Anniversaries are always such happy times…okay, so not always.
This is one of those. 10 years ago today October 19, 2009. It was my last night in Los Angeles. I had done the 30 year reunion thing, spent time with my kid, saw friends I had not seen in years. All in all it was a good weekend.
I remember I even had plans the next morning for breakfast. It must have been 3:00 in the morning. I was downstairs in the family room at my mother-in-laws house. The house was dark and I had already learned that one doesn’t turn on lights at night even for a second.
I remember the stairs were polished wood. I had a glass of water in my hand, but it was pitch dark below me. I stepped forward and slipped.
There were only 8 stairs. Those 8 stairs changed everything.
To this day, I have no idea how the glass didn’t break. That glass of water I absolutely had to have.
I remember laying at the bottom of the stairs on the cold hard floor. I remember that I didn’t know if I was okay or not.
Nothing was broken, but I was far from okay.
I had been through some degree of pain for awhile following a car accident in 2001. It was little more than an annoyance. I yearn for those days.
The official laundry list of injuries from that fall:
2 pulled hamstrings, Two sprained knees, on strained calf, two sprained hips. One sprained wrist, one contusion, one sprained back.
I flew home the next day. When my mother-in-law heard what happened, she called and made arrangements for me to fly home as handicapped. Little did I know that I would never fly any other way again.
After I got home, I went to my primary care. He shook his head and we talked about things such as hot packs and ice and Flexeril and Percocet. I figured I would be okay in a day or two.
Four weeks later, I figured my Lupus must be acting up. I had been diagnosed in 1986. I did the obvious thing and got an appointment with a rheumatologist.
By the time my appointment came around, it had been 8 weeks since my fall. I had convinced myself it must be the Lupus out of remission. I was in far too much pain.
I will never forget that appointment. The questions she asked about past trauma – looking very much beyond my simple fall 8 weeks before. She was very kind and incredibly thorough.
I remember her leaving the room and then coming back to talk to me.
“Denise – I firmly believe that your Lupus is in total remission.” She took a deep breath before continuing. “However, your fall down the stairs was what is known as a trigger event, and you have the worst case of fibromyalgia I have ever seen.”
I think the world held still for a moment.
We discussed treatment and basically the description was that I would be in constant pain for the rest of my life.
At first I refused anything more than half a Percocet with the flexeral at night and Cymbalta during the day. I was optimistic. I knew of two friends with fibro and they didn’t talk much about it, which I now understand completely. But when I thought about them, I thought about how they had been becoming crippled before my eyes.
I remember promising myself that I would never be that patient.
We got my meds regulated over the next few appointments, and I stayed at that combination and that dosage for the next 9 years.
As you have probably guessed, I never have experienced true relief. Since I triggered, a lot of things have gotten worse. My arthritis had only been diagnosed 4 years before.
I did have to give in and have my 8th knee surgery. I apparently tore meniscus in my “good” knee during the fall. I got sick – it was harder to deal with the post-operative pain. Things got psychologically abusive at home. I began to experience flashbacks from not only my fall, but from two physical assaults many years before. My pain grew.
But at the same time, I was one of the lucky ones. I had a diagnosis and knowledge is power. I was honestly grateful.
The first time I ever heard the word “disability” was three years after the fall. It was almost an intervention. I was being ordered on to SSDI. I tried to defend myself but other doctors agreed.
I was transferred to a different rheumatologist one who teamed with a pain management doctor and literally had a nurse in his office whose only job was to follow up on SSDI applications and make sure that they were pushed through. I argued that I wasn’t ready.
I might have known that I was.
Before the SSDI decision came through I had a freak injury. Both tendons torn from the bone in my right elbow. I of course hid it for a week. I was caught when I went to turn a simple door knob and collapsed to the floor in tears.
Since then, my life has been about pain. I never wanted it to be. I’ve tried like hell to function and I did for awhile. Not any more.
I tried to hide under a pile of blankets for a few years. That one worked for awhile.
Now, here I am on the 10th anniversary of my life changing forever. My pain anniversary.
In many ways I don’t function very well, but I’m not hiding under a blanket. I get up and do what I have to in order to survive.
But here’s the difference. I write from my iPad that has a keyboard case to it. I have approximately 7 pillows and a heating pad on my back. My feet are propped up on pillows – currently elevated from the cellulitis. I write for Textbroker to make ends meet. I have enough Direct clients to make a difference, with the promise of some good work coming very soon…I firmly believe unless they discover I’m disabled. That might throw the chance at some real money out the window.
I don’t dwell on it, but I can’t help but think about it. That day – before the night I fell – I walked on the beach. I must have walked a good 3 miles. I felt good.
I have never been able to walk that far again.
10 years ago, I discovered the true meaning of the word pain. For 10 years now, pain has been my constant companion.
Anniversaries don’t seem so happy any more, do they?