The Chronic Pain-Imposed LDR

In some ways, having chronic pain is a lot like being in a long-distance relationship. Rather, it’s like being in a lot of long distance relationships. It’s like having to be in a long-distance relationship with everything that you love.

I really like programming. I like solving puzzles, I like thinking of new ways to engage people with information, and I like making things pretty and intuitive. You can easily get lost in programming in the best kind of way — you can fall into the zone where there is nothing but the current problem you’re solving and stay there for hours.

Well, most people can. Falling into the zone isn’t much of an option for me, because by the time I’m there, it’s time for me to take a break. Because I have these chronic issues, I have to carefully plan how much I work, how long I sit, what I can do during work breaks to lower the possibility that symptoms will worsen, etc.

In my case, doing anything long enough to get in the zone will get me approximately to the point where I need to stop doing it in order to preserve my health.

In a long-distance relationship, you have to be deliberate about setting time to spend together. You often have to fit interaction into the gaps in busy schedules — gaps which may change between the time you plan for them the time they occur. You may not be able to find as much time as he would like to talk to a partner, and the time that you do find can often feel too short. It can be just enough to remind you how much you enjoy someone — just enough to realize how awesome it is talking to them — and then end.

A lot of times, this is what programming is like for me. If I work just long enough to really get in the flow, it is also just long enough that I have to stop. Just long enough to be reminded how amazing it is to get lost in something, and just long enough to have that feeling of awesomeness taken away at that moment of realization.

And it’s not just programming, it’s everything that has the potential to aggravate symptoms given time. I can do them just long enough to fall in love again, and the point at which I do is the point at which they are taken away, because that’s how my body seems to work.

It really, really sucks.