Many chronic conditions are often overlooked because they don’t sound that painful or difficult to deal with. The person may even look well! Are they just craving attention, being lazy or faking it? Before experiencing these symptoms for myself, I too, have been guilty of ignorant and unkind thoughts within the privacy of my mind.
1. Joint Aches
“It’s one of those little things that old people complain about. It’s only an ache, not even a ‘real’ disease, how bad can it be?”
That was before I developed Sjögren’s Syndrome, and learned how wrong I could be. I learned that it isn’t only a ‘little’ pain, but a debilitating one that cripples you. Your elbows, knees, wrists, ankles and all other joints puff up into a sensitive, red swell. The slightest alteration of angles or an accidental brush against any surface triggers intense pain.
Simple tasks such as hailing a cab or fastening your bra question your physical abilities and mental stamina – your status as an adult human being. Forget about ‘light’ exercises – you have trouble even walking to the bathroom. Someone I know suffered these horrid aches for four years. She had to climb staircases by sitting and pushing her ass up one step at a time, every damn day.
2. Muscle Aches
“Is it like a muscular ache you get after exercising?” This is the most common question I get from curious friends (thank you for asking!).
“That muscular ache can feel quite good, actually!” Unfortunately, this muscular ache does not feel good in any remote sense of the word. In fact it’s worse than joint aches, as even strong painkillers do nothing to ease the pain.
But..what does it feel like? Thick nails pounding through your muscles, deep into your bones, relentless and monotonous. It is severe enough to keep you up all night, rocking your body in delirium while screaming for help. (I also have Lupus, but for me the joint and muscle pains from Sjögren’s are more painful as they are more widespread.)
3. Dry Eyes and/or Mouth
You’d imagine this to be more of an annoyance, but it can make a tremendous impact on the quality of your life. Having dry, inflammed eyes is like having sand scratch against your eyeballs all day long. I would bathe them in eye drops, but the relief provided would only last for that brief moment of contact.
Having a dry mouth is a bigger torture. A million tiny pins piercing through the surface of your tongue, throat, cheeks and lips. A burning sensation, as if sucking on chilli, thrown in for good measure. Who would have thought that moisture levels could be so deceptive in their ability to cause pain? You’d think that restoration would be easy through either natural or artificial means, but no.
These conditions grip you, and keep you up all night. Distraction hardly works. If you do manage to drift off to sleep, it is from the exhaustion of enduring too much pain. To the rest of you out there, what other symptoms or side effects did you deem a ‘lame excuse’ or ‘not such a big deal’, before experiencing them for yourselves? And to those who are curious about other symptoms, what else would you like us to try describing? Let us know, we’d be happy to share!