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Re-growing Nerves

So the past week has been one of the most erratic since the accident. Again this is an entry that may be hard to read. There have been several major themes to this turbulence, but one that fails to give me a decent holiday from its clutches is pain.

Pain? You'd think I'd be used to that by now right? The swelling should have gone, the initial break is fixed and I've only got half a body with feeling in it. How could pain be a bigger issue now? Well, the answer lies in the types of pain I've been going through.

The initial pain was due to tissue damage; bruising, broken bones, surgical incisions, muscle avulsion. These things heal; and in the interim respond to the sweet and bitter embrace of morphine. A tricky mistress that one - it keeps you in anxious bliss - between complete oblivion and the edge of hallucination. Anyway, the thing that doesn't heal as easily, the thing that no one knows will heal, is the nerve trauma. To paraphrase Madam Pomfry in Harry Potter - regrowing nerves is a nasty business. It's not exactly that I'm regrowing nerves I admit for the fastidious amongst you; more that the nerves are re-firing. That should be a good thing surely getting nerves back is what we want right? Yes, but in the initial stages it can result in what is called neuropathic pain. Let me tell you, some days I come within touching distance of thinking it's an unequal exchange; and they can't even assure me that having this type of pain heralds a better outcome. They can't tell me if it will get better or worse. We can only hope.

Neuropathic pain is defined as pain caused by the damaged nerves sending incorrect signals to the brain. This does absolutely nothing to convey the complexity or potential severity of the pain. Sensations ranging from burning to pressure are often used to as examples. Again, completely insufficient. I described some neuropathic pain in a previous blog. The burning hypersensitivity at the tops of my thighs and through my groins. This eventually extended to include the skin overlying my hips. It felt like someone had taken anything from a sandblaster to a nail file and removed my skin. Even a slight touch would send ripples that both tingled and were at the same time aflame; as sore as touching the soft pink, wrinkled centre of freshly blistered skin. If the leg was moved too much it felt like the skin would crack, exposing the nerves more readily to fresh torment. Knowing medically that this was just altered nervous input was a comfort in some part but I wasn't to know that this was actually tolerable compared to what was coming. My sensitive hips were suddenly in a vice like grip, that no matter how often I positioned and re-positioned, I just couldn't shake. Inescapable pressure down to the bone. And it's ache would spread down my hamstrings. Half way along those delicate groins there were carving knives, plunged in perpendicular to the still lingering soreness. These knives were slowly twisted by some unseen forces, sending deep seated aches down my inner thigh. Sometimes moving would send my back into spasms of severe pain. Shockwaves climbing up my vertebrae that when they'd role me to check my skin I would shout out, and even whimper. I felt pathetic. This particular pain was a tortuous echo of the initial pain when my vertebrae burst. These feelings combined meant it felt like the pain was mocking me. Teasing with pain where I couldn't feel anything else. What the f**k is that? What a cruel joke for the only sensation in my useless limbs to be pain. Imagine you’re me. The pain boring down your thighs, pressure bursting your calfs, but you can't move. You can't alter their position on your own to ease the feeling. Not only that but some days your brain plays tricks. Like right now. My legs are completely straight, heels on a pillow, soles of my feet pointed down, only in contact with the cool air. My brain has other ideas and if I don't concentrate on their position I'm convinced my knees are bent and the weight is collecting in the soles of my feet on the mattress. Unmovable; I have no relief. Surely there's pain killers for this? Well yes, kind of, but neuropathic pain is notoriously difficult to control. There's no easy fix. We just have to play the game.

Of course it doesn't help that I'm just led here. I do my best to distract myself - reading, blogging, planning - but it's hard to be truly distracted led down. The pains always there like a whisper, constantly reminding you things aren't okay. 'Something's wrong with your back'. Some days it grinds you down and wears you out. Especially when you add in the tummy pain from the constant laxatives and bowel training. At least I know that pain is a means to an end - though that rarely helps. Of course it depends on how you are feeling in yourself. I try so hard to remain up-beat; to believe that this is just the 'worse' before the 'better' turns up; but I'm sorry I can't be that strong all the time. Sometimes it just feels pointless. I know, I know it's not. I know the eventual outcome will be okay. I know I'll get there, but sometimes I'm just miserable. And when that happens I feel like a weakling; a disappointment to all those that assure me I'm going to beat this - when some days this all beats me; like a baseball bat to the gut. And what's worse I can't even curl up in a ball with the pain to self soothe, because I can't move into that comforting position. There are even days when you contemplate that dying would have been easier. Yes the pain pushes you that far. Don't worry those moments are fleeting. I often emerge from those moments feeling guilty. Dying suddenly is easy for only one person. I start thinking about the pain that would have caused all of you. Wow that sounds self satisfied, but you know what I mean. To my loved ones it would have been the most difficult thing - not even worth thinking about. What's worse is I've seen that pain. I've only mentioned it briefly in previous posts but I lost my cousin to a car crash. Thinking death would have been easier than this constant pain feels like an insult to her memory. Yeah the guilt gets pretty big sometimes - but some days the pain gets bigger. I haven't been able to see my Uncle yet. Neither of us know what to say. And that's my reason I haven't; because I feel ashamed of my own feelings on the days when I'm not coping. I feel so ungrateful, moaning about pain - even if it is severe - when I got through the crash with my life. But even in those fleeting moments of misery deep down I know I AM lucky and I AM so grateful to be here. I'm glad I didn't die. I'm glad I have this chance to fight. I'm glad I have you all.

But I accept I will have days like this. I'm trying to forgive myself for moments of ‘weakness’. No one can be strong all the time - especially not thrown this curve ball. There's gonna be a lot of days like this.

But eventually I'll get through.

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