Saturday, February 09, 2008

The funny thing about Pain..... (Let's talk trauma!)

Pain, no it is not a laugh fest topic really unless you are the one person in the world who HASN’T hit your little toe on something. Okay, then this is a topic I hope everyone can relate to. Yes, people with neurological and chronic conditions deal with pain a lot. But so do people with cancer, with back problems, with arthritis, with depression (yup, depression can really ache, right down to the bones), fallen arches, shin splints or at least one horrific accident story that you pull out to tell at parties to see the faces of people get squeamish.

It is odd how while we are so connected by pain, it can still be so individual and a simple question of “Where does it hurt?” followed by “And how exactly?” can leave me frustratingly searching for appropriate metaphors. “How does it hurt? Okay, imagine your spleen is on a road, and a drunk guy is driving a pavement masher, and he keeps backing over it every few seconds.”

Migraines. They suck. I have the secret solution to migraines and I’m not going to tell you. Know why? Because everyone else already has and like any person desperate in pain, if something could work, you would have already tried it. So not going to tell you to sit in darkness or pinch the bridge of your nose or masturbate (though found to minimize migraine pain in 30% of women) because you’ve tried it. Just like I know that Brewers Yeast or Green Tea isn’t going to make me able bodied again. My personal metaphor for a migraine (I’d be interested in yours): Someone using an ice cream scoop to try and remove part of my brain from behind my right eye…..a blunt ice cream scoop.

I know that pain is supposed to be part of the body's system of telling us that something is wrong. Fine. But why does it have to hang around like the college “friend” you actually disliked who ate all the food at parties and when everyone else was gone and you and significant other were thinking either snogging or sleeping would say, “Hey, who wants to order pizza!” I mean, okay, maybe I overdid it at boxing the other night, might have been a good time to send me a message then. What use it is at 4 a.m. two nights lights later to be in so much pain that with Linda just touching me causes me to scream? Who is that helping? Me? Linda? No. Though our “kinky sex” rep probably went up a few notches with our neighbors.

Seriously, who hasn’t had this experience: You fall, twist, rip, feel tearing somewhere. Get to doctors. Doctor says you have sprained, torn, whatever this part of you and it is going to HURT FOR A WHILE. Yeah, like that is a surprise. Actually, I have a bigger complaint, which is like the boxing issue, the whole, “No message at all to sudden or progressive incapacitation” pain. For instance at 19 I spent the day with friends doing all these water rides in California, you know those huge water slides which keep your hands occupied keeping parts of your bathing suit attached to you. And then there was inter-tube mazes and slides. I had all sorts of fun with friends. The next morning, I not only was in agony, so much of my back had locked up, I couldn’t stand up straight, I could just lean over staring at the floor...and feet. “Hello? Pain? Where was that head’s up?”

Pain is like, “Sorry, I was so amused seeing your body do the corkscrew slide knowing that would lock up at least three vertebrae, I must have forget to send you a memo.”

These days, with completely 'non-related to anything I might have done' pain, you know how now that I have a “condition”. A "condition" means I just get extreme pain for no apparent reason at all. And I learn about how it fatigues you, and leaves you in a brain fog so bad that telling time become challenging. Those times when you are trying to sleep or in so much pain you can’t concentrate on anything (not even US TV) and all you get are the waves of pain coming over you. One of the trips about having a “condition” which affects all the (normally) invisible bits of you is being in late night pain, accepting that you may NEVER sleep again, and that you likely will go insane (if you aren’t already) and the sad reality that there isn’t going to be a baby to show everyone at the end of this. Nor will you ever get one of those classes to teach you to “breath out the pain.”

It is odd sometimes how just that extra bit of pain one day is enough to have a mental temper tantrum which has mental stomping, meltdown and “It isn’t fair” and “I want some TLC…and a cookie….and ice cream!” I mean, I have been in muscle pain since thirteen, but once the back pain kicked in, it was, “Oh what, more?” and then I managed to adjust but sometimes something little like, athletes foot would turn me into the biggest pouter on the planet. Linda would be stuck with me staring out in space and throwing shoes on the floor for attention with the big lower lip saying, “Not fair….just not fair.” Hey, that’s pain for you.

Pain can regress us, distress us, drive us to distraction and is frustratingly individual. A friend can tell me they have a migraine or terrible cramps and I am like “I’m so sorry” but I don’t really FEEL the intensity they do. Odd that about pain, like a spy, it erases all but the vaguest memories. But when I have cramps or a migraine, AHHHHH, then I’M the one looking for some sympathy loving and I can tell that these people, these callous people don’t REALLY get it! (Forgetting that I was one of them but days/hours ago)

I do have to say that most people’s pain is far more terrifying than my own. I mean, the guy you know who says, “Oh yeah, my arm/shoulder/elbow goes out of joint all the time, sure there is a blinding flash of pain SNAPPING it back in, but you get used to it.” I have turned slightly green listening to this. Labour especially scares the crap out of me. I mean, all those films with women screaming their lungs out can’t REALLY count as a “miracle of birth.” They seem to scream for some reason (like intense pain), and having a few pregnant friends gets you the stories as women just walk up going, “First pregnancy dear? I could tell, oh, my first, he was 47 hours and I had bitten through my tongue at hour 22…still talk with a bit of a lisp.” Seriously, you want to hear HORRIFIC birthing stories, just hang out with a young pregnant girlfriend and these women with the most nightmarish stories will simply appear, “….they were putting blood in me, six pints I think it was, so much blood coming out the doctor slipped and fell two times….”

