A love of music has helped chronic pain sufferer Agnetta get through trying times.
Chronic or persistent pain affects as many as one in five adults in the UK. It can affect all ages and all parts of the body. The NHS describes it as pain that carries on for longer than 12 weeks, despite medication or treatment. While some people suffer from chronic pain because of an initial injury, operation or illness, some patients experience it without any history of an injury or operation.
The brain and the nerves inside the spine make up the central nervous system and signal to the brain that the body is experiencing problems. Acting as a control centre, the brain calculates the severity of the problem and how painful it should be. The problems begin when the brain makes mistakes, and continue to send out pain signals long after the initial problem has been resolved.
It isn’t possible to predict whose pain will become chronic, but we do know that it is more likely to develop during periods of stress or unhappiness. When Agnetta moved from Sweden to the UK in 2015, the pain from her arthritic feet not only intensified but spread throughout her body.
First Person: Agnetta
“I used to dance a lot when I was younger. I played in a band too. I was the singer and I played the guitar. I can’t remember when my toes began to hurt. About twenty years ago, perhaps. But it was very manageable. I could still walk. It was when I moved to the UK three years ago that things got really bad. Perhaps it was stress. A lot of memories from my past resurfaced at that time. Not all of them good.
I was born in the south of Sweden in a town called Kristiansthad. I had a brother when I was three years old but he got sick and lost his hearing. He died when I was ten. Three months later, Hans, my second brother arrived. I doted on him, although my parents could not accept their loss.
I never felt good enough for them, so I rebelled. I smoked weed. I didn’t go to school. I was terrible. Eventually, I had to leave my town because my parents were not nice to me. And I was not nice to them. At eighteen, I went back to school and met my husband, Odd. At 21, I had Catharina, my daughter. Three years later, I had my son Henrik.
We built a house. Life went on, but I was still restless. I had affairs. I needed the reassurance my parents had not given me. But I was faithful to my music and I was always in a band. In 1987, we had our third child, Erik. Henrik resented him. He spat in his food. I became like my father. I was strict with Henrik. My husband supported him. We were heading for a crash. Eventually, I asked for a divorce. The family broke up. Henrik and Catharina would not speak to me. Even my father sided with Odd. He told me I was responsible for the break up. Losing my children was another kind of pain.
The pain began after they left. I was out walking in the town. It began in my toes. At first I could walk and stop and stand, recover and go on but then it would come back. A year passed and there was a knock on the door. It was Catharina. She said she wanted to stay with me. I agreed on the proviso that she paid rent. Of course, I kept her money in a drawer and gave it to her the day she left for London. She’d met a man there and fallen in love.
Music is what kept me sane through all this trauma. I’ve been singing my whole life. I loved to dance. This pain I had been feeling was arthritis. The chronic pain began when I moved to the UK three years ago. It crept up my legs and spine and into my shoulders. It is not like giving birth. That is terrible pain, but it is born of love. It leaves you with a child and it is quickly over. This pain I have all over.
I will honestly try anything to stop it. Music helps. And I am still in love with cars. Of course, these days I can’t drive, but when I play, I remember all of them. I was lucky enough to own my dream car. It was a Chevrolet Camaro. I used to sit in the garage in it listening to Elvis Presley and dream that I was driving across America. I’d still like to do that. Put my foot down and leave the pain behind. Perhaps I’ll add it to my bucket list.”