Coccyx cushion: pain v embarrassment

Coccyx cushion: pain v embarrassment

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I’ve been using a coccyx cushion for over 5 years now. I don’t have a coccyx anymore, but a cushion helps me when I’m sitting. I went out with some friends to a local Chinese restaurant last week and I decided to take my cushion with me and it’s got me thinking more than ever about my pain versus embarrassment.

Coccyx cushion: pain v embarrassment

I’ve used my coccyx cushion in public before – for example at work, in hospital waiting to have my surgery, and when I went to the Andy Murray Live event the other week – but I really don’t like using it. Why? Because I’m just too embarrassed. I feel like it draws unwanted attention on me. I can see (and feel) people looking at me and it makes me uncomfortable.

In the past I’ve been able to get away without using my cushion as I’ve been able to manage my pain by leaning forward or to the side. Now I can’t do this because of the damage it is causing to my neck and spine – read my previous blog post I’m finally having some proper physio where I talk about this more.

I find it much easier when people know about my chronic pain and can understand why I’m using my coccyx cushion. It’s still embarrassing telling them or explaining it all, but at least it’s justified. I hate having to explain it all; it’s draining. And there’s always someone who doesn’t seem to believe me, which is even harder to cope with.

So many cushions to choose from

I must have tried at least three different types of coccyx cushions since my pain started in 2012. The first few didn’t help ease my pain at all; the design of them meant that the cut-out bit squashed down and it was like sitting on a normal flat surface. Although it still isn’t brilliant and I am still in pain, the best one for me is the Putnams version. The design of it is much more sturdy and it doesn’t squash down as easily.

I also love the fact that the cover hides the cut-out bit. It doesn’t scream “I have piles” to curious strangers, which is usually the subject of the jokes that I get. The cushion I have in the car and that I take out with me is black, but I have a blue one as well. The black one blends in a little more so I much prefer it.

The cushion isn’t exactly small. It doesn’t fit in to a normal size carrier bag, and can’t be folded. I might be able to bend it somewhat, but I’d rather not try as I don’t want to cause any damage to it. They’re not cheap, so I don’t want to have to keep replacing it. I’m currently on a mission to try and source a handmade cover/bag that will allow me to carry my cushion with me, discretely, but in a more practical way. I also want to be able to keep the thing dry too. The worst thing would be to sit on a soggy chunky cushion.

Back to the restaurant

So it was a busy Saturday night at the restaurant, and I was dreading walking in with this chunky coccyx cushion. I’d had a drink at home whilst getting ready, which always seems to relax me a little. It also helps with my anxiety too. I always get nervous about going out these days. There’s just always that little bit of fear about what to expect. I’ve said before that it is linked to having chronic pain, although I am naturally quite a nervous person anyway. But the ‘not knowing’ part of chronic pain can be quite daunting – not knowing how bad my pain will be; not knowing if I can keep smiling through the pain; not knowing what others will think if they see me struggling. And even not knowing if the people I’m with will be embarrassed about my cushion. My partner doesn’t care, she even offers to carry it for me. She’d much rather I be comfortable and in as little pain as possible, than be struggling all night.

So the cushion entered the restaurant with me, and we had a table in the window; in fact, it was the first table that we came to, so I didn’t have to drag my cushion all through the restaurant. Brilliant! Luck was on my side.

Once I was sat on it, I knew no one would be able to see it, so I started to relax. And I had a really good night. My pain was bearable so that meant it was easier to cope, and I got up after my starter to go for a short walk – I used the excuse of getting a tissue to blow my nose after eating the hottest seafood salad (I’m a wuss when it comes to spicy food).

Grabbing my cushion again when leaving was a little embarrassing, especially as I nearly walked in to a plant with it. Now that would’ve drawn the attention! And I heard my friend say “Has Alice got her…” and then it drifted in to silence. She didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, which I really appreciated, but she wanted to make sure I didn’t forget my cushion. Chronic pain can really affect your memory too!

Learning to use it and not care

The other flip side of the coin is about being comfortable with my cushion. Sometimes it’s easier mentally to not use it – it’s one less thing to worry about, and I don’t have the think about all the other stuff and worry that comes with it.

But from now on, I don’t really have a choice, unless I want to be in complete agony, which of course I don’t. So it’s a case of needs must and I need to get over the embarrassment of using my coccyx cushion, and also not worrying what other people think.

Do you have to use a coccyx or other type of cushion? How do you feel when using it? What tips would you give to others?

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