a work in progress

the side effects of dating with chronic pain

Every time I have a treatment/procedure I feel fairly unprepared in the following hours, days, or even weeks. It doesn’t matter if I’ve already had the same exact treatment/procedure on the same exact body part, I’m still faced with a slew of unpredictable consequences. I say unpredictable, yet I’m sure plenty people who are smarter than me would claim “Well, yeah…duh that happened” after the fact. But I’m an educated person who doesn’t just sign up for people to do crazy shit to my body without doing my part to learn the ins and outs beforehand. Yet this still happens.

Let’s take prolotherapy, for example. After the first round my body was a wreck. Sure, I should have expected that a treatment which promotes inflammation would result in pink eye and a face full of pimples, however I didn’t see it coming. Before that first round I Googled and even YouTubed prolotherapy  (is YouTubed a verb yet?), and nothing I found said anything close to “your face will breakout worse than it did when you were fourteen.” Needless to say I spent the first week or so feeling a little foolish. It was the classic I’m-so-dumb-for-not-seeing-this-coming situation.

I felt that same feeling when my boyfriend dumped me yesterday. Lucky for me I’m a fairly intuitive person and realized what was going to happen a little over a day before it did, because I think that most would have been blindsided. It was only one week ago that he came straight to my house after being away for work, fresh tuna in hand which he caught just a few days before. Together we prepared a delicious meal and enjoyed with it that kind of conversation at which the cynical me of six months ago would have rolled her eyes. I remember feeling the next day (and sharing these thoughts with my mother) that our relationship was heading in the right direction.

So I was wrong, and I didn’t realize this until the damage was already done. The moment I predicted what was about to happen I had those break up side effects with which most are familiar. There was the ugly crying, the crushing feeling in my chest, that whole I’m-going-to-vomit thing…it was all there right on schedule. But then these other thoughts followed, thoughts I should have expected yet by which I was embarrassingly surprised: the realization of the loss of my newfound social life.

I have not have any dramatic change in hip function this year, yet my social life spiked when I started dating this guy. I went to a concert, I attended two days of my city’s biggest music festival, and I found that I could partake in events I avoided for years because they seemed impossible. I identified the difference immediately and even blogged about it, yet I didn’t consider a scenario when that difference would no longer be there…at least not for me.

Ugh, talk about naïve! It’s not a major revelation that having a helper with you as you step outside of your comfort zone can transform the experience. For whatever reason my “boyfriend safety net” didn’t make me feel pathetic like it would if I was relying on anyone else. He wanted to be at each event and was also willing to take on extra work so that it would be possible for me to join him. I started looking at the activities around New Orleans in a new light; they changed from days I knew I’d have to hide out and stay off social media so that I could minimize my inevitable FOMO to me scouring the web for the perfect thing to wear and whatever gear I might need because I was sure I would be in attendance.

Yes, each of those events was ugly and my experiences didn’t so much match up with those of the average twenty-nine year old. A couple ended in with me in tears, each resulted in an increase in pain that lingered for days, and I was in a major drug haze for every experience (which is probably the most important reason to go with someone who is truly looking out for you and isn’t going to ditch you if your pain gets unmanageable or they’re having too good a time to be bothered). But I thought it was worth it because I was in the early, formative days of a relationship, and for the first time in a while I wanted to be a fun and social person again.

The cost of attending events, whether big or small, with a chronic condition is pretty high, and before this relationship it didn’t seem worth it.  Yes, I’m fresh off a breakup and possibly a little more negative than usual, but it’s going to be hard to justify putting my body through that again for the sake of being social and maybe having a fun day…just for myself. And although I’ve proven that yes, I can do this stuff, I also realize that it’s only possible under a very specific set of circumstances which I cannot replicate alone. It’s a complete tease, a Flowers for Algernon situation, if you’ll allow me to be overly dramatic.

Odds are I won’t end up a spinster cat lady, although it’s not a foregone conclusion. Until that happens I’m just going to have to bask in the wonderful attention I’m getting from family and friends who have stepped up to help me fill my free time with chronic pain-friendly activities. It’s ironic that I’m mourning the loss of my social life while I’m busier than ever, but before long things will go back to normal. Hopefully it won’t take me 4 1/2 years to find the next guy! Yikes.

Lastly, but quite possibly most  importantly, this former boyfriend and I each have a single post-breakup Instagram post. His is of his brand new puppy and has 100 likes. Mine is of a turkey burger and has 24. Since this is just embarrassing I am asking that anyone with an Instagram account throw a pity like my way. You’re the best, and no, I’m not competitive.

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