I went to a friend’s house to celebrate Easter on Sunday. I enjoyed the time with my friends and the smell of the food was amazing. Conversations were enjoyable and humorous, and the sound of laughter and family did my heart good. I made it up the stairs on my forearm crutches and over to the couch where I normally plunk myself down at their house.
What I didn’t consider was that I plunked myself at the end of the couch where most people would be walking by to enter the other rooms, and the house was quite crowded with lots of people. Inevitably, my foot was bumped, and my pain spiked. I was already hyper-aware of anyone or anything moving around me so as to avoid these bumps and touches, recognizing that nobody but me would naturally be as careful to avoid such seemingly harmless contact. After one bump, however, I felt nearly paranoid, guarding my leg or lifting it onto my lap whenever someone came near (and if I felt comfortable enough to do so, quietly pleading with the one in my personal space “please don’t touch my leg!”). I felt that if my leg was bumped one more time, even gently, my ability to withstand the pain in a socially acceptable manner may have dwindled precipitously fast, and I was surely in no mood for an audience.
Then the weirdest thing yet happened. This one is really new to me. A little boy, about three years old, was talking to his grandmother who was sitting in a soft recliner chair. Her legs were swollen, I suppose from diabetes, and she wore house slippers. I watched with terrified anticipation as he began to touch and roll around a bit on her legs, waiting for her to startle with pain. I didn’t say anything to warn her because I was struck wordless, wondering how this would turn out. Not a peep or nor any expression of pain came from her physique.
Instead, it was as though the boy was touching my legs and I felt those terrible shocks of pain, plus that awful uneasy nausea overcome me. He wasn’t touching me. He was not even in the same area of the room as me. But just watching him touch her legs sent my body over the edge. I turned away to stop looking, yet I immediately recognized how odd it was that just *WATCHING* someone else being touched on an area of their body that corresponded directly to an area of my body which experiences hypersensitivity (allodynia) to touch is so very unnerving, painful, and noxious to me.
I think the best way to describe a situation like it is to think of someone who is really squeamish when they see blood or an injury, or someone who faints when their friend gets a cut. That shudder that travels down your spine travels up my legs first in a wave of pain and nausea. In some small way it’s similar to that experience.
I thought about it some more and realized that I’ve had this reaction before though I never put it to words. When people talk about getting a pedicure or a foot massage, I feel this way though not as strongly as when I actually watch someone get a foot massage or pedicure. Watching people touch areas that are hypersensitive for me is a sick sort of torture all its own.
After my surgeries I never did well handling lower limb injuries, pictures of injuries to the legs, or descriptions of the sensations of such. Any other part of the body I can handle. But legs? No way, Jose! Surgery pictures of legs just make me sick.
I wonder how common this experience is for others with CRPS?
Still, I enjoyed the time with friends. I do try to have fun even when I’m fighting pain and don’t-touch-me phobias.