I have to say that as bad as it is now, thankfully even the worst memories of my own pain tend to fade pretty quickly. I’ll be tracing “KILL ME” in the foam, frothing out the side of my mouth at 3 a.m. and then 12 or 18 hours later be, “Uh, okay, I could go for pancakes.”

These last few days have been ones of pretty intense pain for me (and a few friends I know – I’m still thinking about you, so hope the tide turns soon). So I was, “What do I blog about when I have had a hard time focusing my eyes for a day and a bit?” My solution: “Why not write about pain, I think everyone knows what that is like.”

But I don’t want to just talk about my pain, come on, give me the gory stories, the pain of your life (no name of ex’s please). Tell me what coarse embrace you fear? The locking of your back? That clicking in your knee before things fall apart? Or just how gravity on this planet seems to be increasing, particularly on your muscles and joints? My nightcare worker has seen just about everything, so at 5:50 am on Thurs night/Friday morn she came in to find me not only locked in hands, elbows, shoulders, legs but also I was going exorcist girl on her, and virtually inverting my entire body. “What are you doing?” she asked after giving me muscle relaxants and pain killers.”

“Turning myself inside out.” I panted out.

“Why?” Did I mention nothing phases her.

“Ask my BODY, AHHHH, my kidney!” I hissed out. Like I somehow planned to be in such pain that I was going to try and pull an Alien ripping out my stomach right there.

She flipped me about and massaged my lower and upper kidney and worked down the muscles until I lay there looking more human and less like “Attack of the Crab Woman.” And even though I never thought it would happen, I finally slept.

See, that little story probably freaked you out while me, that was a couple nights ago and I survived so now I am like, “Hmmmmmm, that might have looked pretty cool, she should have taken a picture.” While your story about pulling out a two inch splinter with a pair of pliers through the pool of pus will have me gagging while I read between splayed fingers, turning away to say, “Oh God, unbelievable. I’m not sure if I am more disturbed how gross that was, how painful it was or how she continued working for another six hours.” Pain is a bitch, eh?


Perpetual Beginner said...

The pain in my migraines is intermittent,though other feelings persist in between attacks of blinding pain. I liken it to being followed around by a large man with a pointy-headed war hammer. Every once in a while, he leaps up and slams me in the left temple, the rest of the time he's just following me around, and I've got a crawling, cringing sensation to remind me that he is.

I don't inflict my birth horror-story on poor, innocent first-timers. At the time it was at least as much annoying as painful (protracted doesn't begin to describe it). Brain surgery stories are what squick me out - but that's possibly because my odds of having such are significantly higher than that of the random person on the street. Plus a little too much knowledge of all the things that can go wrong.

Katrin said...

Metaphore for migraines?

Ice pick in the skull, the rest of it in a vice, while someone hits me with a cement block in the head repetedly.

The other one is I use is: the time I dropped the 300# A-frame on my foot, hurt LESS! And I would purpsefully do it again if it would make the migraine go away!

I don't really have any gory stories, sorry. Just a few fun break ups of dog fights the then turned in the attacking dog deciding that *I* needed to die, NOW, and turning their 80+# of very angry dog at me. Except at those times aderenaline is so high that I don't even feel the pain, there is blood everywhere and people aghast, and I say "What? It's over, it's done with, lets get back to work" and they're all like, "Um, blood? Shouldn't you get stitches? Or report this? Or something?" Oh why bother, they say you shouldn't stictch dog bites anyway, too risky for infection.

And I agree photos would have been interesting.

FridaWrites said...

Pain associated with anything invasive is what I dread, especially anything invasive that could go absolutely wrong if I move, which I tend to do, when in pain. Just hiss, "don't move," and I'm off the table already. Anything with the spine, eyes, privates, worst fear.

Childbirth pain, though it can leave me shrieking right at the end, is nothing compared to say, someone having to go in after placental fragments or being sutured when the medicine won't take.

I can handle a fair amount of pain. My internist said he'd be crying if he came in with what I have before, but I don't want to be touched when I'm in pain, especially with equipment or anything metal or sharp. I have no basic needle phobia, though--I can handle allergy shots and can watch my blood splash into tubes with curiosity.

I'd also rather not deal with injections into the spine again, which woke me up during anesthesia with the worst pain I've ever had, called upon all the archangels in heaven whether or not they exist, then started shaking all over while the doctor said, "good grief," then I passed out again as the lidocaine took effect. They must have hit a nerve.

But it is odd that I can't recall pain exactly as it existed at the time--it's softened around the edges, a blessing of memory, though I know from what I said and from my body reactions that it's been severe.

I'm so used to a certain level of pain that I can get myself into bad situations before I realize it. I have found some of the childbirth techniques I learned to be helpful--not Lamaze hyperventilating or anything like that, but a more eclectic method, where you observe the pain rather than pull into it, or divert your attention to what's going on in your surroundings. Let's take a medical procedure as an example ("oh, each time she tugs the catheter a 1/10 of the way out the pain feels really sharp," or noticing each extra drip of water in and the blessed space where extra water is not going in, or observing the noise of the machine, looking at each item on the counter, etc.).

