Friday, January 11, 2013
The Anatomy of A Flare
What does a flare feel like?
I can feel it coming. If I used a car analogy for how it builds by increments, it would be this: The beginning of the flare is the car idling in neutral, the accelerator being pressed down slowly, steadily. Just a little bit, enough to hear the motor rev. Then a little bit more, the RPMs climbing, that needle on the dash jerking. Then another press of the accelerator and the needle slams over into the red zone, pegged and jittering, threatening to blow the motor as it whines, roars and vibrates the ground beneath of it.
You are along for a ride that took just a short time to go from idle to insane speed down blacktop, and all you can do is hold on and pray for the medicine to work quickly. You hope the medication dulls the edges of an agony that feels like an ocean's worth of waves rolling over you, pulling you under even as you struggle to swim back to the surface.
I can explain a flare by sensation. For me, it begins with tension. Muscles stiffening, coiling into tight balls. It is throbbing, pulsing along with the beat of my heart in any area of the body being afflicted in that moment. It is the deepest ache, like having a flu in my muscle tissue and bones. It is stabbing pain - like a screwdriver being driven and turned into my hips, an ankle, shoulder blades.
It is the burning pain of a broken bone. If you have ever broken a bone, you know what I'm talking about. It burns hot, like your bone is on fire from the inside out. It is muscles feeling as if they are tangled in knots as they spasm. It is the slightest pressure being put on the body feeling like a full on punch that leaves a purple bruise.
It can be any one of those or a combination of many, all at once and all over your body. Torturing you with a barrage of sensation until you want to crawl out of your own body, hide in a corner and watch it writhe out its pain. You would like to wait until the flare is over before resuming your own skin to live with the 'normal' pain of your every day life.
I can explain a flare by mentality - a conversation you have in your head: I'm laughing hysterically because it's ridiculous that any living thing can bear this level of agony. The little cry face on the pain chart? That does not pertain to this. When I am done laughing like a lunatic because the agony has pushed me over into Crazyville, I will not cry. I will curl into a fetal position on my bed, rock and bawl my eyes out.
I can explain a flare by emotions. It is feeling pain so deeply that you view your body as the enemy attacking your spirit. You sometimes hate the vessel that you live within. It is a profound sorrow because you are never more aware of how debilitating a chronic pain illness is than when it is in a flare. It is anger - a devouring rage that you can live like this and have others not believe Fibromyalgia is real or that you could be faking something so horrifically life changing. It is fear, not knowing when the flare will calm down, fade back so that you can take deep breaths again.
A flare changes who you are in that time. You want to lash out, beat your fists on something. You want to become a child again and have a temper tantrum. The pain is so overwhelming that something very instinctive within you needs to release it however you can. Like maybe if you have that tantrum, scream and rage - some of the physical pain will transfer to them and you won't have so much to carry on your own.
You become intolerant. Your brain, your body are so overcome with agony that anything beyond that feels like sensory overload. Music, voices, light, smells. All of it becomes too much to bear when you are in a flare. The only thing you can focus on, are allowed to focus on is the misery crawling into every crevice of your body, digging its claws in to take hold.
You know, even when tortured, that to snap at those you love is wrong. They do not deserve it. They should not have to share your burden by becoming the punching bag you flail yourself against. And you know, realistically, that you really do not get to transfer physical pain by doing any of those things. It's just that you are in a very dark place, being controlled by pain and it is every breathing thing's nature to fight or to flee.
You know that you cannot flee. You do not get to leave your body and come back later, at a better time. So you fight what your body is doing, what your mind is thinking, what your spirit is feeling until you are exhausted. And that is the final explanation of a Fibromyalgia or chronic pain flare.
It is exhausting on a level that defies words to describe it. Living through pain that is so powerful it sucks the breath out of you, makes you weak. Crawling, dragging yourself across the floor on your elbows towards a bed seems like too much work. Maybe the medication has finally taken hold and dumbed down the agony, left you staring at a blank wall, swaying in a chair, counting each slow blink of your lashes.
And you are grateful. You're finally tired. You're finally in a place where you don't want to claw your own skin off, rip your hair out and beg for mercy. You are no longer spasming, vibrating with hurt. You can finally sleep - sink into the abyss of darkness and pray that the lightning bolt pain of what they call a flare does not wake you, demanding a round two before you have time to rest.