Let’s talk about hypermobility syndrome. Why? Because I want to rant. Because if I’m going to type at all today despite the pain I’m going to use it to take out my frustration, and maybe help some people understand why it is that sometimes I disappear from the internet entirely.
My joints don’t work properly. Or rather, my ligaments don’t work properly, and muscles aren’t strong enough to do that job on their own, leading to joints doing a passable impression of the okey-cokey whenever they feel like it (in, out, shake it all about): dislocations, subluxations, and just general pain.
Subluxing, as far as I understand it in the context of my own body, is like a dislocation except the joint doesn’t go all the way out. You ever dislocated something, you know that it sort of locks in position and you can’t move it until it’s sorted out. Subluxing it doesn’t do that. It’s just … not in place. Neither out nor in. It hurts a lot, and when you move it you hear it clunking around, and all the muscles are under strain. But it’s slightly less major than a dislocation.
Anyway, I subluxed my shoulders two and a half weeks ago. Not doing anything dramatic. I moved my arms, and my shoulders took exception to that. This is a new one for me, because it’s usually my knees and stuff that die on me at inconvenient times. (But don’t be fooled, they’re not having a good day either.) After eight days of trying in vain to sort it out I went to the osteopath who put them back in, with some difficulty, only for them to slip out of place a matter of hours later.
They’re still out. I don’t know how to fix it. But I’m learning quite a lot about chronic pain that I guess I forgot in the months I’ve had without a major flare-up.
1. It’s not a case of “don’t do this thing and you’ll be fine”.
Unlike an injury, I can’t just avoid moving something and hope it gets better. Opening doors hurts. Filling the kettle hurts. Writing and typing hurt. Wearing a bra hurts. Carrying a bag hurts. Taking off a jumper hurts.
2. It’s impossible to concentrate.
This is the best analogy I can think of to describe the effects of chronic pain: it’s like you’re trapped in a room where there’s a really bad band playing. Like, some fourteen-year-olds in their first rock band when they actually only know four chords between them and all they ever play is bad covers of Green Day songs. It’s putting you off whatever you’re trying to do, but after a while you begin to tune out the noise. You think you’re coping, and then suddenly there’s a shriek of feedback from the speakers and you have to start all over again.
Except you can’t leave the room, and painkillers don’t make effective earplugs, and while you’re aware that they might eventually stop playing, Green Day have been together for twenty years so there are a lot of songs for the kids to mangle and they’ve already played Wake Me Up When September Ends about eighteen times.
(I actually quite like Green Day. Maybe they weren’t the best band to use as an example. But bad covers are terrible whoever the songs are by.)
3. Your mood plummets.
My mental health? Not the best. But it’s been improving recently — new medication, lots of sleep, that kind of thing. Well, it was improving, until this flare-up happened. Now the everyday aches have become near-constant pain and honestly, that really doesn’t make me feel particularly cheerful.
I’ve found myself getting emotional at nothing. Like the song Restless Heart Syndrome by Green Day (ha) came on earlier and the line somebody take the pain away … well, that resonated. At the time I was attempting to carry a small amount of food shopping back to college and every step was pain in my hips and knees (from walking) and shoulders (from carrying bags. And just existing). Next thing I knew I was trying not to cry in public.
4. It’s hard to sleep.
Well. I’ve been sleeping an obscene amount because literally the only thing that helps my shoulders is being horizontal and completely relaxed, so sleeping is great. Maybe I should look into getting some sort of muscle relaxant to deal with the fact that having a subluxed shoulder is putting a muscle in my side into spasm all the time, but in the meantime, sleep.
But when it comes to actually going to bed, I can’t find a comfy position. I usually sleep on my side. You know what happens if I try to sleep on my side like this? My shoulder, squished underneath me, slips out of place. When I wake up the next morning it’s going to be a nightmare to put that thing back in enough to go anywhere.
5. Bed is basically the only comfortable option.
Forget the hard chairs of lecture theatres, or even the comfy ergonomic desk chair with which I’m now blessed. They require being upright. Bed is the only place that doesn’t hurt — propped up with a mound of pillows and wrapped in a quilt (because being cold makes the pain worse and my room is, as usual, freezing). And since I can’t really work at the moment, I end up watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine on Netflix. The episodes are only, like, 20 minutes long, so with my reduced concentration / attention span, it’s about the only thing I can bear to do*. Forget reading or writing or working. 20 mins and then a break and then another 20 mins. That’s all I can manage.
6. Doing nothing is stressful.
I’m at Cambridge, okay? I’m aware that I should be writing essays, going to lectures, prepping translation for language classes, and generally doing the whole student thing. But I can’t. Because my brain is fuzzy and my wrists are painful and my shoulders are ridiculous and I can barely get out of bed half the time simply because I’m so exhausted from being in pain — it’s stupidly tiring to do nothing. So I know I’m falling behind, and I can’t do anything about it, which makes me stressed, which makes me feel worse. When I’m stressed I get stomachaches and can’t eat and generally feel nauseous and guess what? Ha. Ha ha ha ha. Literally everything hurts.
Joy of joys.
So I’m a human wreck right now. I’ve been in bed all afternoon, recovering from the pain of buying a loaf of bread, some conditioner, and three ready meals — all I could risk carrying earlier. I won’t be online much. Maybe Twitter and the like, because I can do that from my phone, and so far that isn’t too painful. But this might be the last you see me blogging until I get my shoulders sorted.
I’m going to the doctor on Wednesday. Maybe they’ll have some advice. We’ll see.
*For the record, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a pretty good show. It’s light-hearted but interesting, so it helps to cheer me up and get me out of my own head for a while. It lacks the intensity of other shows I watch, which is nice. Sometimes I just need something funny.