But childbirth's easier so long as it's not back labor, because until transition, you get a break between contractions.

yanub said...

A lot of pain that I feel I feel as nausea rather than pain. Labor pains, menstrual pains, my hips coming out of place--all nausea. I have felt nausea in my feet, my hands, my arms, just about everywhere. During migraines, it is the worst part of the experience. I hate nausea.

I also think it doesn't do any good to think about pain when you are in pain, which why we are so bad at describing it. We distance ourselves from it, become inured to it, try to think of anything else. If I have a migraine, I won't feel better for thinking of someone else's pain, or even a worse pain that I might have had. Thinking about that will only intensify my pain, even if, objectively, I know that the worst pain I ever had was consequent to having a basal cell carcinoma removed from the tip of my nose. Turns out, noses are as big as houses, with pain to match. This does not make migraines any more fun, though.

cheryl g. said...

Pain… there are only a handful of people I work with who get the concept of chronic pain. They just can’t seem to wrap their brains around the idea that I always have pain and the only variation is in the intensity. I think it’s a blessing that the memories of the physical pain do fade.

So you want stories? The worst one and the memory that hasn’t faded is from when I was run over by a tractor and ended up with a badly broken ankle. The being run over hurts a lot less than one would think. Anyway, I was in traction for a month. The first night after getting out of traction and getting home I woke up and needed to pee. Not really being awake I rolled out of bed and tried to stand. I still remember the shock of blinding pain and just dropping to the floor.

The most recent was in December when I was pet sitting for a friend. I bent over to pick up her chubby cat and there went the back. It didn’t help that the cat weighs 17 pounds. Actually, what I really hate is when the muscles go into spasm, tie themselves in a knot and won’t release.

As a kid I had to have braces which also meant having a series of teeth pulled. We had a very old fashioned dentist who would start pulling teeth before the novocaine would begin working. The pain memories are gone but I can’t shake the memory of the sound – like branches being broken – shudder. That’s what brought on my dentist phobia.

Well that’s enough, even though I have lots of stories. It’s time to watch Women’s curling. What can I say… I love a sport where women are constantly screaming, “Harder, harder!”

lilwatchergirl said...

Interesting stuff. And, because you got to ask me, I get to ask you: What does your pain FEEL like? You're great at telling us the stories around it, and at the metaphors, but describe the *pain* to me. Do you have different 'categories' like I do, for example?

Me and migraines are weird. The worst thing about mine is the nausea, but I think that comes when my brain won't process any more of the blinding headache. I have to say, the pain associated with my migraines isn't the worst thing in the world. (The nausea may be.) It's interesting how differently everyone experiences pain. And your points about how quickly it's forgotten are good ones.

Oh, and thanks for the migraine/masturbation tip. I actually hadn't heard that one before. I'll be trying it...

Anonymous said...

Childbirth? Easy peasy, you get this huge amount of endorphines that last you another couple of days. Seriously, I can do childbirth no problem, but I have short fast intense labors, 2:20 for my daughter last year and about 5 hours for my Son 7 years ago, so really, it's not that bad. Also, during childbirth you _know_ it will end as soon as the baby's out. But with a migraine you might be in pain indefinitely...
Worst pain? Hemorrhoids. Hands down worse than anything. with a migraine you can lay down in a dark room and feel sick and in pain, but with hemorrhoids you can not lay down, you can not stand you can not walk. At least not with the killer hemorrhoids from hell I had while pregnant with my daughter. Seriously, I went to my midwife (she worked at the hospital) and I told her I'd rather be in labor because at least I'd know it will end eventually.
Also: when your butt's hurting that bad for two days straight you don't even want to eat because you know everything that goes in wants to exit your body at some point and that thought is just terrifying.

Ok, was that enough? ;-) Ah, one more image for you: you know fairy rings? You know, the mushroom circles? Yeah, like that, only not mushrooms. And bigger. And much more painful.

Dawn Allenbach said...

If I eat ramen noodles (which I haven't for years because the pain isn't worth it), the five gazillion milligrams of sodium cause my blood pressure to do a space shuttle launch, with my head ultimately feeling like it's trying to be like the shuttle Challenger. Different metaphor -- my head is a vigrously shaken can of soda, and I'm begging someone to pull the tab.

VK said...

Worst pain is currently a toss-up between the point in depression when your head is screaming so much just having someone else touch you makes you want to stab them with a knife, and the first two periods I had after the IUD was put it. Felt like someone grabbing my insides and twisting tighter and tighter for three days. I couldn't stand up, and I couldn't lie straight without paracetamol and a hot water bottle and massages my abdomen.
Nothing like being a girl :)

Currently I am having a very good day! I've just moved into a new apartment after my previous housemate sexually harrassed me for four months. :D

ArrogantWorm said...

