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“It’ll take awhile to clear up.”
“The time it takes for the med to begin to work varies, depending…”
“You might have more pain for awhile before your symptoms subside…”
“Rehab results might take a bit longer…”
When I moved squarely into the world of chronic pain, I learned a hard lesson very quickly: “Time” varies, and is seldom a realiable measure of how our lives with pain “feel.” Our docs do their best, but with each of us patient so very different, with distinctly different symptoms, treatment regimens, lifestyles, and stressors, the best of medical teams can often be unable to estimate how long symptoms will last, the duration of acute pain, and the ever-important “Will I ever be completely pain free?”
Given there is so much, then, that we and our docs do not know, I’ve given up trying to figure out the duration of any symptoms or flares. Rather, I’ve re-imagined how I measure time, beginning with the here and now (a step we often skip over completely when thinking about the trajectory of our pain). So, I take stock of how I feel immediately and then move forward with whatever I and my docs have decided is the best way to proceed (make the PT appointments, get the refill, do the stretches, etc.). This way, I acknowledge the pain I am feeling and I take pro-active steps in the present to fashion a future that has the possibility of bringing relief… or, at least, progress.
Inch by inch, day by day, I move ahead, then, always acknowledging the present and paving the future with some concrete stepping stones. I might not know the full extent of how the days will unfold, but at least I’m not leaving the entire block of days on a calendar up to chance (and the whims of a strong-willed pain syndrome!). Being more present in the present also takes away the dread of facing indeterminent time periods of continued pain. It’s very different to breathe through “now I hurt, but I’m setting up some positive, helpful things for the future,” than to tense up in the present because I’m wondering what future days will hold (and dreading there will only be pain).
It also helps to keep a pain log, which can show how long specific levels of pain have lasted and thus better inform our docs and physical therapists as to what they might suggest to help matters improve. Long days of great pain have a way of clouding our perception of the passage of time, but a log can help us gain clarity when we most need it.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that time does pass – and we do well to help ourselves through it, gently, with good counsel, and in faith!