LEVELS -levels- (levels)

This blog post is supposed to be about my shifting pain levels post-move to Southern California, but the only title I could think of was a line from the Nick Jonas song “Levels.” Which is just the word levels three times.

I’ll admit, I have a small Nick Jonas problem. But then, aren’t all of us male-attracted humans having a little Nick Jonas problem? I mean, look:

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The man has smolder down to a science. He does not play.

Now, let’s talk about pain. I know I write about pain a lot, but they say to write what you know, and this is my area of expertise.

From the tender age of 4 I have been dealing with chronic pain. Over the years, I’ve developed all kinds of pain-management techniques including breathing heavily out through the mouth, taking handfuls of pills, thinking very hard about parts of my body that do not hurt, and binge-watching Scrubs.  The pain is worse when’s cold, or rainy, or humid, better when it’s dry or warm outside. Getting treated for Lyme helped some, cutting meat out of my diet helped some (although I do miss those tasty dead animals), but ultimately I lived every day somewhere between 6 and 7 on the pain scale of 1-10. Winters, I’d spike up past 8, summers, dip to the 5 range.

Pain is exhausting. It saps your patience, drains your umph. Long-term chronic pain begins to feel like depression after a while. You live in a fog, lose your appetite for food and for life, and spend a lot of time curled up in a blanket thinking about nothing. My pain has kept me on a short leash. It prevents me from being the kind of person I want to be: the one who’s always there when you need her, who always says yes. It prevents me from working full-time, from keeping my house clean, sometimes even from being able to make it back to the couch after using the bathroom.

It sucks.

My pain responds pretty sharply to the weather. You know how old people can tell when it’s going to rain by the ache in their knees? I’ve been able to do that since my early teens. I used to compete with a 60-something coworker at my high school job to see which of us could predict the rain more accurately. He usually won, but I was pretty close.

I’ve lived in San Diego for almost a month now. It’s dry here. To give my east coast friends a picture: if you straighten your hair on a summer morning in San Diego it will still be straight in the afternoon. Astounding.

It’s also warm. I mean, it’s summer right now, but, as I understand it, even winters don’t get much below the 50s.

And my pain level has been averaging about 3-4.

It’s only been a month but already my house is staying clean. No dishes piling up in the sink or clutter everywhere. There are stairs in this house and I find myself climbing them all day long to make sure things get put away where they belong, instead of letting them pile up around my nest on the couch as I did before. I unpacked all of our moving boxes in about 10 days. My daily 2-hour nap has been reduced to a 20-30 minute power snooze, and I don’t even need that every day. I’ve been out running a few times and it doesn’t hurt.

I haven’t fainted once.

It’s hard to express what this feels like. It’s hard to put words to the sensation of freedom that comes with pain reduction. I’ve long described my joint pain as feeling like nails driven into the joint, grating back and forth with movement, throbbing when they have to bear weight. The other night, we went for a long walk (Pokemon Go, anyone?) and I didn’t feel the nails. My knees felt like they were stuffed with down. It was like stepping on a moving walkway in the airport: all the effort is gone, and you float.

I guess this is what the Tin Man felt like when Dorothy oiled him.

I’m trying not to get too excited. I’m trying not to wake up expecting my feet to hold me. My cane still lives by the front door, and I keep my early afternoons open in case I need to rest. Instinctively, I lean on the railing when I descend the stairs, and I still always put my feet up when I sit down.

After 22 years on the roller coaster of improvement and deterioration, I don’t want to let myself take any of this for granted. But damn it I’m going to enjoy every second of this season, and I’m going to get a lot of stuff done.

Because that’s all we can do, right? Take what you’ve got, and work your ass off. This past winter my pain was at a record high, with all kinds of neurological symptoms to boot. Yet, still, I wrote, edited, and began querying a novel. Just think what I’ll be able to do with less pain! Maybe write two novels! Maybe four!

Speaking of which, I’ve begun writing book two of the series I started last fall. I’m still working on finding representation for the first book, but that’s no excuse to slack off. Maybe, if things keep going well, I’ll have a teaser excerpt to share with you all soon.

Thank you, everyone who supported and loved me through this move. I think it might truly be everything I had hoped it would. Come on, everybody, get tentatively happy with me!

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