I slowly sit up on the edge of my bed and take my first round of medications. I know that the second I touch my foot to the floor I’ll be in immense pain for the remainder of the day. The second I move, there’s no turning back. I debate briefly whether leaving my bed is entirely necessary – you don’t have to actually attend class to pass, right?
I bend my ankle back and forth as I attempt to stretch it out. Pulsing, grating, crushing, I grimace while my ankle pains me. As I shift my weight to stand, I draw in a slow deep breath and brace myself for the pain of standing. Moments later, I’m up on my feet with throbbing ankles and a sore back. I haven’t even taken a step yet.
I walk to the bathroom feeling like I’m simultaneously being stabbed and burned. Pulsing, grating, crushing. I look myself up and down in the mirror. My hair looks like a bird started nesting there, I have dark circles under my eyes, my eyes are bloodshot and puffy from the pain spike that woke me at 3am. I look ridiculous and know it will take extra effort to look like an actual human today.
After I finish brushing my teeth and hair (and feel I look presentable enough for class), I walk back to my bed - pulsing, grating, crushing - and sit for a moment to regain some energy as I plan my outfit for the day. It’s December in Indiana so it’s quite chilly outside. I can choose between sweats or jeans. Jeans are tighter and will help keep some of the swelling down, but sweats are more comfortable and will hurt less to the touch.
I opt for jeans anyways and grab a hoodie from my closet to complete my outfit. I sit down to tie my shoes and find myself struggling to bend. I push myself a little further and my back cracks again causing a small dagger to slice down my spine. I wince but continue tying anyways. It would be ridiculous to leave the house with my shoes untied… right?
I sit back up and begin to pack my bag for the day. I grab everything I’ll need for class, as well as meds for break-through pain and noise canceling headphones should I need a mental break from life. I glance at my phone and see that my 9:00am class starts in 15 minutes – I’m running late.
I sling my bag over my shoulders and rush out the door. Pulsing, grating, crushing. I drive across the street to campus and search for parking nearest my building. Nada. I drive around until I finally find a spot a good 7-minute hike from my classroom and I know this will bite me in the butt at the end of the day.
I get through my morning classes with minimal pain. The aching and burning is there, but I’m focused on two different tests and do my best to ignore the pain. It’s now lunchtime, but I’m not even hungry. I know I should take more Tylenol, so I should eat something. I head to the cafeteria and get a small snack – just enough for me to be comfortable taking the medication.
My next class is a few buildings over and I am not looking forward to the walk over there, as it’s only 30 degrees out and that temperature is just absurd. Pulsing, grating, crushing. I sit down in class and remember that it’s speech day. Thankfully, I’m not scheduled until the next period, so I’ll just have to sit through a bunch of speeches for the hour. Easy as pie, right? Wrong.
A guy in my class decides to give a presentation on drumming. Now don’t get me wrong – I love drums (former marching band and indoor percussion student here) and think they’re wonderful… in an open space. The second he pulls out that djembe, I know I am in for a very rough 15 minutes.
Imagine this for a second – every time his hand hits the drumhead, the entire audience hears the drum resonate. When you live with chronic pain, just about everything can cause you extra pain – the wind, the cry of a baby, and the sound of a drum. Each time this guy in my class hits the drumhead, a sharp wave of pain radiates up from my ankle into my spine.
There isn’t much I can do, so I just have to grit my teeth and think positively. That’s a lot easier said than done, but I do my best. Thankfully his speech is the last of the day, so I am able to go sit in the student lounge and recover until my next class. The pain is getting more intense but is still too early to take anymore medication. Pulsing, grating, crushing. I want to check the color of my leg, so I go to the bathroom and, as I thought, I’m turning a lovely shade of blue-ish purple.
It’s time for my final class of the day and I am beyond emotionally and physically spent. I sit through the entire class anxiously waiting for the (figurative) bell to ring. I know that the second the professor releases us; I’ll be on my way back to my happy place – my bed.
I stand up at the end of class and my 21-year-old bones creak and pop. I wince slightly as I stretch my back out and take my first step. Pulsing, grating, crushing. I’m not looking forward to the walk back to my car, as I know it will take just about every ounce of energy I have left.
15 minutes later, I unlock the door to my apartment and am ready to collapse then and there. My body is begging me to rest, but my mind is reminding me of everything that still needs accomplished. I settle on a 30-minute “nap.” My naps aren’t like a standard nap, though.
I don’t get to sleep during my nap time. I lay in my bed completely still without any blankets or sheets touching my legs. I close my eyes and beg my brain to rest. As I lay there, I feel the flames I suppressed all day take over my leg as a dagger slices through my skin tearing my leg and spine apart as it meets the flames. I begin deep breathing exercises to no avail. I don’t want to take more medication just yet, so I know my only hope at this point is to try and force myself to finish my homework and be done for the day.
I stand up and walk towards my backpack. Pulsing, grating, crushing. I grab my laptop and textbooks and spend the next three hours grimacing and holding back tears as I work to complete my assignments. By the time I’m done, I feel nauseous. My muscles begin to tighten and my nerves are screaming. I tell myself, “You’re suffering extra now for a better future.”
I find something for dinner so I can take my pills and be done for the night. I crawl back into bed and count out my nightly medications – 10 pills. 10 pills just to feel semi-normal. I set my morning alarm as I stretch my ankle forward and back a few times - pulsing, grating, crushing. It pops and cracks into place, adjusting following a long day of walking back and forth across campus.
I lay down with droopy eyelids but sleep still evades me. The flames within my leg are building again. I grimace and brace myself as I watch Netflix, hoping for a distraction. I just took pain meds, so the intensity of this pain should subside relatively soon.
I shift slightly in bed in hopes that a change in position will alleviate some pain – wrong. The pulsing, grating, crushing sensation meets me once again. I clench my teeth and hold my breath, as I lay awake waiting for the pain to subside. Hours pass and I’m still in agony. I look at my phone and see it’s 4:30am. The pain begins to dwindle and I find myself finally able to sleep only to wake for the next day in a mere four hours.