Gory? Oh, have I got stories for *you*. There was the time I was chopping firewood next to the woodstove with a relatively small handheld ax, slipped with it (in retrospect, it was both the wood's fault and mine) and hit my hand (I still have my thumb, missed by a margin, ended up in my palm, lengthwise, instead) What was worse was that the roomies heard the single, quite low and quiet might I add, expletive and came out to investigate since they didn't believe my claim of 'nothing!', then attempted to doctor it up since we were in the boonies and I couldn't get a ride for two and a half days. That and I was leery about going, sort of hoping it would heal on its own, couldn't afford a visit. I still have the bill, actually. No painkillers at the time, either, although someone staying with us(I misremember who) was kind enough to give me what was left of his pot, which unfortunately was mostly seeds. For some reason I'm accident prone. Every two or three years I have a nasty accident. This year I managed to flip over my bike n'landed all my weight on my chin so it split open, although I didn't go to the hospital for it,(dislike the hospital, did I mention that?). Pretty sure I also had whiplash, too, considering how I landed and the way I was sore. Neck and shoulders practically killed me, not to mention general soreness. But then m'chin scarred which is kind of depressing, there's enough scars on my face already, thank you Murphy's Law. Used to accidents by now since I've had 'em all my life (though normally smaller, like hitting trees or tripping) but the reactions of others have been louder than needed. It's already happened, so I don't see the reason for the hullaballoo. Worst pain is a tossup between depression, menstrual cycle or that time I scratched my eye. No, wait, there's vision-headaches, when my eyes insist they don't want to work and things're blurry, won't focus along with the pulsing pain of the headache. Totally nixes the option of trying to distract myself from it if I can't read anything and the headache doesn't like sound. It just, I dunno, pulses is the best description I can come up with.

Marla said...

Excellent point! Why on earth does our body think we need to be reminded endlessly, relentlessly??!!! It makes no fricking sense! Or what about migraines...what is the body telling us when it gives someone migraines? Ugh.

Now I know why M presses her finger against her nose during her episodes. It must help in some way.?

Spitting said...

My migraines are like someone has my head in a vice and is squeezing so hard I am about to vomit my own brains.

But I have ths watch - the band is one of those metal ones which stretches like a concertina. Catch a pubic hair in that and you will know pain.

Lisa Harney said...

Your story was actually nice - she was able to help you when you needed it. Mind you, my squeamishness starts with touching dead people.

My grossest story: When I was in the first grade, some twit stabbed me in the knee with a pencil - and back in those days, pencil lead was not quite so safe as it is now. I ended up getting a nasty infection that needed a lancing.

So here I am, 6 years old, and my mother takes me to see the family doctor. She does not tell me that he's going to apply some kind of electrical carving knife to my knee to get the pus out.

I remember these three things:

* Surprise, because no one told me.

* Nothing to dull the pain

* Blood flowing down my leg in sheets.

I remember that the pain was terrifying and awful, and that I screamed like I was being tortured because, you know, I was.

Sort of a side story to that: While my leg was infected and I could walk at about 1/5th normal walking speed and climb nothing but stairs, and those carefully, the mean old neighbor lady told my mother that I'd climbed her apple tree and threw apples into the yard, ruining them. Apparently, at 6, I was a supercrip.

Also, strangely, I developed a lipoma over the spot the doctor lanced, but it appeared when I was in my mid-20s. I don't know if there's a relation.

Perpetual Beginner said...

Actual worst pain ever would be the doctor dealing with the post-partum hemorrhage after the C-section with my second child. Actually bleeding to death was quite peaceful, I was feeling all warm and fuzzy. Up until the nurse and doctor charge in and the nurse sticks both hands on top of my fresh (less than 2 hours old) cesearean incision and starts jumping up and down, applying her full body-weight, while the OB sticks his entire hand up into my uterus to do something approximating a manual D&C on the spot - no time for pain-killers.

If given a choice between going through those five-to-ten minutes again, or the two day, over-stimulated, went hideously wrong, labor of my first pregnancy, I'd take the two day stint in hell, thank you. Non-anesthetized surgery with blunt instruments was indescribable.

Neil said...

My usual pain? Migraines, and abdominal migraines. I will NOT describe them, other than to say my wife is an absolute saint to look out for me when I'm enjoying an abdominal migraine. The pain is in the stomach muscles from the forceful vomiting.

THe regular migraines you all seem to know about. I did read on a first aid list that EVERY headache is a migraine until proven otherwise. That was one specialist's opinion, though.

Worst pain? A kidney biopsy. I won't describe that, 'cause I already did, and squicked Beth out.

Child-birth. Um, I'm male, but my wife brought the second son forth so fast that there wasn't time for anesthetic, and for the third son, she was offered, and refused, nitrous oxide on demand. The mask was a pain while she was dealing with labour pains, so she threw it aside, bore down and got it over with.

em said...

The worst pain I have ever experienced was when my daughter broke her leg. She went into shock and we put her into my car and I drove her to the emergency room and we sat there forever and then when they took xrays she was in terrible pain and well, there was nothing I could do. Except that I was in denial until we got the xrays and after that I pitched a serious fit which made it clear to everyone that she would be getting pain killers and they would kick in before anyone else touched her. So I did that. But really, it was the worst.

Labor? Yeah it hurt. But I had brainwashed myself with the idea that the pain was normal to that situation and so I didn't need to resist it. I think that helped a lot.

Except for that terrible moment when the first baby's head is forcing it's way through your labia. The tender, tender labia. Yeah, that part was bad.

Lene Andersen said...

I don't have a "worst", I have a list of candidates for worst. The time I got in a fight with my toilet and received a hairline fracture in my knee. No pain initially, just the sound of a crack and then I came thisclose to fainting. The weird painless pain I get when my shoulders are messed up in a certain way - happens in my stomach and the nausea is hideous. That time some idiot neuro resident attempted to give me a spinal tap, but because my spine is deformed from arthritis, couldn't find a hole, so kept stbbing away. I still hurt from that when the weather changes. Three weeks ago when it felt like someone had shot me in the elbow.

