Hold out your hand. Now tighten the muscles in your forearm – not a lot, just enough to be aware that it's tensed. Hold it.
This is fibromyalgia pain. Well, one of them anyway. The bloody thing is forever surprising me with new and “interesting” qualities of pain it can invent.
You don't notice it for a while and then, it becomes just an ache. After a couple of days, it's sore and after a week or two, it's not a light tensing anymore, it's a clench and it lets you know all the time how much it hurts. If you have an injury on top of that – like say, your neck and shoulder - double the clench and even if you sit still and meditate and relax things, the minute you start moving again, the injured muscle clenches up as if you’d never had the relief.
And it travels. You can have a couple of days with the main problem being isolated in the affected muscle, but then it starts to ripple to the rest of you, giving you jolts of electricity flashing like lightning through random muscles. Muscles and tendons feel bruised, tender to even the lightest touch. Certain parts prickle with the buzz of irritated nerves and others ache with the fatigue of a clench that's lasted too long, your fingers trembling with the agony of tightened muscles as if holding a certain position, but not doing so voluntarily. Nowhere is comfortable and after a while more of this, even your bones feel like they're on fire.
There are parts of pain like this, of a fibro flare caused by an injury, when they feed upon each other, escalating and nothing helps, painkillers only take the edge off and barely that and only for a little while - 20 minutes or so - there are parts of pain like this where the pain becomes almost non-pain, where it is so loud and so much and when it seems it cannot increase anymore and shifts to a state of supreme sensitivity, a pain that is almost exquisite in its clarity and tone.
And you feel like glass. Like crystal blown by a craftsman to the thinnest, most delicate form. So fragile that the slightest tap will start a crack running through you, all of you and you will shatter.
So you go lie down, taking a really big dose of muscle relaxants, because you know that if you can sleep and sweat and ride the wave of the muscle relaxants, you can get ahead of it and you have a chance. You do fall asleep and it is lovely for about 10 minutes until the pain wakes you again and it's as if you never took the pill in the first place and you ride the wave of the pain until you get up again.
And then you sit around for the remainder of the day, getting through it, wanting the day to end, wanting more than anything to lie down, except you’re kind of nervous, because the last time, it seemed to only make things worse. So you continue with the big painkillers, wrapping yourself in sweaters and shawls to warm up, to sweat, to get ahead of it and you do, maybe a little. But you feel like glass, feel as if you're not quite connected to the world, not because you’re stoned from the painkillers - because with fibro pain, often they don't really work, either in terms of making you goofy or taking the pain away - but because the pain has taken you somewhere just parallel of where normal is.
And by the end of the day, you collapse into bed and miracle of miracles, you have somehow managed to drug yourself sufficiently to fall into sleep, a sleep that lasts until very early in the morning when you take more pills and sleep again.
By the time the alarm goes off, you awake with enough painkillers in your body that you are still a little buzzed and somehow, the pain is only lurking. And you tiptoe through the morning, your brain smushing like a manatee nerf up against your skull every time you turn your head, a vague nausea making food taste wrong and everything is just too. Too loud, too bright, too strong. You have a pain hangover and pray that the hair of the dog that bit you will not grow into a full-fledged hellhound to have it all start over again.
It’s been a fun week.