A Night in the Life of Chronic Pain and Gratitude


I go to bed with a heating pad and a special pillow and I close my tired eyes and try to quiet my mind which is running in a way I no longer can.

The pain in my chest keeps me awake and my cheeks are damp from knowing she is nearing the end of her time with us.

I toss and turn but even that is altered now -- it's a process to turn over and there's pain if I lay on my back and pain if I lay on my hips, and if I lay on my side my ribs ache.

I give up for now, and push aside the covers, reaching for my glasses on my bedside table, and quietly get into a sitting position and then stand and grab a sweatshirt and slip out of the bedroom as silently as I can, trying not to wake my husband.

I put on the tea kettle and flip the knob to high and watch as the burner glows red in the dark kitchen. In the dark night.

Opening the microwave, I ball up a second heating pad and place it on the rotating glass plate and press "3." The appliance hums to life loudly in our silent home and I hope, like so many previous nights, that I am not disturbing the rest of the three gifts God has given me -- my husband Jonathan, and our daughters who sleep with well-loved bunnies and dollies in a shared bedroom lit by soft nightlight.

I pad over to my recliner and sit with my now-hot heating pad placed against my chest, where it feels like a heart attack is brewing right along with my tea. Costochondritis, inflammation of the chest wall, is just one of my symptoms with Ankylosing Spondylitis.

I rock and sip and wait for medication to kick in, and remember when my oldest was only 4 and she would find me balled up on the floor and tell me, "Medicine takes a long time to kick in, Sweetheart, but it will kick in." She would squat down and stroke my hair and sing me a little song.

My family has lived with chronic pain for several years now. It has come in different forms -- first, after a miscarriage, as pelvic pain, and then as spine and joint pain.

It wasn't invited, but it's here nonetheless, and although we didn't ask it to come, we have learned our way around it. We have learned, every single one of us, how to take better care of each other. We have learned, from 6'2" Jonathan to 44" Natalie Kate, how to be more compassionate.

We have learned how to love better and how to be more patient and we have absolutely learned to be flexible with plans, as I don't know from one day to the next how I will be feeling. Because of that unpredictability we've also learned how to seize the day. Mama isn't limping today? Let's take a family walk!

I sit and rock and sip and wait for the heat and the medicine to soak in and through me and I wipe away a tear that represents the grief I feel over Sara's life ending soon. More tears swell up and pool in my eyes that represent this profound love I have for my family and friends and life itself, and my gratitude that I am here to experience all of this, the good and the bad.

Eventually I head back for a second try at sleep. I slip back under the covers, fold my glasses back onto my bedside table, adjust myself with two heating pads and a special pillow, and finally drift off to sleep with my chest hurting and my heart aching.

I don't enjoy the pain, and I resent how it effects our family (especially when I see the hurt and worry in my daughters' eyes), but I relish these sweet gifts it has taught me:

Live this life you've been given. It's precious!


  1. Thank you for another post that gives a word photo of your life. Pain definitely affects your sleep! But I think it's powerful that you are able to take steps to address what you can and keep moving forward. I'm sorry for your pain, physical and emotional. I'm thankful for you and your family. Love you, Wendy

  2. Hello Jennifer, you speak about the reality of chronic pain eloquently and honestly..I don't have the same illness and live in another country and in different circumstances but I can always relate and I always feel lifted reading your blog. And same feeling of sadness here..will miss Sara's words and gentle spirit too. I hope little Riley will go to a good home. Keep strong and keep writing, love to your girls..

  3. hi my name is tahir asghar i live in pakistan . i graduated from university of arizona in business studies . i found out my disease about eighteen years ago . and my back is stiff since then , It pains almost all the time . I am very happy to see all of u guys . every one please hesitate to send me an e mail to share more things with me mrtee1972@hotmail.com .

  4. Please do not hesitate to send me an email at mrtee1972@hotmail.com .

  5. It's so great to "meet" you...I am honored to be able to read your honest story.

  6. beautifully written. you hit on one of my biggest concerns--how my illness impacts the life of my boys--in both good and bad ways. xo betsy

  7. Jennifer,
    Your night routine sounds similar to mine in many ways. Pain from my multiple sclerosis (MS) makes it difficult to fall asleep. I toss and turn so much my husband has to sleep in another room. That’s OK, because he stays with me until he goes to sleep. I fall asleep praying for all my loved ones after praising God for all my blessings (that I can see, that I can still walk, for God's faithfulness, for two adult sons and a daughter-in-law who walk with the Lord...). My husband lovingly gives me weekly interferon injections to slow the progression of my disease. But the interferon interferes with my sleep. Even the over-the-counter sleep medication isn’t strong enough to keep me asleep all night. When I awake during the night, I massage the bottom of my feet. Even the temporary relief from the pain is welcome. I’m learning to ignore the pain in other parts of my body. Our 31 year old son still lives with us. In 1997 he was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder (after dealing with ADHD for 10 years). Because of my MS I’m able to be a living testimony for him – an example of someone who finds perfect peace in the midst of constant pain, who can have abundant hope in the face of an illness that keeps on taking things away. My son sees the pain I endure written on my face as I struggle to climb the steps in our house. He knows I’ve had to leave teaching jobs I love because of my fatigue. Yet, he can’t deny the joy I have because of Him. Having MS is no fun. But I know God is using it for His greater purposes.
    “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)


I value your comments. Thank you for taking the time to leave one.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...