Pain. Physical pain.
I'm not a wimpy guy. I've been through medical procedures and nasty injuries that have left me living with pain that would put weaker men in the dirt. I live with pain 24/7. Often, that pain is severe and debilitating.
I had a quadruple bypass. I didn't have a heart attack, but severe chest pains eventually sent me to the doctor...which I had been putting off for too many months.
The thought of someone taking a circular saw and cutting through your chest, spreading your ribs apart (in my case, breaking six of them), then stopping your heart while they cut veins out of your leg and sewed them into your heart, was not an appealing prospect. So I put it off until I couldn't anymore.
It was only about two weeks after my bypass that I could tell something wasn't right. Disregarding the trauma of my chest being sawed in two, I could tell something inside me wasn't right. Those "new" arteries they had just spliced into my heart started collapsing. They have, to date, put six stents into my heart to try to keep those arteries open and functioning. I set off metal detectors at security checkpoints.
One year, I was in the hospital 14 times.
I lived with horrible chest pains after that bypass for seven years, sometimes two or three times a day...sometimes two or three times a week. I lived on my nitro. I had some days that were better than others, meaning fewer chest pains...or less intense chest pains...but rarely ever pain-free days.
I almost always was either able to stay home, so no one saw me having those pains, or I would "tuff it out" if I was in a group of people, so no one knew I was having chest pains, hiding it as best I could..usually to a degree of success.
Only on a couple occasions did anyone ever see me actually suffering. I hid it well and covered it up, or diverted attention away from myself.
It was 2008 when I had my bypass. It wasn't until January of 2015 they put one into a place they had wanted to avoid up until that point. Finally, after seven years of constant chest pains, I got some relief. Not total relief, but much better now.
I also have three back problems. I have a herniated disk, a compression fracture, and a degeneration of the discs in my spinal column in my neck, causing compression and pinching of my spinal cord.
Sometimes the pain is so bad I can barely stand...or sit...or walk. Oddly enough, I am most comfortable in my car when I'm driving. I guess the seat has molded to me well.
I also need a total knee replacement. I have needed one for years, but I just am not in a situation where I can have it done.
Part of the problem is that, with the history of my heart problems, I'm not a viable candidate for too many other surgeries.
My knee is bone-on-bone and has been that way for so long now that the bones have actually ground themselves down fairly smooth. Even though, it does still hurt pretty bad sometimes. Okay. Honestly? It hurts 24/7 as well. It just varies in severity. Again, good days and bad days.
The first thing I notice in the morning is the pain in my knee...and often also in my back. Every night when I go to bed, the last thought on my mind is how bad my knee hurts...and my back.
My knee pain has been with me since I was 12. Playing too much football at too young of an age. I had Osgood-Schlatter disease in my knee when I was young, and it was horrible at times. I had a severe case. So I've lived with knee pain every day of my life since I was around 11 or 12.
Yet, I function on a daily basis. I have to. I have no choice. Yes, I do have to, but more because, I want to. I push through the pain.
Something happens to your brain when they stop your heart for surgery. When your heart is stopped and they are keeping you alive through machines and such, your brain senses your heart has stopped. It knows what's going on. In essence, as far as your brain is concerned, you've died. Your brain knows a stopped heart equals death. So hidden deep in the recesses of my subconscious, going to sleep now equals dying. Sleep often eludes me, sometimes for a night or two, sometimes for five or six. Insomnia seems to run in cycles. I now know why sleep deprivation is an effective method of torture.
I gained 100 pounds in a year. I've never really been fat before. I was always a big, beefy guy, with a barrel chest, muscular arms and thick, curvy, muscular legs that a body builder would have envied. I never had six-pack abs or was never "cut." I liked donuts and pizza too much for that. But I was solid as a brick and at 6'2" I was formidable. Now I'm just an old fat guy with a Buddha belly and the twinkle of Santa Claus. That added weight amplifies the hardships of my back and knee pains.
About 60% of my weight gain was and continues to be water and fluid retention. Much of the remaining is due to the other meds I'm on, many of which cause weight gain. Plus, I still like those donuts and pizza like I did before.
But for the 60% of my weight gain that's fluid retention, I take massive amounts of diuretics every day...or at least I'm supposed to take them every day. Diuretics present another troubling hurdle.
I can't tell you how inconvenient it is to have to pee every 10 to 20 minutes. I can't drive across town without planning my route based on places with public restrooms. It's like, "Okay. I'll pee before I leave, then I can stop at this gas station over there, then drive down to there, where there is a McDonalds. Then, I can go to here, where there is another gas station, then I think I can make it to this spot, where there is a Burger King..."
And God forbid if I ever get to one of those places and the restroom is occupied or out of order. Or, worse, a traffic jam!! Oh my God!! I live in a fairly big city with tons of freeways...and lots of traffic jams. It takes half an hour to get anywhere in my city without a traffic jam clogging up the roads. Honestly, driving anywhere under the influence of diuretics is a crap shoot at best, a humiliating failure at worst. LOL!! Even just going to the grocery store can be a challenge.
