Lessons In Chronic Pain

I don’t know whether having a chronic, debilitating condition is more maddening or genius. Genius because it a proves a favorite quote. 

“It is through the cracks that the light comes in.”

Leonard cohen

You do see more beauty. More beauty in moments you once took for granted. More light in the good because the darkness is so, so dark.

More maddening because with the structure of the healthcare system today – insurance payments to physicians based upon the volume, rather than value-based – care, contending with something where the symptoms require much more research and continuity of care than the types of illnesses most people tend to go to the doctor for. 

For me, this condition – the epitome of all of this – is that delicate line between madness and genius.

About six months later, I was out shopping with my mom and we got to the bottom of a set of stairs and – if memory serves – I started crying. I’m not (well, I didn’t use to be) a very openly-emotional person. I told her I just didn’t think I could walk up that flight of stairs.

Mind you, I was pretty active before all of this. I played competitive, fast-pitch softball growing up. I was good too. I normally wouldn’t brag – but I did once hit a grand slam to win a game by one run (on two outs and a full-count).

I had a batting grip like Ty Cobb, and I could play darn near every position – including pitcher – with the exception of first base.

I did yoga and brisk walks from college on. I loved to inline skate – everywhere during college:  class, parties, just out and about on any given night, work. I joined a slow-pitch softball team for a time as an adult and I always loved hikes. To this day, I still dream of playing softball again. 

For a long, long time, I kept my condition and more importantly, the ongoing decline in my health a secret. I thought – as a small business that develops relationships with the people it works with that often become friendships – people might feel sorry for me and stop wanting us to go out on video shoots. That’s not what has happened – or, at least that I know of.

Anyway, that “coming out” about what was really going on with me – was sort of cathartic. I was definitely not hiding to the same extent anymore. I mean, it was obvious through the muscle stiffness and rashes and chronic cough and hair loss – that I wasn’t well. People would ask what cancer treatment I was going through (I don’t have cancer) or more about my health diagnosis. I just detested having to answer that because I honestly had no good answer and even more, I didn’t want anyone feeling sorry for me and trying to slow me down.

More importantly, people shared their stories with me – admitting they too were keeping mum in talking about a hidden illness they were living with. Gosh, what does that say about us as a culture?!

That stung. That stung a lot. But I realized it might be true and yet, both honestly reflect my lived experience. I do my best to keep it all together – to be a good mom and wife, to run a business I love – but, the truth is that I am falling apart at the seams. After a series of medical set-backs leading up to the ultimate knock-out punch, getting COVID-19 in March of 2020… I feel more sick, more disabled and more depressed than ever.

For the first time in a long time, I want to open up. I’ve been talking it over with Tom (my hubs) for months about it. I enjoy writing and thought perhaps if I share my experience, it may – a girl could only hope – touch a life. It could inspire people to think more about improving accessibility in our communities, more about the judgements they make about people and those they vocalize. It could motivate one healthcare provider to go deeper with patients whose conditions don’t align with a quick diagnosis before moving on to the next. 

Maybe it’s a way to use writing (something I fell in love with in 6th grade at Erie Elementary) to let the light in.

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Published by Naomi Binkley

A mama, wife, Coloradan, storyteller, entrepreneur with a once-hidden illness - now a progressive and painful disability - ready to share my story after a career of telling those of others as a video production company owner.

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