September is Pain Awareness Month.
Which kind of feels like a joke. Because, I have a close-and-personal relationship with pain. I am very aware of pain — every month of the year.
Pain is a part of me — night and day. Weekdays and weekends. It doesn’t even take major holidays off.
My pain is commanding and assertive. It does what it wants to do, and it doesn’t care if I’m in the privacy of my home or walking to my neighborhood Coffee Bean.
Or at my son’s Cubing Competition.
About a year ago, my son became interested in Rubik’s Cubes after watching one of his very good friends solve them. (Who knew there were so many cubes? Some of them aren’t even cube shaped!) This past Saturday, my son participated in his first Cubing Competition which involved five different events.
The competition was held in a high school gymnasium about an hour away from home. Our family didn’t know exactly what to expect, because since this was our son’s first experience competing, it was the first time my husband and I were spectators at such an event.
There’s a lot of sitting around — on bleachers.
Then there’s a lot of standing and moving around so we could get a good view of our son cubing which would then make for good photos and good videos.
And that’s when my pain decided to make a grand entrance. During one round, and thankfully my son wasn’t competing at the time, I felt like my leg was about to buckle under me. A strong muscle cramp gripped my left thigh.
This was new for me. Usually cramps hit me in my left calf. And usually they happen at home. Just a few weeks ago, I had a cramp in my calf during my virtual appointment with my therapist. Sometimes cramps wake me from sleep. At home, I can cry and bang the mattress, bite on the blanket in an attempt not to wake my son.
But we were at a high school gymnasium, with about 100 participants and their families. My husband and I went outside and found a bench. I couldn’t sit without excruciating pain, I couldn’t stand and stretch without feeling like I was going to fall. I couldn’t walk it off or massage it away. And I couldn’t cry or make a scene, because there were a few other parents outside on their phones and dealing with younger siblings. And, most importantly, my son was inside waiting for us.
I was very aware of the time, knowing my son’s next round was happening very soon, and I certainly wasn’t going to miss it because of a cramp.
My husband and I went back inside. Underneath my double masks, I pursed my lips. I tried to take deep breaths and tried to calm myself down.
I tried to focus on the moment and watch nearby competitors as my son waited his turn. But I had a hard time standing and had to lean heavily on my husband.
I was aware of my pain. Very aware of my pain.
And that’s probably one of the hardest things about my Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease. The randomness of it. The fact that I never quite know how I’ll be feeling from one day to another. Or in Saturday’s case, from one hour to another.
As my therapist and I have talked about, the only thing predictable about my autoimmune disease is its unpredictability.
In my life, Every Month is Pain Awareness Month.