But yeah... I don't remember the pain. I know intellectually I was in pain, but thankgodfully, the actual sensation doesn't stay with me.

You develop filters that keep the pain from hitting at full volume. The one you describe from the water park, I call that the Fun Filter. Keeps you from noticing the pain while you're having a good time, thus hopelessly overdoing and the minute fun is over? BIG crash!

Elizabeth McClung said...

Wow, turns out pain IS a kind of common human experience (and that people like sharing icky stories).

Perpetual Beginner: It is interesting how, like the cold, migraines are so well documented, brain mapped, and yet, still (insert naughty word) exist! Why!

I am curious why you have such a particular issue with brain surgery stories? Are you regularly in operating theatres with brain surgeries? Oh, yes, true, I had knee surgeries that went a bit squish, and due to a part where I knee gets ICK in the film Seabiscut, I can't even think about the film without flinching.

Katrin: All I can say is, you REALLY like dogs, because while I often ignore injuries in sports, I tend not to have blood spurting off of me at the time.

Frida: I am with you on the invasive and the moving (Did I mention I have invasive body phobia, so even if I can't feel it, an IV sends me loony). That's also why I don't get laser done on my eyes, because you have to have them open - no thanks.

"someone having to go in after placental fragments" - O...kay, that was a "shudder" moment for me, yeah, now I am afraid of labour AND other parts of childbirth!

"I'd also rather not deal with injections into the spine again" - another classic droll statement - yeah, me too, those spinal injection are just, not on. Quite frankly I have been waiting for the Neuro people to demand a spinal tap and try to get them to understand, "Beth no under sedation, you no get spinal tap". Well, I have a cathater story which I really don't want to relate because I feel my legs clenching together but it has to do with what happens when a nurse STRETCHES a cathater line before taping it and then sends in the physiotherapist.

Yanub: That is interesting and interesting that you note this - Linda has this and I do for some types of pain, where I will tell Linda, "I have nausea, but I think it means I am actually in pain from ...." Actually, the thought of your "hips coming out of place" gave me nausea, but I don't think it is pain related (or at least not MY pain). Wow, I thought pinkies and little toes had tonnes of nerves but tips of noses too?

Cheryl: When you aren't in pain, it is hard to remember that OTHER people might be, but still as frustrating as hell. Yeah, that, let's use the muscle, oh, no, let's scream and roll around instead moment. Of course "run over by a tractor" is definately up there in horrid stories. Knew a man in Brandon who got run over, like Fully, broken ribs, through the skin and all, dragged himself off the field with his arms and into the house to call 911. Survived and some months (many months) later was back farming again. Still, having dragged myself places, in pain, I cannot imagine that particular journey, I know that it was that or die but still, until you have dragged yourself in pain 20 feet or so, realizing how a guy could go over a 100 yards and into a house leaving a blood trail. Shudder

The cat story seems some horrid way cats sometimes get revenge. Sorry, I hit the word dentist and horror pain story and stopped reading....I have to go in later this month.

Lilwatchergirl: Oh gosh, me on the spot now.

First is muscle pain, this is almost constant since teenage years. Just aching, it is to the point I almost don't notice it.

Spine: I have sections of my back which lock up, once they lock it is 2.5 days before they unlock, three or four are between my shoulder blades. It is like an ice pick as been driven into your bones. You can take it for some time but eventually the pain makes you desperate, but until the muscles relax enough, nothing will move them.

Migraines: Inherited. Already described, but with nausea as well. Often I have a hard time hearing people, or the room will spin as well, because there is just SO MUCH pain coming in I have a hard time focusing on the other sensations.

Post Jan 07 - developed pain:

spasms and tennitus together, muscle pain combined with chest cavity pain and lung pain. This occurs every night. On good nights, I simply cry, it is not a big thing, once I reach a certain pain level, I start crying (it often happens when I am wheeling up a hill and ripping the muscles on my arms, and along my ribs). On bad nights, which are several times a week, the pain is such that I hallucinate, I go insane, literally because I cannot be sane and take that much pain. I have had a few particularly bad nights, a few nights ago after an hour and maxing out all the possible pain meds and borderlining liver damage all I kept thinking was "Don't scream" because I knew that if I screamed, I would simply scream and scream and scream and never stop screaming until the EMT's came and put me out. And I didn't want to go to hospital, I wanted to sleep, and I didn't know if that was possible. There were just waves and waves of pain so intense that you let everything else go and focus on the one thing. I have had, with my condition much MORE intense pain coming in from all parts of my body than that, just not so long and continious.

Abdominal Pain: when my autonomic system fails, the first thing to go are the bowels, which will use intense cramps to try and empty whether they have liquids to do it or whether you are impacted or not. I mean the cramps, they do come in waves, but when they hit, you can't really help screaming (and it isn't like you wouldn't try to HELP them get everything out of your intestines). I have simply jabbed impliments, anything I can get my hands on into my legs or anywhere to try and get pain coming from somewhere else to distract me - this usually goes on for three hours, usually at least once a week.

