Pain, A Cane, and Gain

Pain, A Cane, and Gain

This is a scheduled post. Right about now I ought to be in Dublin. I’m probably lost, because I lack any sense of direction, and/or trying to resist the temptation to buy a lot of musical instruments that I won’t be able to take home on the plane.

However, right now I want to talk about my previous trip, which was to Cornwall. (I’m having quite the tour of places of ASNaC interest this summer, apparently.) As we were driving home, my mum asked me what my favourite and least favourite parts of the holiday had been, and I didn’t know how to answer.

Why? Well, partly because I’m indecisive as anything, but mostly because I couldn’t separate my feelings about places from how much pain I was in while I was there. For example, I thought St Michael’s Mount was beautiful and there were some really interesting displays about its history — but I was also in a lot of pain from the steep hills and steps, and by the time we left I was relying entirely on my stick because my knee had given up on me. While I was posing on a rock for Dad to take a picture, he told me to smile, but I physically couldn’t because of the pain I was in. It wasn’t just limited to my joints, either; I’ve been suffering from nightmare headaches that last literally weeks, and it had flared up that day.

Miriam stands on rocks, feat. Stick.

I really liked Tintagel, too, and I would probably say that was my favourite thing, except that the steps were difficult for me to manage. I might have been okay — it was still early in the week and my joints were working better at that point — if it hadn’t been so hot, but I was totally not dressed for the weather, and because I lack any ability to regulate my body temperature I was suffering due to the bright sun.

I managed to clamber around pretty well, and even took my jeans off to paddle in the sea before deciding I didn’t want to put them back on and wandering around in a t-shirt and underpants for the next hour or so (trousers are overrated), but even so, when first asked about it my initial memory was of how much it had hurt.

Trousers are optional, right?

I didn’t particularly like St Ives, but was that because it actually wasn’t that interesting, or was it because the steep hill down from the car park and then back up have left me with a memory of hard work and significant knee pain? Would I have liked Penzance more if I were healthier? (Though our car got keyed by vandals while we were there, so to be honest, I’m not sure Penzance would ever have won me over.)

In other words, I can’t just enjoy things for how interesting they are; it’s always tied up in how I’m feeling that particular day. Which puts me off going to places when I’m not feeling great — I know that if I climb a hill with a migraine, I’m not going to enjoy the view. But I can’t predict how I’m going to feel, and I also don’t usually stay in any one place on holiday long enough to take a day off if I just want to sleep. I have to push through and try and enjoy things even when I’m in pain.

It’s one of the things I’m worried about with regard to my trip to Ireland, not least because I’m on my own. I struggled in Cornwall even though I was with my parents and we drove from place to place. Travelling on foot and by bus, I’m likely to do fewer things in one day, and I’m also not going to make the mistake I made in Cornwall and forget my knee/ankle supports… but if I struggle that much when I have a comfortable bed to lounge in and a car to get from place to place, how am I going to cope alone?

Pushing through pain to have fun is one of the things I’ve struggled with the most over the last few years, and it’s also one of the most important parts of not giving up and letting my health dictate my life. I’ve got a few tactics — using a cane is one of them. At least with that I can transfer some of the pain into my upper body to take the pressure off my knees, although I did find after a few days of hauling myself up hills, my shoulder and right arm were killing me. So I probably need to work on building up those muscles if I’m going to use it more regularly: this term I’ve managed to walk without it the vast majority of the time, and that means those muscles are weak again.

Miriam stands on more rocks, feat. Stick

My Ireland trip does involve several major bus journeys, which will give me an opportunity to rest where I can’t berate myself for not making the most of my time. Theoretically, they also involve WiFi, so they might be my chance to catch up on blog things. I’m spending a week in one place where the beds will hopefully be comfy; that’ll give me a chance to recover from staying in a hostel in Dublin, which is unlikely to be very restful. I’m aware of my limits and trying to accommodate them as best I can.

Plus, my plan for Ireland is a bit more chilled out than Cornwall. While my parents are big fans of walking around and seeing the scenery — which is great, but tiring — I’m planning some smaller-scale activities like visiting museums that won’t involve vast amounts of climbing hills. (And I think Dublin’s less hilly than Cornwall, although it’s possible I’m wrong as I’ve never been there before.)

Some museums and visitor centres even have wheelchairs available, so maybe I’ll borrow one to ease the pressure of meandering around. Walking slowly tends to hurt more than walking fast, I’ve found. That said, I’m not sure my shoulders are in a fit state for wheeling myself, so maybe not. I’m also not entirely sure I’d have the courage to ask for one. Without my cane, I fall into the category of being ‘invisibly disabled’, and even with it, people take one look at my baby face and assume I’m too young to really need mobility aids. Although it might help, I can’t help thinking my anxiety would stop me from making use of one.

Mostly, though, I’m just going to take my codeine and other painkillers, and do my best to push through the pain. I want to enjoy this trip, and I’m not going to let my legs stop me. Even if they do slow me down.

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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