(National Pain Report is pleased to welcome Crystal Lindell as our newest columnist. Crystal suffers from intercostal neuralgia, a painful disorder in her ribs. Like many of you, Crystal starts her day by taking medication. Hence her column name: Pills for Breakfast.)
My whole family went to Six Flags Great America without me.
What a cliché that is. I had to stay home because I’m in pain, while my whole family got to go have the time of their lives. (See: Every single sad story ever told by someone in chronic pain).
We all got tickets to the real happiest place on earth back at Christmas from our Aunt Sandy. We had been meaning to use them all summer, but my family kept putting it off, hoping I would magically get better.
Alas, that did not happen.
Of course, back when we got the tickets, I was still relatively healthy. It would be another month before I would wake up one morning feeling like someone had just stabbed me in the bottom of my right ribs.
On Christmas Eve, when all of us opened our precious tickets, we got super excited and told our aunt how it was the perfect gift and how much we LOVED the theme park.
A few years ago all of us had season passes, and we went like every other weekend. In fact, I know the park so well that I actually made an “Insider’s Guide to Six Flags” video for one of my old jobs. It detailed where the best bathroom was (hint: not by the entrance) and which days were best to go if you wanted to avoid the crowds (Tuesday and Wednesday).
In fact, I love Six Flags so much that for years I told people that if I ever got married I wanted to say my wedding vows at the top of the Dare Devil Dive, while everyone watched from below. And then after I kissed my groom, the two of us would start our marriage right — with a giant leap of faith.
So yeah, our Aunt Sandy really did get us, and me, the perfect Christmas gift.
But then I got sick. Intercostal neuralgia to be exact. That’s Latin for excruciating pain in your ribs.
And so, all summer long my family came up with excuses for why we couldn’t go. And I encouraged the charade because I really wanted to get better before the tickets expired.
After all, you sort of need to be able to touch your ribs without wanting to kill yourself if you have any hope of getting on a Vertical Velocity or the Giant Drop rides. But having intercostal neuralgia means that even wearing bras with an underwire feels like death.
My little sister — ever the optimist — would say things like, “Maybe you could go on the Raging Bull. That coaster’s harness doesn’t cover your ribs.”
But I knew better. Surely wiping around loops at 70 mph wouldn’t be so great for me, considering that last time I tried to go a down a small slide at a water park, I ended up in bed for two straight days barely able to function.
I also knew that even walking around Six Flags would be bad. Logging all those miles strolling past the amazing coasters I couldn’t ride would mean I’d spend at least all of the next day wishing I were dead.
I have tested my limits before so I knew the consequences.
When I first got sick, I went through denial. I entered a vicious cycle of hitting my absolute limit, ending up in the ER or at my doctor’s first appointment of the day; crying uncontrollably, looking for anything to take the pain away, and then laying in bed for 24-48 hours. Then hitting repeat.
Even though I have since given up a part-time job I loved very much, and moved in with my mom so I could get help with the day-to-day activities, I still hit my limits.
I still have a full-time job to maintain (see: health insurance, sanity), and that means sometimes I’m in a position where I have no choice but to overdo it.
As someone who has endured this excruciating pain by hitting those limits, I can tell you that not even the temptation of my favorite theme park can get me to do that by choice.
So, here I sit. Home alone on a Sunday, while my whole family (plus one of my sister’s friends, who scored my free ticket to Six Flags) has a jolly grand time.
It is the very last day the park is open in 2013 — and by extension the very last day the tickets are valid. My family waited until the very end, hoping by some miracle that I would get better in time to use my precious ticket.
But, I never did.
The really strange part though isn’t that they went without me. No, the really strange part is that the pain I’ve endured over the last few months has been so agonizing that I feel completely at peace about my decision to sit this one out.
Maybe that means I’ve finally reach a healthy level of “acceptance.”
Or maybe that means it’s finally defeated me.
The scary thing is I can’t really tell the difference any more.
Crystal Lindell is journalist who lives in Byron, Illinois. She loves Taco Bell, Burn Notice reruns on Netflix and Snicker’s Bites. She also has been diagnosed with intercostal neuralgia, a painful disorder of the nerves running between her ribs.
Crystal writes about it on her blog, The Only Certainty is Bad Grammar.
The information in this column is not intended to be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Only your doctor can do that! It is for informational purposes only and represent the author’s personal experiences and opinions alone. It does not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report or Microcast Media.