Baseline pain: Chronic Pain blows

Man Feeling Sadness


I think there was a time when I did not know what it felt like to hurt somewhere and to be tired all the time, but I can’t remember it.  Which is a way of the body and mind adapting to new circumstances allowing us to adapt because otherwise we would remember what it was like to be healthy and do normal things… and that is too painful to handle.  So we develop a new normal, a baseline of pain that is within tolerable limits.  For example while I always have some FMS pain everywhere and maybe more in one area, my baseline is so normal it barely registers unless I am reminded by a specific movement.  It gets worse and sometimes it is crippling, but the norm for me is tolerable.  Likely was not in the beginning, which is why I did less and less, because in the beginning it was not normal, it was painful.

What blows is that this is a process that keeps going on until your baseline of pain is quite a bit over normal tolerable limits.  We are talking superhuman pain tolerance, which is not like we are not feeling it as strongly as every other single person in the world, we are just not showing it.  Pain tolerance is not a trait or characteristic, it is a behaviour or the lack of.

I know a migraine is painful.  I still do remember a time when they were infrequent enough that they blindsided me… a couple of minutes from aura, to nauseau to mind blowing pain.  Bam.  Down for the count.  Yet I wonder if that is my new baseline of pain.  Yeah, those migraines suck but they do not level me in seconds.  For one thing those ones are easier to treat… extreme pain quickly means take a triptan quickly.  So if it becomes severe enough, quickly enough, such that it makes me incapable of not expressing it, then it can be treated quickly and with moderate effectiveness.  Whereas that slow build migraine tricks you into thinking this could be a day where you should not take medication, cause you can’t overuse that stuff, but then it builds, messing with your eyes, ears, speach and balance with the pain exponentially increasing into it is beyond acute, but by then traking a triptan is almost useless and a painkiller is just a mild tempering of the storm.  And while I know how fast a migriane can knock you down, wishing you could crawl into a dark cool place and live there I also know that is not an option.  Well it is an ‘option’ just not one you can actually ‘choose’.

So you get people, honestly confused and some who know what a migraine is like, wondering how you can even function with near daily ones.  Well, I don’t have an answer to that, except to try and really, really not think about it.  Because I cannot overuse painkillers or triptans that means whether I like it or not, whether I kick and scream or just whimper, I absolutely cannot treat every migraine I get.  So, damn, if I have not devloped a baseline learned tolerance to a certain level of migraine pain.  And that is just sucky because I want to kick and scream, and rage against the world for being so damn unfair, knowing it makes no differnence.  Nope, can’t even have a little tantrum.  Thank goodness for blogs, so I can at least rant about it a little without feeling like it is wrong for me to express the fact that pain sucks, hiding pain sucks and being forced to do anything in pain sucks the most.  That’s right.  I said it.  It sucks to go to work with a migraine.  Wow.  What a stunner.

Yep, that’s what I was thinking today as I had one brutal slow building migraine.  Near mid-day I used a painkiller or two to get through work but by the time I got home it just got worse and worse until just moving, or having my head touch something, shot a blinding pain through my head.  To the point of being impossible to treat with painkillers or a freakin triptan and well beyond tolerable, such that it occured to me that the migraine I had yesterday which did not peak until close to bed time, I had not treated at all, except with a nap, was in some sense ‘tolerable’.  How crazy is that?  Well, at least I remember how a migraine used to affect me so I get it when other people call in sick because of one or leave work early because of one.  I am still capable of sympathizing with their pain, while at the same time infuriated that those rules no longer apply to me.  Who picks these rules anyway?  Not sick enough to be on disability, but if I got them infrequently then clearly in way to much pain to work, but all the time?  Then obviously that is all good. Er?  Someone is not connecting the dots here. That’s nothing against them because migraines are zero to acute pain in under ten minutes, and normally people are not expected to tolerate that.

So maybe it is just because we have chronic pain and those rules don’t apply to us that we have to develop a baseline tolerance to it.  I know more than a few people with invisible disabilities and various forms of chronic pain and trust me you don’t hear a peep out of us unless it is a bad day… which is a Bad Day.  Just remmeber, folks, just because we have to play nice with others, or get kicked when we are down, does not mean chronic pain sufferers are feeling less pain than someone else with the same damn sort of pain who gets it less frequently.  Like, IBS.  Ever get constapitated for a few days?  Had food poisoning and the opposite problem?  Try that for life… see, big difference.  I do not envy IBS sufferers that sort of pain, which I get sporadically with FMS.  I hate assumptions like that though.  Really, really hate it.

Yeah, I have a few invisible disabilities but they are invisible because I have been conditioned by the world and by choice not to express pain that I have learned to tolerate.  I really hate it when people assume I am effectively treated, or hell, cured simply because they cannot see the pain, or because I am at work.  I am at work because I would be fired to not be at work (cause my doc and the insurance companies think I am not sick enough), I don’t mention most pain because it makes absolutely no difference if I do or don’t and I can hide 90% of moderate migraine pain, because it is only noticable when it has made it impossible to sleep, made me extremely nauseous (I look pale then, and tremble), has greatly effected my balance, speach or eyesight… otherwise, no one can ‘tell’ until it gets to severe level.  Okay… breath… I’m getting all riled up. *damn you unfair world*.

I used to know this dude that was a chronic liar.  Just lied and lied about insanely meaningless things, such that you could only maybe believe about 1% of what he said, but not even be sure then it was the truth.  People should treat chronic pain sufferers just like that. Whaaat?!  No, not that we are lying all the time… we already get people who treat us like that.  Even though you cannot tell we are in pain, even thought we look ‘chipper’ or ‘totally hot’ (could happen), even if we say we are ‘fine’ or adamendly deny the pain is all that bad… just believe all that 1% of the time and even then be assured you are likely not right.  We do put the chronic in chronic pain after all.  Otherwise it would be named ‘thinks-they-are-in-pain’ pain, or ‘vaguely-discomforting’ pain or ‘randomly-sporadic’ pain.  Seriously, pick up a dictionary every so often.

Anywayyy, back to that original point.  Realizing you have devleoped a new baseline of pain that you can effectively hide from others, and tolerate enough to do so and even function somewhat is kind of a bummer.  It is your body and brains way of saying this is never going to end so we just have to suck it up and get on with it on the days we can, so we can put more focus and attention to attacking the worse-er ones.


One comment

  1. I totally understand, was just talking with my personal physician about this a few weeks ago. He says it is an adaptive quality that humans have, similar to women disregarding the pain of childbirth in order to have another child. He said we do over time build a new baseline, and tho I fell my pain tolerance stinks he says it is way over normal, that I endure way too much pain. You lose perspective over time too. What do you compare it to??

    PS I always had the sneaky variety of migraine that built and built and built. So sorry you have those too!


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