Taking strong diuretics is like filling up a glass under a faucet. When it's full, it's full and you need to dump it. If you don't dump it, it overflows. Plain and simple. Because, when you're on the maximum dosage of the strongest diuretic known to man, the faucet never shuts off. Your bladder fills up and it'll only stretch so far.
Often, or I should say, usually, I simply don't take my diuretics when I have an event planned or am going somewhere. That creates another issue. I can't really describe what it feels like to be filling up with fluid on the inside that your heart won't naturally pump off or you can't expel naturally. I guess, it's kind of like blowing up a balloon inside a Pringles can. It just feels all...tight...and stressed...like the insides of my body is pushing against the outside, trying to bust out. It's not a comfortable feeling.
Yet, onward I push, upholding my responsibilities.
I do my best to not show how I feel. I do my best not to ever let others know I'm in pain or I'm suffering or I'm struggling. I mean, it doesn't make me feel any better if I sit and moan and whimper and groan. To most people, I look like some old fat guy who's too old and too fat and having trouble getting up out of a chair. And, I really don't care what it looks like or what people think.
In fact, most of my friends don't even know how much pain I suffer with on a daily basis. Most of my close friends just like me for who I am, regardless of me being an old, fat guy. LOL!!!! I like it that way.
Yes, occasionally my pain makes me...maybe a bit grumpy? It CERTAINLY makes me less tolerant of others who whine and moan and groan about their self-inflicted, emotional dramas. It absolutely makes me completely intolerant of those who can't push through life's little hurdles and who will fall apart at the slightest inconveniences or turmoils life throws at them.
You know the type. Every little inconvenience is a catastrophe. Every challenge life places in their path causes them to break down into a frothing mound of pitiful depression. Every challenge that confronts them is insurmountable. Every obstacle is a monstrosity. They seem to thrive on pity and seek it out from anyone and everyone who will give it to them. They leech your energy with their constant bombardment of drama and woes. They can suck the energy out of a room simply by talking about the crushing depths of depression life has caused them with it's unfair cruelty and hardships.
What you want to say to them, and what you probably should say to them is: "Grow some hair down there! Life isn't fair and pity is not an enviable sentiment. Be the kind of person people will respect rather than pity! Show some backbone! Your problems are not nearly as bad as some other people's problems. Everyone has problems! Yours are no different than anyone else's. Stop being a sniveling victim, show some fortitude and just DEAL with it...like the rest of us do!"
Yet, I digress.
On the other hand, my pains make me appreciate the strength of character it develops in those who confront their obstacles with determination and fortitude. It makes me value the character traits in those who keep a positive outlook even in the dark times. I feel humbled by those who persevere through hardships much worse than mine. While those who are pushing through pains and obstacles worse than mine don't diminish my pains or hardships, it does help me put everything into a proper perspective, and it helps me succeed in functioning on a daily basis...rising above my hurdles, and not allowing me to make my burdens into a burden on others.
Why am I writing this? Why am I disclosing so much personal information about myself? I honestly don't know. Those who know me know I'm usually a fairly private person who prefers to keep my private life private. I've never been the kind of person to share a lot about myself with anyone other than my very close friends, and even then, like I stated earlier, many of them have never known how much pain I deal with on a daily basis. My pains and hardships are not their burdens, and I never wanted to make them their burdens.
I guess that's why I am so intolerant of those who make their own personal hurdles a burden for everyone else, because I am really in no position to take on any of their burdens. I have plenty of my own. Handle that shit yourself. Grow a pair. Put on your big boy or big girl panties and deal with it.
No, I'm not insensitive to the aches, pains, injuries, disease and obstacles my friends confront. And OF COURSE I'll help and do whatever I can for a friend who's hurting or facing a conflict. All the friends I consider to be "friends" are strong of ethics and character and don't burden others with self-inflicted, petty dramatic bullshit. When they are hurting, it's real and deep and truly a cause for concern. They are strong in spirit and determined not to let their issues keep them from enjoying all life has to offer. For someone like that, I'll drop all I'm doing and be there in an instant to lend aid anyway necessary. A shoulder, advice, help with something...anything. Because when one of my friends is suffering, I know, without doubt, it's a serious malady, whether mental, emotional or physical. And I'd go to the ends of the earth to help them.
I push through. I smile. I love to laugh. I enjoy life. I love life and it loves me back. I have a good life. I love deeply, I am loved deeply, and I've always been a man of deep emotions...love and kindness, passion and caring, compassion and understanding. My pains and hurdles simply amplify all my emotions.
We all have our crosses to bear. As long as you don't use yours to bolster some deep-seated need to be the center of attention or compensate for your infantile feelings of insecurity, I'll gladly help you carry your burdens as long and as far as necessary, regardless of my own.
Living with pain does funny things to people, no matter how hard you try to not allow it to dictate your thoughts, moods, feelings or actions. Yet, it will, even if only to some small extent. Even if only in some small ways, ways only you would notice, it will mold certain aspects of you. I try not to let my pain define me. I try. I don't always succeed. But I do try. And I always will.
Until the day my spirit is released from my mortal body, my physical pain has become simply another aspect of my existence. And for good or bad, it molds who I am to a degree. I can live with that. I have to. The alternative isn't too appealing.