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Please, Don’t Touch Me

dont touch me

Many Fibromyalgia sufferers have days where they can’t bear to have someone touch them. Yesterday was one of those days for me. Polly came into the office and started to put her hand on my shoulder and I barked, DON’T!  Polly knows when I say this that I am having a “please don’t touch me” day.

Most days, the nerves in my skin are quite sensitive. This sensitivity is part of the problem I have with chronic pain. I hurt everywhere, from head to toe. It has been years since I have had a day where I could say, I feel pretty good today. Fibromyalgia primarily affects the muscles. I also have osteoarthritis. Fibromyalgia+osteoarthritis+nerve pain=unrelenting chronic pain. Fibromyalgia+osteoarthritis+nerve pain+narcotic pain medication=less unrelenting chronic pain.

As anyone who lives with chronic pain can tell you, pain medications do not make the pain go away. They lessen the pain spikes and provide a break in the pain cycle. When normally healthy people take narcotics to alleviate pain, they often feel a buzz from the drug. Some people become quite loopy. That’s not how it is for people who are on a long-term pain management regimen (as I have been for over ten years). Unless the chronic pain sufferer takes narcotics like Dr. House, it is unlikely that they will feel a buzz or become loopy. They will feel a lessening of the pain, a break in the pain cycle, but otherwise they will be as normal as normal is for them.

On “please, don’t touch me” days, the pain medications don’t work like they normally do. I am unsure as to the physical reason for this, but I know that I can double my pain medications on a “don’t touch me” day and it has little effect. I just have to tough it out, knowing that the next day will likely be better.

Sometimes, I can feel a “don’t touch me” day coming on, as I did this time. Saturday evening, I went to a Defiance High School basketball game with my oldest son and grandson. Polly dropped me off at the school around 5:30 PM so I could watch the junior varsity game. Jason usually shows up about 30 minutes before the start of the varsity game. On Saturday, I wasn’t seated for very long before I felt the nerves in my body go into overdrive. They were singing and I was crying the blues. I texted Jason and asked him to buy me something to drink as soon as he got there. I told him my pain levels were off the chart. He arrived early and I was able to take some extra pain medication.

Not that it helped much. Sitting in back of me was a mother with several young children. These children spent the night kicking and bumping into me. They weren’t doing it on purpose, so I bit down on the proverbial stick and endured. In the stands above us were several herds of elementary school children. They were there to provide the halftime entertainment. As they rumbled down the bleachers to the floor, I literally felt every footstep. Again, it’s wasn’t their fault. I am the one with the pain problem, and I am the one that put myself in a circumstance where my pain could be exacerbated.

Why I am telling you this? Perhaps you know someone who lives with chronic pain. If so, perhaps this post will give you a little insight into what they might be going through. Perhaps you have seen them grimace when someone touches or bumps into them. They might be having a “please, don’t touch me” day. If they are anything like me, they will endure the pain for the sake of not appearing crabby or difficult. Chronic pain sufferers want to be seen as normal, and often they will silently endure the pain unintentionally inflicted on them by others.

People who know me well will generally ask how I am doing before hugging me or shaking my hand. Some of them even know how to read my face. As much as I try to hide the pain, it reveals itself in my face and eyes. I normally have sparkling blue eyes, but when I am in a lot of pain, depressed, or physically having a difficult day, my eyes will turn gray. I don’t know WHY my eye color changes, I just know it does.



  1. Avatar
    Ashley Grant

    Bruce, I wish you more good days than bad.
    I had no concept of nerve pain until about one year ago when my wrists felt weak after a long work week. The symptoms progressed to ‘electric pain’ shooing from my elbows into my finger tips. It’s the worst pain by far because regular pain meds don’t help much. I’ve been diagnosed with bi-lateral cubital tunnel and had my right ulnar nerve transposed. Nerves heal very, very slowly so my hand and wrist are still weak at times. February 14th I have the same procedure on my left elbow and I’m looking forward to putting all the nerve pain in the past.

  2. Avatar
    Becky Wiren

    Oh Bruce…in some ways you are challenging the pain more than me. You go to more places etc. which is good. In winter, I just want to stay inside.

    Sometimes my husband will poke me a little bit and it really hurts. I don’t want anyone to touch me when my skin itches and burns. A LOT of that went away with the spinal fusion, but not all. No, not all. Of course that affects our intimate lives. Your overall pain symptoms sound worse than mine, although when I have those pain episodes lasting a week to several weeks, it’s probably similar. I can also tell when a virus has got me (after the fact) because my jaw will start to kill me. It’s usually where the worst pain starts.

    Right now my total fatigue is the biggest problem, which is good and bad. Good because I’m not suffering much, bad because I can’t do much.

    Anyway Bruce, I was wincing when I read about your pain. I swear, I hate that other people suffer pain!! I would take all my son’s fibromyalgia pain if it would make him normal. Of course, life doesn’t work like that. And it was easier when I believed that God was in perfect control. Instead of comforting myself with “God works all things to the good” I’m now saying, “Dammit, I’ve had enough fibro for good. Isn’t it time for it to end?”

  3. Avatar

    You always amaze me when you share things, either I learned something weird/wrong with Christianity and today chronic pain. My fibro is screaming today. I took a nasty tumble yesterday because my knees aren’t working and whacked my head. I have never met anyone else whose eyes change color with pain. I typically have dark brown eyes when I’m in a lot of pain/under a great deal of stress my eyes turn gold, the lighter the color the color of my eyes, the worse the pain. For me don’t t touch me days are comparable to having a bad sunburn that someone rubs with sand paper. Spring is the season of pain I dread most, I can’t use my hands, and everything is misery. I know they are going to figure out why fibro happens, I just wish they would get on it already. Hope it isn’t a pain day for you today!

  4. Avatar

    So sorry for your pain Bruce. I do empathize. <3

    The other day I made the mistake of extending my hand for a hand shake. As my routine injections where off, I can't stretch my arm fully out; it's more at a 65 degree angle. But, i guess that wasn't noticeable enough the other day. Also my hands and wrists get weaker and more tender. I didn't have on my wrist braces, so the other person could not visibly notice my disability. Anyway, I survived the shake and reminded myself to not do that again. lol

    The one thing I can do where I feel "normal" is ride my bike (which sounds so ironic with the widespread nerve damage I manage). I'm not recommending that for you or anyone…my point is…I "feel normal" when I ride my bike. One reason I like riding it; I feel confident.
    (Typing that brings tears to my eyes. One of the biggest struggles I've had in accepting my disability is working through the feeling of being “abnormal” in social settings. I have recognized that at those times, I feel more like an object to be maneuvered around, than a person. I wrote about that
    . )

    Thank you for sharing Bruce.

  5. Avatar

    Bruce, I just now noticed that this post must be a repost from 2015. Sorry I didn’t see that before!

    Still I know the challenges remain and my sentiments are the same. <3

    I also notice I spelled wear, where.

    That's a new one for me! lol

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