My flares may last for two days or two months, depend on the weather (mainly significant changes in temperature and barometric pressure), and come with distinguishing symptoms and intensity. My flares can be unpredictable.
But, usually, they have predictable features. My flares begin with a centralized, throbbing, achy pain that gradually worsens. The pain seems to center in my torso, mostly near the spinal cord. Sometimes the intensity makes me feel weighed down and exhausted, as if a migraine has taken hold of my entire body. My extremities spasm and have a grinding sensation too. Even though I take (continuous) oral contraceptives as treatment for endometriosis, my flares can sometimes produce mild bleeding.
Everything around me is heightened: sounds are more intense or shrill, smells are strong and unfamiliar, tastes of common foods are different. In winter, my muscles lock up easily, and those of the trigger point area of the shoulders and neck are most affected. The muscles feel tight and rigid so that I can only walk at a certain pace, and the more I walk, the tighter the muscles become. In extremely cold temperatures, my muscles almost feel as if they will rip. In summer, humidity leads to a burning pain similar to the blistering sunburns of my childhood before sunscreen was introduced.
Just as I became familiar with these forms of pain, I encountered a new form in 2015, when I determined to push through a mild flair and take small walks every day, as opposed to every other day. My body responded with a vengeance. I developed a pain difficult to put into words; the closest description is a type of electrical charge mixed with a gripping pain. This was highly disconcerting. I already had lost enough control over my health and a flair’s onset, now I was adding yet another type of pain to the list.
This change was a reminder to myself to be cautious, of the fine line between functioning while in a flare and overdoing it. Thankfully, my flares are usually just a couple of days, and even though the current one started in mid-December, I know it will not last forever. I do what I can to comfort myself: soft blankets, lots of pillows, and favorite TV sitcoms. I use aromatherapy and practice visualizing pain reduction, and do not think about the chores I am missing, or the fact that I have to spend much of the day in bed.
As I am sure most of you also do, I hold off on taking added medication until the pain is unrelenting. My reason is a mix of not wanting to inundate my liver, and of thinking that somehow I am softening if I take a medication too soon. (For me that’s an anti-epileptic/muscle relaxant.) Most of all, I have learned to resist feeling guilty about having to pamper myself, or of being unable to do certain tasks for a while. Usually, this is easiest with the harshest flares, when I couldn’t care less about the world around me. Others can try to make you feel bad about the way you’re dealing with this illness — you don’t need to be your own worst enemy, too.
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