Chronic Disease

Day 88 and The Insistence of Pain

It’s only with hindsight that I realize pain has been a persistent companion in my life. If something is normal for you the grandiosity of ego can tend to make you assume its true for everyone else. I spent much of my life thinking it was normal to be in pain, to be tired, to feel unwell. Life is suffering right? As it turns out no most people are not suffering from debilitating pain. I was not normal.

I’ve been feeling well recently and when I have extended stretches of health the memories of pain fade. This is good as pain is an insistent companion. They tell you to ignore your pain or place it on a shelf or some other “removed” metaphor but I’ve always found this to be bad advice. You can channel all your focus elsewhere but the pain is there. And worse, now you are using all your energy to pull your attention away instead of what you may have preferred like work or a hobby. It’s a consuming experience one way or the other. You can feel the pain or you can feel the force of your willpower but regardless you will feel. Pain is demanding.

When pain is chronic you think you will get used to it. That perhaps it becomes a background noise after a time. The way you get used to a television or radio playing in another room. But it’s not really like that. My pain is in my spine. It comes from a swelling that chokes out the nerves. The worst spots for me are between where my bra strap would land and my mid back. At its worst it runs the length of my spine and impacts my ability to walk. There is no comfort to be found with this pain. Sitting up. Standing. Even laying down. It finds your attention. It does not give reprieves.

Ben Hunt at Epsilon Theory wrote about the two types of pain.

They say that pain is a teacher. This is a lie, at least when it comes to pain beyond understanding. I suppose understandable pain could be used as a correction, as part of a causal learning process. Pain beyond understanding, though … pain beyond understanding teaches you nothing.

I live with a lot of pain beyond understanding. When it grabs me there is little I can do but hope to survive. It consumes. You have tools to fight but more often the only reaction that makes sense is fighting to relieve it. As Ben said, it has nothing to give me. It teaches nothing in this state. It’s beyond sensory inputs. This pain envelopes you into another reality. And when it is relieved you pray it will never reappear again. I know that it will. But the fear of it makes me bargain with myself. I say I will redouble my efforts to fight for my health. As if I weren’t doing as much as I can. I remind myself I have pain medication for a reason and I should simply take it. Sometimes I do.

Pain doesn’t care. It isn’t an enemy. It simply exists and you pray the tools you have will relieve it. When a true 10 on the acute breakthrough pain comes all you can do is hope to survive it. And when it is relieved the sweetness of its passing is like no other pleasure. It’s like having your humanity restored.