I recently listened to a radio segment that delved into small talk, and how asking "How are you?" is a faux-pas. Don't ask how someone is if you don't actually care, because the stock answer is almost always "Fine", and if someone isn't having a great day and shares that, you most likely aren't prepared to respond to it.  There's truth to this, don't you agree?

I have been suffering from chronic pain for almost 2 years now. 22 months to be almost exact, since I woke up with excruciating pain in the region where I believed my left ovary was, that has since leveled off to a mild and often annoying level of pain.  Nonetheless, the mostly unpredictable bouts of pain occur daily, and can last from several minutes to several hours.  I won't bore you with details of the hospital and specialist visits (they were plentiful), the tests of every kind (from x-ray to CT scan, MRI, urine and blood tests galore!), or the first 8 months when I thought I was slowly dying.  Through a round of antibiotics, sessions of physiotherapy, osteopathy, and various efforts at pain management, I feel physically almost whole again.  And I'm determined to do my best to get back to a level of health and fitness that makes me happy again.

My reason for putting this much in writing is because quite often I'll have friends and acquaintances ask me how I am.  And generally, I'll smile and reply "Fine", because that is how I pretty much feel.  Also, I have no desire to get into my medical history of the 22 months preceding today.  So, let me tell you about today, what is happening inside of my mind and body TODAY; and how I will probably feel tomorrow and the day after; and how I believe I might feel for the rest of my life, seeing as there hasn't been a noticeable change in the past year despite my efforts to remain in good health and stay positive.

The last hypothesis (after ruling out a hundred diagnoses of known conditions - for which I am grateful) was that I have a nerve located near a small abdominal muscle, that pinches and spasms when provoked.  The funny (= not so funny) thing is, provoking the spasm can come from intense activity (ie: squats, crunches, lunges at high intensity), or from seemingly nothing at all (sitting to read a book or drive a car). Seriously. So, when you ask me how I am, we're likely standing in the grocery store aisle or have just bumped into each other at a social gathering. And I'm fine. If we're sitting across from each other at a restaurant table, there's a good chance I'm actually experiencing at least a mild level of pain but I'm still grinning and bearing it and telling you I'm doing great.  It's only my natural response, as it would be for most people who experience chronic pain.

I'm one of the lucky ones.  My pain level typically hovers between a level of 3-4 (out of 10).  I can still manage to do everyday activities while wincing or trying to get more comfortable.  I can generally concentrate on the show I'm watching or the people I'm entertaining.  I can still play taiko (Japanese drums), ride a bike (which I couldn't do 2 summers ago), and be moderately active.  I don't have to take pain meds, and quite honestly, taking them does nothing for me.  

But you should know that there are millions of people who suffer from chronic pain to an unbearable degree.  Who feel it and/or feel numbed by it pretty much constantly.  All day and night, all the time, possibly with moments of reprieve, possibly not. People who are told it's all in their head. People who go to countless appointments with no firm diagnosis (I admit I fall in that category, because my source of pain is still not diagnosed).  People who go through experimental procedures and medications in the hope of finding the "right" combination to bring back some comfort to their weary bodies. People who are driven to mental and emotional instability because the pain is unbearable and they just want to live the life they used to.  Millions of us, and each with a unique story.

I don't expect you NOT to ask how I'm doing. It's a typical greeting or conversation starter, and we'll give each other our stock answer with automatic regularity. I'm going to try to make a conscious effort to ask meaningful questions to you if I bump in you, and will fully realize that if I start the conversation with "How are you?", the reply might not be so straightforward.

Every day is an effort to become the best version of myself, and that takes renewed exploration into my lifestyle and my limits. It's a thought-provoking and enlightening journey. It's helped me to understand a lot about others, and a bit more about myself.  Sometimes we look for answers and don't find them. I'm discovering that that's okay.  Getting back to blogging is also a form of communication, exploration, and renewed focus on something that brings me joy and self-expression.  While this may not have been the most entertaining of reads, I do hope it resonates with someone out there, and possibly helps with your own journey with whatever issue you are experiencing.