Sunday, February 10, 2013

Pain, hope, and the co-existence of the two

The past 6 weeks of my life have revolved around a singular focus: pain.  
(Or rather, its elimination.)

It's the first thing there when I open my eyes, the last thing I try to push out of my brain as I lay there pleading for sleep to take me out, and my constant companion throughout each and every day.

After 5 years of dealing with a chronic right hip/sciatic/SI joint condition, I'm no stranger to pain.  But right around Christmas I hurt my back, and have now been dealing with muscle spasms and left hip pain on top of the "usual" pain I've grown accustomed to living with.   

Most people would never know that I'm dealing with it on a daily basis.  You know those life-sucking vultures who latch onto every ear they can find and whine about every ache and pain?  Or the giant babies who become incapacitated by a mere headache?

Well, I can't stand them, and I have no desire to join their ranks.  There are a lot of people out there suffering quietly and doing their best to cope, rather than exploiting their ailments for attention and sympathy.  By no means is either category of person braver, more valiant, or superior to the other....I just don't see the point in complaining.  

But this post isn't about those people, and it isn't really about my problem, either.  It's about figuring out how to hold onto some tiny shred of hope when you're in the trenches with it.  

When there's nothing there but you and the pain.  When you can't escape it, because it IS you.  

When you've tried it all, and exhausted the treatment options, and still it remains...what's next?  

When every step forward is followed by two steps back, where do you look for hope?  

When you're the one you can't fix...what then?



I've had my moments here lately.  Moments when I just can't see it.  Moments when I just want to give up, regress into the emotional fetal position, and dissolve into self-pity and helplessness.

Waking up in the middle of the night in pain and bawling for an hour straight.

Crying at my physical therapist's office.  

It wasn't so much that one setback after weeks of gradual improvement; it was one more setback.  One more setback on top of the hundred others.  The ups, the downs, the times when you think you're finally on your way to getting better, only to wind up back where you started.  It gets that much harder each and every time you have to drag yourself back up to fight another fight.  

I should be a fucking professional at this by now.  After all the days and weeks and years where I thought about killing myself every single blessed day, I should have the answer to pain.  

But as my friend Therese at The Unlost reminds us, 


"All of life, it seems,
is a process:
A process of un-learning and re-learning,
forgetting and remembering,
slumbering and waking up,
again,
and again,
and again."
So I'm trying my best to remember how to keep getting up out of bed, and keep looking for ways to cope, and keep not giving up.  Because I don't get a choice.  No one asked me if I wanted this pain.  It just is.  And I have to work with it, and breathe with it, and lie with it, and if it never gets better, maybe even die with it.  

Since I can't escape from it, shouldn't I have stopped trying to by now?

Whether the pain you're dealing with is physical or emotional, there is really only one thing to do: sit with it.


"And so you sit with that feeling; you let it in.  As much as you can bear it, you let it be.  For a moment it encompasses you like you feared it would...but still you let it stay, even when every fiber of your being wants  to run like hell...
And although the feeling is still there, it becomes smaller, less encompassing, less real.  And you start to realize that it's not so life-ending, after all."
-Therese, The Unlost


10 comments:

  1. Oh good found the comment box.

    Hi Bri! Thanks for sharing this post and so sorry to hear about your pain, suffering these past few weeks.

    You think we should have the answer to pain? Or like Therese mentions, simply learn to embrace pain and make it less real in our lives?

    Also, emotional pain tends to be a teacher. Do you think physical pain is the same way? Could it come to reveal, clarify something going on in other parts of our lives? I don't know but that's more than likely how I would treat physical pain. Which by itself doesn't reduce the amount of pain you physically feel but may help you rationalize or tolerate or give some perspective on the pain.

    Oh, and the two steps back - I can't leave the comment without talking about that. I've noticed large steps backwards usually come before large leaps forward. :) ??

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    1. I don't know if we SHOULD have the answer, but I do know that I would LIKE to;)

      Embracing pain is a leap for me. I aim for acceptance. Accepting that it cannot be other than it is right now. The more we attempt to run away, escape from, stuff down, and wish away pain, the more it consumes us.

      I think a lot of times pain signifies that something about the way we are living our lives needs to change. And on a larger scale, that something about the way our *culture* moves through life desperately needs to change. The book "Undoing perpetual stress : the missing connection between depression, anxiety, and 21st century illness" speaks to this well.

      Thanks Vishnu, and thank you stupid comment box for choosing to appear. ;)

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  2. I think physical pain is one of the hardest things to relate to, because we just can't imagine ourselves experiencing it the way we can emotional pain. When my parents last visited, I feel really bad that we forced them to come with us to stay in another town a few nights, because my mom was sick...Lucio said that she would feel better if she left the house. Then when I got sick a few weeks later I realized just what a horrible thing it was that we'd done making her go, because I finally related to her pain.

    So I'm just saying that even though I can't relate exactly, I know it's bad and I hope you find some relief soon. You probably don't have a community acupuncture clinic out there...I really miss the one I went to in CA. Needling only the arms, legs, and face, and it relieved my pain better than anything--seriously. But only affordable if a community set-up.

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    1. That's an interesting point; it's harder to imagine the physical aspect unless you've felt/are feeling it yourself, because on the outside the person looks fine.

      I appreciate the kind thoughts:)

      2 times I did try acupuncture but the muscles are so unbalanced and tense in that area that I really couldn't notice a difference.

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  3. I just found your blog and I am amazed by you. Your writing is so clear and so personal. I can't quite think of the right thing to say now, but I'm so blown away that I had to say something.

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    1. Thank you! It means a lot that you took the time to stop by and comment. I hope you will again:)

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    2. Just imagine if others actually started finding your blog, insight and sharp writing! You're the best kept secret on the blogoshphere. haha (no joke actually - I'm just laughing:) about the truth of that statement!!

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    3. Eventually I will be forced to actually market this blog, if only to get you off my back! I am just laughing...about the truth of THAT statement! Love you Vishnu.

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  4. Thanks for sharing.
    I've been struggling with chronic fatigue since I was 14 but was able to cope just fine. Then, when I was 19 I got super sick and full of pain and brain fog and fatigue and they diagnosed me with fibromyalgia. Now I've been tested to have mercury poisoning. It's been 4 years now & I feel a lot like you...like I should have learned more by now. I often don't want the next day to come.
    I have no idea what to do other than put my hope in the fact that the sun rises and life often changes for the better. This pain is so hard and so is the depression and constant feeling that I'm using far less of my brain than is in there.
    I'm also sort of sick of everyone having an answer and then I try it and it doesn't work and I feel even worse about myself. So, I'm starting to try to stop. Stop doing it other people's way and listen to myself and what I feel is best for me. Who knows- it might do something.

    Hoping for your recovery and for peace while you're in the midst of it all.

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    1. It IS frustrating when everybody thinks they have the answers, but none of them are the ones dealing with it day by day.

      Who could know what you feel, or what you need, better than you? It's hard to trust yourself more than all the other voices, but I think internally we feel some obligation to others to try to feel better for them...ironically, that seems to stand in the way of actually GETTING better.

      Sometimes I try to break it down. If I can take steps to feel 1% better next week, and 2% better the week after that, I will get there eventually. But if I keep hoping the pain will miraculously vanish, I only ensure continued despair. It's a lesson in patience and perseverance.

      I honestly didn't even know they diagnosed fibromyalgia that young. Wishing you some relief soon, and a little bit more hope to get you through the meantime.
      -bri

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