At my consult for my back surgery I told my surgeon that I wanted the function back on my left side so I could skate, and that “I can live with this pain.” For the first weeks afterward, though, when I was unsure whether the pain would resolve, I was rethinking that notion.
At my one-week post-op visit a gregarious patient in the waiting room gushed to me about how wonderful he felt, how he could hardly remember his post-op instructions since his sciatic pain was completely gone. The exchange left me feeling worse (no one called me a saint).
Things gradually improved, though, and lately my recovery has snowballed. Last week my family and I drove downtown, had dinner and a movie, and drove home. None of it hurt. And without that, life for me would be quite different.
When I couldn’t skate I lost contact with my local skating friends except for a couple of appreciated ‘How are you’ emails and get-well cards. Most of my non-skating friends are outdoorsy and like to hike or walk their dogs when we get together. And even my artsy friends like to go out together for dinner or a show. Sure, my close friends still called me while I was injured and even visited a little, but it was pretty lonely.
My online friends were a lifeline and I reject the idea that online friends aren’t ‘real’ friends– sometimes they are the best ones. I could blog, I could e-mail, and there’s Facebook. That study that claims that spending time on Facebook makes people less happy has a big confounder: the sicker my friends are (including myself) the more time they spend on Facebook. So if you see that your friend is on Facebook all the time, chat them up! Or if you can, make a phone or house call.
Really I’m not sure what I would have done if I’d had to continue living with the pain. Probably go into some kind of cognitive-behavioral therapy for pain patients if I could have found that. I’d had some empathy before for friends and family with chronic pain, I have more now. Let’s just say that I don’t think I would make a very uplifting pain patient. Probably I should study CBT or meditation preemptively in case I find myself there again.
Now I’m one of the lucky ones, with a second chance to travel, hike, just to live my day without making the choice between serious distraction from pain or taking at least some hit to my already flakey mid-life IQ from one or more pain meds. But I’m not forgetting my friends who have not yet had the same luck.