Chest cavity pain, heart pain. This is intense, unique and I don't know how to discribe it. Perhaps I can say that almost paralyzed and without vision except in part of one eye I still managed to claw enough skin off my chest bone to make it bleed; I was trying to get down to the bone, break it and hopefully release the pain inside my chest or die.

Um, there is a bunch more but I think that is plenty for now. Right?

Elizabeth McClung said...

Anon: Hmmm, all the "childbirth" easy stories usually have a "But of course when they......ringer after them - I mean look at most of the stories on here. I have heard that about hemorroids. I think any pain in which there is no relief is the worst, because you think that you will go insane, come of out insane a few days later and STILL be in pain. As for the eating and coming out see abdominal pains above - with bad weeks or recovering from something which upsets autonomic system, like a surgery, this will happen every day, so yeah, rather not eat for 15 minutes if it ends with hours of pain. So, does Prep H work?

VK: Depression pain - yes! I mean - NO! I just mean I can related to the depression pain and how even sound is like sandpaper on you and it feels like there is cancer or some parasites eating you inside (at least for me). IUD - OW! Your description sounds like my UTI's, which go from Zero to max in about 3 hours - Seriously, told my GP that I was not sure I could make it the .4 miles to the clinic, both in pain and peeing myself. Nothing like staggering down the street clutching a hot water bottle while half bent over. Front nurse goes, "Did you bring the urine sample" and I, wide eyed in shock and pain went, "Yes, but it is still inside!"

Congrats on the new apartment and from getting away from creepy, harassing roommate. A new a happy living apartment!

ArrogantWorm: Actually with all of your accidents and your "logic" of "maybe an axe into my hand will "heal on its own" I had you pegged as a guy until we got to the menstrual cycle. I think a doctor told me almost everyone has a scar on or under their chin, because that is the most common childhood injury site - you just waited until later. I also like your toss off lines which are unexplicable, like how you "hit trees" - most trees aren't that aggressive, and I feel there is more to this story.

I am with you on the scratched eye - did that once, and no more thanks also the migraine AND blurry vision because as you say, what do you do when all noise is painful, all touch is painful, and you can't really see?

Marla: These questions are my list for God under: If the body is such a great miracle (Which it is), why don't you admit this was a beta version - like why does laughing hard make us pee?

Actually, certain points in the body can block some of the nerves, like pinching your thumbs will block a certain number of spinal channels and thus, block a certain amount of pain in another area. It is possible to do this with other parts of your body too, maybe she finds that the nerves at the tip of the nose are helping dull a bit the rest of the pain coming in by blocking them?

Spitting: "I am about to vomit my own brains." - good description.

Well for someone who gets a lot of waxing done, I am familiar with the concept, I just try not to pull the hairs out SLOWLY.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Lisa: Yeah, that's why I like this worker, she feels (this will seem odd) that she gets paid to help me, and that unless I can sleep, she can't sleep so she works toward that end. Which is why she is my only nightworker after I tried three others - she had what it takes.

Electric Carving Knife - what kind of doctor was this - I love how you are injuried and now the nasty woman next door starts blaming your for stuff. My grossest second hand story, tables being set up, guy in class has finger totally smashed and blood welling up under nail which was by all accounts, super painful. Teacher takes a thin paperclip, heats it at end of lighter or burner and pushes heated metal THROUGH the nail, releasing stream of blood. To this day, not sure if teacher was hero or psycho.

Perpetual Beginner: I knew it, I knew there were more birth horror stories to come - see, all I have to mention is "pregnancy" and "labour" and they start coming. The nurse and "Doctor Hand" story (what else can I call him after THAT image) - OMG! Yeah, I think bleeding out would sound nicer. Yeah, that describes something that is usually done in back of cabs with sewing kits isn't it? Is this the NHS? What I don't get it, this was a C-section, in Britian they were complaining because around 50% of women were opting FOR c-sections to avoid the pain of childbirth, while you just said c-section was MORE painful than, did they screw up the incision? You had a partially detached placenta and were bleeding out?

Neil: Abdominal Migraines? Wow, once you thought things couldn't get more horrific.

Yes, thank you, no more details on that biopsy please, feeling queasy thinking about it now.

As for the childbirth stories, your wife scares me. The whole, "Don't need no damn drugs, lets get this DONE!" picture you paint makes me think in your family, no one (like the kids) wants to see mom get ANGRY.

Em: Excellent point, the pain of seeing the one you love in such a state. I always have my nightworker on what I know will be my worst nights because I tell her, "There are some things that your loved one should never have to see." - which means that the nightcare person and I fight the pain together so that Linda (who took a pill and is zonked a couple hours before), can be there for the other times, can bear THAT pain, but not ALL the pain. (I hope I am understanding the pain you are talking about the correct way)

"Except for that terrible moment when the first baby's head is forcing it's way through your labia. The tender, tender labia." - (Sucks in big breath) oh great, now I know what I am going to sleep and having a nightmare about!

yanub said...

I think the thing about the nose is that I completely didn't expect it and had not taken seriously the surgeon's warnings about how incapacitated I would be. I mean, at that point in my life, I was regularly dislocating a knee, and just reducing it immediately and going on. I've had dental work finished after the novocaine had worn off. Why would I think a little snip on my nose would be worse? Ha ha, silly me. I actually hadn't bothered to get the pain med prescription filled on the way out of surgery, because how bad could it be?

