Contributed by: Karen
Reviewed by: Evelyn Corsini, MSW, August 2010
Karen is 47 years old and lives in Arizona. Thirteen years ago, she slipped and fell on icy steps, injuring her lower back and sacrum. She then had two surgeries. Prior to her fall Karen rode horses daily. Now, in spite of her pain, she maintains a full time job and a terrific sense of humor.
My name is Karen, I have neuropathy in both legs and feet, back pain, and many other medical problems, anyway the list goes on…. And on… I deal with pain through humor by going to work everyday at a Fire Dept. I take meds to be able to do it and finally I am not ashamed to anymore. I am a funny gal by nature anyway so even on my worst days I try to make ONE person laugh. This is my goal and usually I am really good at it. I try to laugh at myself and create humor through my misfortune. It works really good. Sometimes it makes people uncomfortable, but I cash in on that as well. I want people to not feel intimidated by my pain, nor do I want them to always feel sorry for me, its ok to feel sorry once in a while – but not co-workers.
I work full time as a secretary and have for 20 years, it is better than sitting at home feeling sorry for myself – I sit at work and do things to get my mind off of IT. My co-workers are Paramedics and EMTs, so you can imagine how it is for me. They are always trying to get me off the medication or help me with exercises or even drive me to the ER when they see it is really bad. This helps me to deal with pain a lot because they know – they see it every day on patients. They know how chronic painers get treated at the ER by ER staff (not good), and by working with me they see that they should never be like the ER staff and take it for what it is. They tell me all the time they have learned from me to be more compassionate and caring.
I don’t know how much longer I can hold out and work, but I have to do it as long as I can. They’ve been so good to me here – they don’t say a word if I can’t come in or come in late or leave early – they are here for me and wrap their love around me every day. I love all my boys and girls here and sometimes feel like I hold them up. So it is very mutual – and they love my jokes about pain and my limp and my dirty hair if I can’t shower because my skin hurts… I have skin hurts jokes – because sometimes I have to wrap duck tape around my pant legs to keep them from rubbing my thighs. It looks funny and they love to joke with me. Without my humor I wouldn’t be able to work with a bunch of crazy people like me…. “Laugh with me not at me.. or laugh at me but make sure I am laughing at me first”…haha.
Laughter is good, anything to take your mind off of IT is good. I get the stares and glares when I park in the handicap so I toss my long brunette mane and waddle off – I usually make a point of staring back or saying hello or even saying “hold on I will pose so you can take a picture!” Sometimes I ask “oh did you want to park here? In my shoes? I mean parking place?” Or “oops I knew I shouldn’t have used granny’s placard…. “ that usually gets them.
Once an elderly gentleman said “you should be ashamed of yourself – there are people out there like me and my wife that need those spaces.” I just looked him right in the eye and said, “oh I am sorry sir, I didn’t know they were reserved for elderly people – I just got one because I am lopsided.” And waddled off…. He actually called the police and had it checked.
It is hard, because you can’t see it – oh I limp pretty good- my nieces and nephew have a game they call “walk like auntie quazi moto”… but you can’t outwardly see that I have a problem, that I cry every single day at one point or others. You can’t see IT because I do the “sad clown” routine. I don’t want them to see. I have been through 6 potty seats (because of how I get off of it) 6-7 clutches in my jeepie, I have zoomed into the road two or three times because I can’t feel the peddles and pushed the gas instead of the brake. I have fallen hard over curbs because I can’t feel them… but I try to never become IT. I do not want PAIN to become ME.
I do everything while I still can because I don’t know what is down the road for me. I do not let IT harness me to the couch and I try to walk at least a flight of stairs everyday. My motto is “help I’ve fallen and will get up”. I try so hard to be strong, but there are days where even laughter won’t help, where I break down and have a good pity party. My shrink says to try and wallow in it at least once in a while, because if you don’t get it out it will beat you down.
I have a very supportive family and husband of 30 years, my hubby reminds me to go to lunch, take a break or “its time to go home”. I am 47 and my two grown boys help out in different ways, my oldest of 28 is my rock he keeps me strong, and my youngest 26 is my conscience, he tells me to slow down or take it easy. My nieces, nephew and parents are all close by and help in different ways, laugh and cry with me. Do you know how it feels to see your father cry because you walk funny and can’t ride horses any more? It is bad but without them all and my supportive co-workers I would be IT.