Saturday, March 08, 2008

Accident Prone

That's what they called me as I grew up. Clumsy, fragile... those were the nice ones. When I was on crutches, or in a brace it was Gimpy, or Ilene (I-lean). That was still in good fun. The one that really stuck was Faker.

As you can probably guess, I got hurt a lot. I broke my arm once.. or was it twice? That was a "real" injury, with x-ray evidence and a cast to prove it. What was much more common were the nonspecific injuries. Muscle strains, bruised bones, sprains, tendonitis, pulled ligaments. I am very familiar with these terms. I couldn't begin to count the number of visits to the doctor's office I had as a child, how many x-rays, how many splints and ace bandages. The x-ray technician at my family doc's office used to call me her apprentice. She said that I must know as much about taking x-rays as she did. I know all the poses. And they all came back normal. No broken bones, no evidence of injury. Often only mild swelling, no bruising. All I knew was that it really hurt.

But it started to sink in that other people didn't know that it really hurt. Other people didn't believe me, I could see it in their eyes, I could hear it in their voices. And sometimes it was right there in their words. "Faker".
I took that criticism, that accusation right in. I internalized that so deep, that I still don't trust my own experience of pain. Every time that I am sick or hurt, I second-guess it. I call myself a faker inside. I accuse myself of making it worse than it really is, of being a baby. I tell myself it's not that bad, that I need to suck it up, and that I should really stop complaining. I remind myself that nobody likes a whiner, and that my friends must surely be sick of hearing about my numerous physical ailments.

What I know now that I didn't know then is that I have a weird condition. I'm too stretchy. It's called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome: Hypermobility Type. Symptoms include unstable joints and easy bruising. Medical history to include many nonspecific injuries with "normal" x-rays. Prognosis: chronic pain, possible degenerative joint disease, more injuries that no one else can see. Treatment: ummm... yeah... not really. Be careful. Build strong muscles around joints. Avoid activities that destabilize or stretch.. like yoga and swimming. Pray.

So I should go easier on myself. Of course I don't, and I'm currently laid up with hip pain that started out as mild and manageable. So I ignored it. Then it got worse, so I stopped working out, and ignored it some more. Now I'm barely functional, every step hurts, and I depend on my arsenal of narcotics (legally prescribed), muscle relaxers (also prescribed), a heating pad, various pillows in just the right position, and a heap of self pity.

I go for an MRI on Wednesday. I promise I'm not faking.


Lea said...

it is so intense the ideas we internalize. every time i hear myself or anyone else saying anything to my kid that generalizes who she is i do a mini-inner-freak.

oh man - feel better soon girlfriend.

maggie, dammit said...

Sister in pain! Let's hang out. Instead of wine we'll drink prescribed narcotic elixirs. We'll rotate heat and ice, your pad with my bags. I'll believe you and you'll believe me.

I love you.