I'm somewhat relieved to know that I'm not alone in feeling nausea instead of pain. I didn't know anyone else felt it that way.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Lene: Okay, that spinal tap story made me have to look away from the screen. IT is odd how the things which will often hurt A LOT later, just make a funny noise. Like when I fell down a cliff and a rock as I feel down opened my leg to the bone. And I just looked at it and thought, "Gee, shouldn't that hurt more." And then (as it was dusk and couldn't leave till morn) spent time playing poker and the other people were like, "Shouldn't you be screaming and stuff?" I was, "I'm keeping myself distracted." but I was thinking, "How should I know, you think I rip open my leg every day." Don't worry, plenty of pain and screaming later.

You reminded me of another filter, which is "Just a little longer" which I use when I need to reach deadline, I can be in massive pain and nausea but somehow, I keep it just off of me, surrounding me but not fully invading me until I finally post off on deadline try to lean back and as it all hits with a WHAM go "OMG! AHHHHHHH! HURTS!!!!!" And then Linda goes, "I TOLD you, that you neeed to stop X hours ago." Thanks for posting Lene - you really need to find that shooter who is hiding in your building, he seems to keep taking pot shots at you.

Lisa Harney said...

The doctor was a fairly okay family doctor until he let a cousin die because he decided when she said she was experiencing the worst headache of her life that what she was really saying was "I want to get high on pain pills." She didn't die immediately - she had the headaches for a few months before she had a brain aneurysm.

Have I mentioned before my hatred of doctors' tendency to deny pain medication for judgemental reasons?

Katrin said...

That 'just a little longer' filter works well for a lot of things.

Then there is also "well this isn't that bad, after a few hours/days/weeks/months, I could get use to this" and your body goes wham, and says "oh you were ok with that? Sorry, I wasn't" and you go back to 'just a little longer'

With the dog thing and blood, like I say, I literally do not feel it. Adrenalien plus bad, bad circulation does that to you. Most times I have no clue that I'm bleeding anywhere until I look down and go "Oh, how did that happen?" or "Hmm, how long has that been going on?"

And actually, I find that when I am in pain due to a reason that I know I can handle it much better, like a concussion caused by me running into a door frame, or blood everywhere from a dog bite, or a toe nail falling off from whacking my foot into a curb. Those I don't really find bothersome and can rather ignore or look at from a distance. The pain from no immediate cause I handle a lot worse.

FridaWrites said...

Yeah, I'm all about droll when I can't deal. Like telling the doctor and her nurse, with whom I share common interests outside medicine, "I really like you guys, but this is way too much together time..." when they're having catheter problems and having way too much closeness with my privates for too long. Have also been known to yell out, "I really don't like this..." in difficult medical circumstances, as if some people would.

Don't start reading urology textbooks for specialists online when you're having big problems, by the way, because you'll scare yourself with what else could happen. Somehow life is forcing me to tackle my worst phobias one by one.

Yes, I'd have the laser eye surgery, too, if only having the eye doctor near my eye didn't set me to whimpering and cringing.

Speaking of hemorrhoids, which also happen post-birth, Prep H does not wor if they're internal. And you do basically stop eating if they're bad enough and there's more like a toilet full of blood, at which point you need medical attention. One of my coworkers had to go to the ER because of a fissure from them that had already been treated. (Elizabeth's probably thinking, jeez, thanks for sharing...)

About the teacher and puncturing the nail--that's pretty much what they do in the ER to relieve the pressure, too. She probably saved a lot of money and trauma, though I'd not recommend others try this at home.

Second worst pain ever was from getting severely dehydrated when I should have gone to the ER and didn't, and I actually started thinking death would be easier. Agonizing muscle and leg pain. No, it's probably a toss up between that episode and the worst time my back went out. The pain from childbirth might have been more acute at some points than these, but it was far more temporary and got breaks between. Less exhaustion.

That's why I don't understand why people fear childbirth so much. Except in extreme circumstances, there really is worse pain and more exhausting pain. I don't fault anyone who asks for drugs since we don't do well at giving mothers support most of the time to do without, and those who are supported and ask for it probably really need it. But I do know people who have elected for Cesareans because they don't want to face childbirth pain, not seeming to realize that Cesarean pain is going to be a lot worse. You're ripping through many layers of muscle, fat, and other tissue, as well as the uterus itself. If you're lucky during childbirth and you don't have a midwife or doctor who will interfere, you may very well get by with very minimal bruising or tearing. Unless you have a ten pounder and dislocate your pubis symphysis, which only a chiropractor knows how to fix, and which, incidentally, is the same bone that hurts when a bladder infection gets out of control after catheterization because you don't pay much attention to the early minor pain. Ow.

FridaWrites said...

PS, from your pain descriptions, Elizabeth, unless you had some unusual situation during birth, you'd probably find it a walk in the park and think, that was it? This is what people have been complaining about? The adrenaline rush after makes you think you can do anything.

Perpetual Beginner said...

My particular horror of brain surgery stems from two things: 1) My father is a neurologist (not a neurosurgeon), and I have gotten to see a lot more brain-damaged people over the years than is usual. As the saying goes "You're never the same once the air hits your brain." 2) I have a pituitary tumor which is persisting in being a huge mystery. Thus far no surgery, but it's a definite possibility in the future.

