Thursday, April 3, 2014

Unseen Wounds

Fifteen months have passed since the day I woke up in excruciating pain, pain that has yet to fully subside. In the months since Rheumatoid Arthritis became a now permanent part of my life I have seen progress and setbacks, relief and frustration. Last week, various issues led my doctors and I to change my treatment regimen to an entirely self-injected one.

There are few things in the world I am irrationally afraid of. Spiders. Airplane takeoffs and landings. And needles.

I distracted myself as much as possible with gathering injection supplies, placing pharmacy orders. All the while in the back of my mind loomed the realization that once the medications arrived, I would have to face a lifetime of needles. Needles.

Though it’s embarrassing to admit, the prospect scared the living daylights out of me. I knew the injections wouldn’t really be that bad. I knew there were people who gave themselves more injections, harder injections, etc., and that I’d quickly grow accustomed to jabbing myself. But it’s called an “irrational” fear for a reason.

From a treatment perspective, it was a necessary and helpful step, but I struggled with it. I struggled with it because it was yet another change. There have been so many. So very, very many. I went through my vials and syringes and, without warning, had to brush away tears. To my husband, I whispered, “How did my life turn into this?” The shots, themselves, weren’t the thing I wrestled with most, but what the needles represented: a life I’d planned for and imagined that had slipped away from me.

The day arrived when I had to start giving myself my new shots. I soldiered through it, though my hands shook and my heart raced. The needles went in, as did the medication. I slapped bandages on as needed. Being new to this, my site choice was bad. My injections all go in the abdomen and I put every last one of them right where the waistband of my pants rubbed against them the rest of the day. It was a constant reminder of all that had changed over the past year, an aching of which I was acutely aware, but which was hidden from everyone else.

As I went about my day, I pasted a smile on my face and did my utmost to pretend nothing was different, to pretend I wasn’t an emotional wreck, to act as though I wasn’t hurting and exhausted. So no one knew. No one knew I was one sharp, unkind word away from breaking. No one knew how desperately I needed a friendly smile. No one knew how much I was struggling to look as though everything was perfectly fine.

And that got me thinking about hidden wounds. Every person we encounter, every single one, carries around with them aches and scars that no one ever sees. Their hearts are often heavy and their shoulders may very well be drooping with the weight of worries. But we don’t see those burdens. They are tucked away, but no less real. We sometimes forget the very possibility that those around us have troubles and worries and problems we can’t always see.

I’m growing more accustomed to the injections and the necessity of needles in my life, just as I’ve grown accustomed to pain that doesn’t go away even when I sleep, that slips into my dreams at night, just as I’ve accepted the necessity of compression gloves and claw-foot canes, just as I am struggling to accept that life with a debilitating illness is my new and from-now-on normal. It is a wound I carry every day, one that aches and rips at my emotions, an ache that few people are permitted to see in its entirety. But it is there. I am hopeful and optimistic. I'm not crushed by my struggles, but the wounds are there.

 Susan Evans McCloud penned the words,
“In the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can’t see.”

The last fifteen months have taught me many things, but among the most important is this... We can never know the extent of the burdens carried by those around us. We don’t see their hidden sorrow. Our judgmental and unkind words may very well be salt on an already tender wound. Our patient kindness may very well be the soothing balm they secretly need.
Be kind.
Be loving.
Be gentle.


Ellise Weaver said...

This is beautiful and sad, Sarah. Thank you for sharing your pain. You're correct. So many of us out there suffer quietly with pain in many forms. The worries sometimes consume us. But there's One to whom we can rely upon. I'm ever so grateful for that daily reminder to help me get through my needle 'jabs'.

I don't know if this link will show through, but in my own health-related research, I came upon this testimonial about arthritis that you might look into:

I do hope for you all the happiness in this world and in the world to come. And please...keep on writing! :)


Julie Daines said...

This is a lovely post. You are such a fun and delightful person, it breaks my heart that you are having such a terrible struggle. It doesn't seem fair.

