Shut Off

Humans tend to say hurtful and cruel things when in a fight or disagreement, because they feel hurt and angry and they want to make the other person feel exactly how they are feeling. The best way to do that is to say mean things, to be hurtful, to project the hurt onto that other person in hopes that they get it.

Only, the result doesn’t work out that way. You end up more hurt, more angry, more frustrated because you aren’t actually getting your point across, you aren’t actually explaining your reasons for feeling hurt, angry and frustrated – you’re just creating new ways for that other person to feel hurt, angry and frustrated. You’re just adding wedges, maiming and lashing out. And sometimes…there’s truth in it. Cold, hard to digest, truth.

Matt and I are both hot headed and stubborn. We’ve gotten a lot better in the last few years about arguing, but we still have a lot of work to do on ourselves. Marriage takes work, and anybody who sits there and says that it constantly comes easy to them is either lying through their teeth, completely oblivious to how their partner really feels, or is actually not human.

Last night, we had an argument. A stupid, pointless argument that probably didn’t need to happen at all. I was feeling vulnerable and sad, for reasons I will probably explain later (they had nothing to do with Matt, go figure). I took offence to something he said, he took offence to my offence over something he said, then BOOM. An argument where both of us struggled to make the other person hear our side without actually listening to the other person.

My main argument was that I felt as if he didn’t understand or see where I was coming from, that I felt as if he weighed his depression as a heavier thing than my chronic pain/depression, and I often got the shit end of the stick.

His main argument was that he can’t tell what’s going on with me. I am shut off, I have on expression and I hide behind walls that I’ve built around myself. I don’t explain to him what’s going on with me, emotionally or physically, so how could he know? He pointed out that in the morning, when he takes his anti-depressant pill, he is a zombie for an hour. That’s usually when I’m losing my sanity, because I can’t just jump out of bed and start moving and rushing. My pain is extremely high in the morning, and my patience and tolerance is extremely low.

Matt is right, and Matt is wrong. I do have walls built up, I do shut off because I can’t cope with all the nerve sensory overload from pain. I do hide what’s going on with my body because I get very tired of explaining what’s going on with it to people who don’t and can’t understand, people that I am convinced will just think I’m lazy…because how can they know any different?

But each time I ask for help, I feel lazy. I feel like by saying, “I’m in pain, I’m sore,” it still isn’t enough to justify it. It does look lazy when I ask him to get me a drink because I’m so tired and sore that I just don’t want to move anymore. It does look lazy when I beg him to make dinner because I don’t think I can stand a second longer. It does look lazy, because that’s what we perceive as lazy…someone shrugging off their tasks to someone else because “they don’t want to do it”. The reasons, no matter how legitimate, don’t matter because we’re still asking someone else to do it.

I’ve been called lazy my entire life, so naturally, I don’t want to explain anymore. I don’t want to have my words fall upon ears that just don’t get it because there is no way to get it unless they, too, are living it. So, I don’t really give him a chance to get it. I suppose that’s unfair, but in the past when I have tried to explain myself, his solution has been to tell me to go to the doctor and get it fixed. He believes, because he must believe, that the doctors will have a solution for my pain. He needs to believe this because both of our children inherited my MHE, and he needs to feel like something can be done for them.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. You can’t fix things with doctors and magic pills. I’m still recovering from my last surgery that was supposed to make walking and standing easier. It’s slightly more bearable, but it’s not better or solved by any stretch. I still can’t stand for long at all…even washing dishes is difficult for me, and walking is still incredibly painful.

I feel betrayed by my own body 99.9% of the time. I should be able to do these things with ease. It shouldn’t be an issue, to wake up with your children and go about your morning routine. It shouldn’t feel like you’ve got concrete limbs and razors in your heels.

So, my defense mechanism is to shut off. To wrap myself up in mental blankets to try and shelter myself from it all…from explaining it, from feeling it. I’ve tried, especially harder in the last few years, to solve this problem. I’ve seen my doctor so many times I’ve lost count. I’ve asked for pain management help. I’ve asked for surgeries that may help. I’ve asked and asked and asked. I am limited on medications to manage the pain because of my bleeding disorder. I have an appointment on November 5th to see a doctor for a last resort…but each appointment I get is months away, always. That’s just how it works in Ontario. You need something, you wait.

And wait.

And wait some more.

I chose to write about this because I feel it’s something I haven’t really addressed ever…the shut off valve that someone who suffers from chronic pain tends to go too a little too often. A hide away, trade secret. This is why people who suffer from chronic pain “sleep a lot”.

And truthfully, I tend to be silent about this, because I am ashamed. I try to “not let my MHE, depression, or any other ailment define me”, but the cold reality is that it often does…through no fault of my own, I’m trying my hardest to not let it define me…but it happens anyway, the same way I am defined by having brown hair and green eyes.

Matt, bless his soul, tries his hardest to get it. He does help out a hell of a lot, and when I lash out at him…it’s because I feel as though I’m failing, failing because I need more help than what I am already getting. Failing because I just want to do it all by myself and not be a heavy burden.

I try to keep moving, because that’s all I can do…but a lot of the time, I’m moving while shut off.


About J.C. Hannigan

25. Mother. Wife. Lover of words. Weaver of stories. My first book, Collide, is available in e-book for Amazon Kindle and Kobo.
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6 Responses to Shut Off

  1. You are the strongest person I know inside and out. It’s easy for others to call people with chronic pain lazy. It’s widely misunderstood. And relationships are damn hard to. I know you guys will work it out and meet each other half way. It’s tough to see things from the other person’s point of view, but so worth it in the end. Empathy is underrated. You guys are amazing and you got this!

  2. Erika says:

    Girl, I can’t even imagine your pain and anger. I have nerve damage from my pregnancies, and spinal pain from herniated and degenerative discs, but I’m guessing what I experience is not even close. Don’t be so hard on yourself when you have bad days and just don’t have the energy to do stuff. It seems like you and Matt have a strong relationship and will get past the occasional blowouts, which are inevitable. So hang in there and know you have people thinking good thoughts for you 🙂

  3. cathy says:

    I wonder if a wheel chair may be the answer and from that a house that is wheelchair equipped. You get to do the things you need to do but without the pain standing and walking would create. I realise noone wants to end up in a wheel chair and the thought of not being able to run with the boys is a tough one AND I can only imagine how long a waiting list there would be for assisted living but in the end if it helped with the pain, you’d feel so much better. Just a suggestion becuase clearly nothing really will help. It is what it is but you deserve to live, if not pain free, then at least a less painful life. xo

    • Heh. It’s a catch twenty-two…when I use walking aids, all the bone growths in my wrists and hands are even more aggravated than usual. I want to move to a bungalow, no stairs…but rentals that are affordable are extremely hard to come by, let alone a bungalow rental.

      I think that if I could find a bungalow and not have to deal with stairs a billion times a day (our only bathroom and the bedrooms are all up a very steep set of wooden stairs), I may have less issues…maybe. Who knows though?

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