As many long–time readers will know, my wife has been suffering from chronic abdominal pain for well over a decade. You don’t need to know the details but one of the biggest challenges is not knowing from day to day how things will be. It means that plans can change overnight and long–term planning is virtually impossible.
This weekend is a perfect example. My intention was to go to Dartmoor for a wander around the North Moor. However, today I have had to cancel my trip. This is doubly frustrating as I had to do the same thing a couple of weeks ago.
Accepting uncertainty and adapting has been an important lesson in staying sane. We are grateful that she has made so much progress in the last three years and has been able to reduce her medication. My (very) early retirement has been a major positive in this process.
Along with the day to day variability, we have also encountered seasons when things go really well and others where life is hard and when things go into reverse. Hard won ground seems to be surrendered. This is especially tough and we have been through one of those periods this winter.
The medical profession has a surprisingly limited understanding of the causes of chronic pain and its treatment. For those suffering, it’s a constant physical and mental battle, with no remission for good behaviour.
As a bystander, all you can do is help and encourage. Living out the limitations of someone else’s medical condition is not easy, but counting the positives and being flexible helps. We know several people who are in a much worse position, which gives a sense of proportion.
Frustrating as it may be, there is no pat answer to chronic pain. Counting blessings and celebrating small triumphs keep us going. It is also important to have a safety valve, which is why I love getting out into the hills. For a brief moment, I have a true sense of freedom. I’m sure I’ll get another opportunity soon.