I spent the last two weeks of February rereading ALL of your regency romance novels in order. I can't tell you how much I loved it! I'm sorry things are so hard for you right now, but I hope you know your talent as an author brings joy to many, many people.

Shelli said...

I have had an invisible chronic illness for eight years. I understand this post from a very personal place. Some of the things I've learned is that grieving is cyclical, bad days make me grateful for tomorrows, and there are hidden blessings even in this.

I agree with your advice. Everyone has hidden wounds. Be kind. It's such an easy thing to be.

Jewel said...

I'm having a hard time even reading this because of the tears in my eyes right now. The line you shared from Susan Evans McCloud has always been one of my favorites, and I know that when I am in unseen pain, friendship and gentle kindness can make a world of difference.
I sure admire your bravery. Needles terrify me, as well. I'm so impressed with your courage in overcoming your fear to actually stick needles into your own're basically my hero!
Thank you for this incredibly timely and uplifting message. I sure love you.

Kari Pike said...

Thank you for sharing your hard earned wisdom and insight and truth. I've had to learn how to give my dad his insulin shots because his tremors are so bad he can't do buttons or tie shoes, let alone give himself an injection. The idea of having to give myself injections in the abdomen gives me nightmares. You are my heroine! Thank you for being a light to all of us. hugs~

Jessica Day George said...

I'm so sorry you have to do this! I really hope that they make the difference, though. I had to give myself heparin shots in the stomach during and after all three of my pregnancies and after having surgery. My husband cannot even be in the room with me when I do the shots because he is so phobic about needles. From experience: Hold an ice cube on your skin for a minute before, which will reduce the pain and the bruising. The area from about two finger-widths from your hipbone to two finger-widths of your belly button is the easiest place to do it, too.

Natalie Carroll said...

You always have such beautiful words and advice to give. I am so glad for your optimism and your willingness to share your experiences. It is that kind of attitude that inspires people to remain positive through anything. So, thank you.

Liz said...

I woke up grumbling this morning because I didn't want to face my daily, life is different than it use to be, hard today. Thanks for the reminder to be kind, the knowledge that I'm not alone, and your wonderful books that help when I need a little escape.

michele said...

I completely enjoy re-reading your books when I need an escape from my own hidden sorrows. Thanks for the reminder to be kind. My sweet sister gave me injections until she accidentally made a "gusher" and then I decided to take over the job. It was hard, but nice to be in charge of my own body. Please keep writing. I enjoy sharing your books with people I love.

The Sparrow said...

I know fear. I call it by name, and it calls mine again and again. Look it squarely in the eye, and say, I'm a survivor. I will overcome you. And you know what? You will. You will...

Be kind, be loving, be gentle. I love your thoughts. Thank you for sharing this. Blessings always...

Nicole said...

I just wanted to tell you that you are in my thoughts and prayers. I LOVE reading your books. I feel like I have lived through the feud in Wyoming myself and the Jonquil family feel like dear friends. Thank you for sharing your amazing story-telling talents! I hope that in the midst of this pain and great frustration you can still find time to enjoy your family, friends and love of writing. Much love from a devoted fan! Nicole

Christene said...

Sarah, thank you for this timely reminder. I had no idea you're RA onset was only 15 months ago. I can't imagine the changes that must have happened in your life in the last 15 months. I have such admiration for your writing, but even more is my admiration for your honesty and kindness in this struggle. Thank you for helping us remember that everyone is fighting a hard battle and kindness is the key. Sending hugs and prayers.

Claire said...

Beautifully written. I'm so sorry that this is something you are faced with Sarah. I hope the shots help and offer you some relief!

Kristin said...

My mother was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and polio as a young girl. In January she celebrated her 70th birthday. I remember so many times when I was young and would see my mom in pain that left her laying on the couch unable to move. She was able to spend several years in remission, but now it has come back. I just want to give you hope that you can still live a full life and bless those around you. Hopefully you will also experience times of remission where you can have a break from the pain. I'm so sorry you have to go through this.

Kent and Heidi said...

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Ireally am your number one fan. I greatly appreciate your clean proper writing style. Yours are the only books I will pay full price for. Thank you for sharing your talent!


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