Ugh, the anguish of going to the pain department at Chelsea & Westminster really stays with you. Don’t get me wrong; I’m grateful for any/all help. Since breaking my back (and other areas), the one problem that’s never shown any improvement is the debilitating pain around where the metal-work was implanted (via two operations). It makes it hard to plan anything (because the pain is unpredictable) and that which can be planned has to be done so with intense forethought and strategy. Sitting is the hardest thing, followed by standing (oddly, walking, insofar as I can walk, is easier than standing, perhaps because the movement is distracting). If I have something to write that requires an hour of work, I might be able to do ten minutes at 10.00am, 20 minutes at 2.00pm, 10 minutes at 4.00pm and so on and so on. In between each burst, I will need to stretch, lie down on my front, lie down on my back, trying the floor if the bed or sofa isn’t diminishing the pain. Before I know it, the day has evaporated. I use the strongest painkiller conservatively, in the hope that it will retain its efficacy and, if I’m lucky, it will enable 60-90 minutes of sitting time once a day. But it doesn’t always work and sometimes it just gives me 20, if that. Steroids into the sacrum, epidurals and Botox into trigger points have not worked, so the next thing I’m looking into is spinal stimulation therapy.
Hence the pain department appointment. I knew the form, but it still hurts. The skepticism on the face of the doctor and the strange, intrusive questions that have nothing to do with pain. The gaslighting suggestions that it’s all in your head. The questions that seem to imply that you’re just not trying hard enough. It withers you.
After four-and-a-half hours (why these maxi-size appointments, comprising 15 minutes of face-to-face time with three hours, 45 minutes of waiting – for people who have trouble sitting?), I came home and wept. And that’s something for which I really am grateful. I very rarely cry and yet sometimes it’s appropriate and healing. And once I’m crying over one thing, the tears attach themselves to other things, so I end up processing more than one source of pain. As I cried, I thought of a recently deceased friend, my late father, some superannuated dreams that didn’t materialise. The next day, I could feel that there was less emotional clutter in my system. So even though one kind of pain is as intense as ever, another kind has been stilled.