Why chronic pain is weird

Waiting for my second PENS (peripheral neuromodulation nerve stimulation) procedure, 2016.  One of many surgeries and treatments in my 5 years of pain.

When you’re on antidepressants it’s nearly impossible to cry.

It’s frustrating actually because when you’re watching the heart-wrenching part of a Pixar movie, where it’s your usual cue to start blubbering, there’s just nothing.

Some wetness in your eye, but that’s it.

Kind of like when you can’t quite reach the climax of an orgasm, and you’re pointing your toes and doing all your usual let’s-get-this-finished moves but you realise it’s a done deal.

There’s no more juice in the tank so you roll over and grunt in defeat.

Anyway, where was I? Pixar movies, right.

The problem is I so desperately want to cry again.

I miss those feel-good hormones released after a good bawl when my life is at some kind of all-time low, and I’m drinking red wine and stirring the bolognese that I know my kids aren’t going to eat, and I’m missing my awesome grandma, and I just want to howl at the moon.

“Whyyyyyy is my life soooooo shiiiiiiiiiiiit!!!!????” I scream as I heave over the bolognese and stab it with the wooden spoon so hard the juice splatters all over my favourite jumper, while Jim from next door who has been deaf for 20 years jumps in his chair.

Ugh, Riley we have the same life. I would cry with you right now… if I could.

Nup, can’t do that anymore.

But it’s not just the antidepressants which are pulling my life apart into strange pieces like some kind of mixed up jigsaw puzzle, where I’m consistently feeling like I’m eating with my knife and fork in the wrong hand.

It’s the pain which travels up my spine with the heat of a volcano, using its geothermal energy to spew molten rock across my shoulders and into the depths of my skull, effusively erupting through every nerve in my peripheral nervous system.

And then there are the opiate drugs which throw my mood around like the carnival games at side-show alley; from the excitement when you win a giant neon, googly-eyed toy to the disappointment as you wring out your pockets and realise you’ve been completely had.

There are “high alert” times, such as school drop off when you are perpetually aware of every single word you utter, just praying you sound like “a normal person”, and later scowling at yourself as you trip up on the bitumen.

And the embarrassment at yoga because you keep dropping everything you touch as you fumble your way to your space while everyone waits.

There’s the lunch bag moment when the teacher comes chasing you down because you have left your daughter’s lunch bag behind and you tell her with that parenting twinkle-in-the-eye-look that you must be just having “one of those days.”

Those days where every bill has come at once; your son won’t stop wetting his bed; you’re still waking six times to an almost two-year-old; and the house looks worse than a burglar ransacking.

But you have chronic pain.

And you actually do have all those things but with a head that feels like it’s going to explode like a watermelon falling from the top of the Empire State Building right there in front on your daughter’s teacher if you don’t get back home to take some more painkillers and collapse on your kitchen tiles, where you tell your young children to “f*ck off” feeling incredibly guilty, then cuddling them as soon as your meds kick in.

It’s finding yourself always pretending that everything is OK because you don’t want your friends to think you are playing that victim archetype – “always in pain” and that it’s “all in your head”.

It’s the stupid stuff you bought at the shop that you can’t afford because the opiates put dollar signs in your eyes.

It’s the cancellation because you are too sore after more surgery to attend your dear friend’s wedding.

And the over-sharing because your drugs have kicked your motor mouth into gear as you find yourself telling your physio receptionist that you pooed during labour.

It’s agreeing and laughing with all the schoolyard mums every afternoon that you can’t wait to get home to a drink because “parenthood is such a bitch”, when really you can’t touch a drip of alcohol because it interacts with your pharmaceuticals.

And the truth is that your husband is putting the kids to bed yet again because you are curled up under the doona by 8pm, saying “I’m so sorry I gave you this life”.

That’s what it feels like to live in chronic pain. And that is why it’s weird.


The day after my L5/S1 spinal fusion surgery. I felt like someone had taken to me with an axe. I was not a happy chappy! 2013









Disney image: Pixar, Inside Out from The Telegraph


18 thoughts on “Why chronic pain is weird

    1. I’m sorry you’re in tears darling, chronic pain is a bitch but I’m here with you whenever you need. Hopefully by talking about this more it will give a voice to those 1 in 5 of us suffering in silence xx


      1. Wow Penny. Thank you for being so raw in a world where we (especially women) are preferred with a slapped on, cookie cutter smile. Truth breeds freedom. Go sista go!!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks for your comment Jen! It’s been a huge leap of faith coming out of the closet but feels so liberating and all I want to do now is help others. It seems so silly to me now to hold it in xx


  1. Thank you again. I feel like youre writing about my life. Hubby exhausted . Kids dont want mummy to go in the ambulance again and family just want me bettrr. Bless your honesty.


    1. Hey Anna, thanks for sharing! My hubby is over me too poor thing but he tries… I had the ambulance here yesterday not kidding! Life and times of people with chronic pain eh .. take care! Xx


  2. Hi. I live with this pain in my shoulder and arm and neck. Surgery 2 weeks ago and still no relief. How do you survive? What does everyone else do! You guys are amazing!


  3. Penny thank you for being so open and discussing the issue of chronic pain my 14 yo daughter suffers from Trigeminal Nerulgia and some days are just really hard on both of us as a mother I’m sure you understand ….. although I will add she isn’t sipping red wine while stirring the bolagnase 😬 Thank you for discussing chronic pain and getting it out there I hope in time that you and my daughter are pain free. I have sat here with tears in my eyes from one mother to another you’ve got this girlfriend 💛💚💙💜❤️


    1. Thanks Tracey!! I’m so sorry to hear about your daughter. My GP says chronic pain often fizzles out after 15 years. Hopefully we don’t have to wait that long but at least there’s hope that it’s not forever. xx


  4. I live in NZ and have been suffering from.pain for the last 9 years and have been put in the too hard basket from our health professionals here so having to use pain killers to help with the pain which I hate to use and only do so when I am curled up on the floor and my husband has to carry me to a hot bath to try and soothe my pain I have no faith in our health system at all.


  5. I am so sorry for your pain. I know it’s hard battling pain and raising a family and trying to hold it all together is hard in fact “hard” isn’t even the word for it, there is no words for it. I wish you all the best. Thank you for sharing


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