate so much. I don’t stand for “long periods of time” – meaning 2+ mins. I don’t go for walks. I stay in the comfort zone of a 1 or 2 pain by sitting in my desk chair, sitting or semi-lying on the couch or taking comfort in lying on the ground. It’s been a tough adjustment for someone who would go for hour long walks with ease. Someone who when the idea struck, would walk over with ease to the local Shoppers or grocery store to pick up something. Or someone who would walk down to the beach to play chess each weekend and several weeknights.
The simplicity has vanished (for now at least). The ease is gone. Now I have to mentally map out the distances, think about where I can take each rest and prepare myself. I was recently in Montreal for work and needed to run to a drug store. I spent the one spare hour between sessions and dinner looking up the distance between the hotel and a few locations that would carry what I needed. I thought and thought and thought. I picked one. 350 metres away with what looked like a slight incline. I decided I’d try the next morning. The store opened at 8am and I would leave around 7:55 getting there hopefully a little after opening so I wouldn’t have to be standing there waiting for the doors to open.
350m there and 350m back. I was determined that I could do it but also recognized I would need breaks. I made it there with three stops along the way. The way back proved to be more difficult with about 6 or 7 stops. When I finally got back to the hotel tears starting to well up as I knew I’d soon have relief, all I needed was to sit and the seats were so close. Before I could sit down, I saw one of my colleagues and I just couldn’t hold it back anymore. The well ran over and tears started falling down my face.
I like to think that I live my life at a 7. Some people may find that negative – why not live life at a 10? I like to think that there are always going to be more incredible moments along the way and because of that my scale is always moving and adjusting. When it comes to the pain scale – I’m living my life at a 7. Whether I’m actually feeling the pain of a 7 or staying away from the 7 zone by sitting, I’m at a 7. The pain is controlling me, making me change my habits.
Chronic pain is a bitch. I hate that word so much, but it is what it is. Chronic pain sucks. It messes with everything. Your abilities, your mood, your mental state, your confidence. It’s not a fun ride. But it’s important to realize that you’re not alone. I’ve been a bit stubborn to realize this but I need to. I need to 1. Accept the help that’s being offered to me and 2. Ask for help. I have this internal struggle about being a burden and how this is hampering my opinion of my self-worth but, I just need to get over that. Easier said than done but I’m finally at that point and am happy that I am. It’s so much easier now.
So, if you’re still with me, let’s get to the question. – Am I a Spoonie? In an “I wonder what other people like me are like” moment I searched some hashtags on Instagram and the term #spoonie came up as a related tag. The posts were all clearly about chronic pain but I didn’t understand the term so I turned to google and found this article about coming out as a spoonie. It led me over to The Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino, and boy oh boy did it speak to me. The theory uses the idea of measuring the ability to carry out daily tasks with spoons. Each task uses up a spoon and you don’t necessarily have the same amount of spoons each day. You have to think about when you’ll use each spoon and keep in mind that you have a full day to get through. The words rang true in a lot of cases and I realized that this was more or less me. If you have someone in your life who’s dealing with some form of chronic pain, it’s a must read. I highly encourage you to take a moment and give it a read.
So, the short answer is yes.