As to "Dr. Hand" (I am so keeping that moniker!), no NHS, I'm in the US. That was the medical care in a tiny rural hospital in Iowa - no emergency facilities to speak of, and they didn't monitor me as closely as they should have immediately after the C-section. The great irony is that they railroaded me into a Cesearean in the first place because my first labor had ended in an emergency-C, and they didn't feel comfortable with me having a trial of labor - too dangerous.

alphabitch said...

When I was having problems with chronic joint pain, I kept trying to explain how it felt - the number on the scale, comparing it to other painful things (e.g. broken foot hurts less than this), and I never felt like anyone really understood until I held up a really large syringe, the kind you use for glue, with a really large needle. And said to imagine it was filled with bright acid-green, glowing, hot, radioactive, slimy sand. And now to imagine sticking the needle into every single joint in your body and squirting just a little bit in there. Between every little bone in your hands and arms and legs and hips and spine and feet and toes and fingers.

That seemed to help people understand a little bit what I was going through. Glad I don't have that so much these days. The migraines I get nowadays are a piece of cake compared to that.

However, I just can't imagine childbirth. I don't even want to do something really fun for more than a couple of hours at a time.

Raccoon said...

I mentioned that I am a spinal cord injury, and can't feel anything from the chest down?

Waking up from a nice sound sleep screaming because my right leg (that I can't feel) feels like it's burning off from the inside.

ArrogantWorm said...


There's always more to the story. =) I'm ftm, and it was 'logic', Really! I healed from most of the other stuff on my own easily, usually with the help of duct tape, craft sticks and gauze, (In my defense, my parents weren't fond of hospitals either for a multitude of reasons, and that's how I 'learnt' to deal with most injury) so I figured, eh,it might work.

About the trees - I ride a bicycle to get around, have a few odd vision problems, and sometimes I miss what should be obvious. Like curbs, and occasionally trees and parked cars wrt depth perception and how-far-away-is-it ~really~, although I haven't had a problem with parked cars for a few years now. Possibly because I've been cheating and riding slowly on the sidewalk, instead of zipping about in the road like the town demands. Which is stupid, considering the drivers around here A: Don't normally stop for people and in fact have been caught trying to sneak ~around~ them and B: I've been nicked several times and almost hit three times (different instances) last summer attempting to obey the biking laws, none of those for mistakes on my part as I've been scared shitless at the lack of aware driving that's crept over my town. I don't remember that it used to be this bad. I've never hit people, though, can't help but notice them since they tend to be moving and loud.

-Also, for pain, totally forgot about the abscess, I'd have to say pain-wise, that's at the top of my list. I would've cheerily killed unsavory persons to make *that* go away, which I can't say I contemplated for any of the other pains. Turned out I needed antibiotics, dentist managed to squeak me in early and he couldn't even numb the nerve enough to pull it.

ArrogantWorm said...

....I'm sorry for the double post, but it occurred to me I sound particularly dim in the previous one. Just wanted to reiterate that at the time of the Hand Incident, I didn't have much choice in not going to a hospital, no rides, I was on top of a mountain and it was winter. I do know first aid, but it doesn't help much with deeper wounds beyond 'keep it clean', plus the added 'benefit' of roomies prodding you and stalking you with peroxide, paper towels and tape, only one of which was useful. (that would the paper towels. Although she still managed to corner me with the peroxide, years later and there's still a grudge about that. Pretty sure the infection would've been lower if I didn't get assaulted with it. Told her not to use it, but does anyone listen to Worm? Nooooo....)

Veralidaine said...

I don't have any really gruesome stories of my own pain. I've only had one surgery- appendectomy- and I woke up while they were stapling my incisions together! I only vaguely remember it as I was still under enough anesthesia to be pretty gone, though conscious, but I started doing sit-ups. The next time I woke up, I was tied to the bed in the recovery room. I demanded to see my necrotic appendix, but they'd already sent it off. No pain, though, just a funny hospital story.

However, if it doesn't have to exactly be MY gruesome story, I have some injured horse stories for ya... how about the time I had to give a shot of local anesthetic to a mare so the vet could stitch her leg up... and the hole she tore in her leg kicking the fence was bigger than we thought, cause the local came straight out the other side and sprayed me in the face! (I was on the opposite side from the cut so the vet could stitch, and there was blood everywhere!) Or the horse who broke her nose running away with the cart and then sneezed bone fragments all over my shirt?

My Godmother (RIP) had the best one, though- she had a horse who tore open his stomach jumping out of his pasture. He was alive but his intestines were hanging out. They loaded him into the trailer, loaded my Godmother with him, and she held his guts in all the way to the hospital- standing up in a trailer going 80 MPH.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Sorry, it took so long to get back here - I was, pain.

Lisa: Well, I am not a big fan of doctors who withhold pain meds right now either. And yeah, about every 1/3rd time I get the, "you really just want to get high" attitude from the pharmicist or someone - ironically I went on a big Christian forum which I hadn't visited in a year, there was a thread: "Do you feel recreational drugs are moral?" So I put up a thread saying, "Do you think medicinal Drugs are moral and explained that I was taking opiates and MORE all on precription and was that a moral thing?" - The thread was locked and deleted within hours for "promoting illegal activies and drug use." - errrr...okay, no Christians get Cancer, I guess.

Katrin: Yeah, see my body, I believe hates me, so once I get done with "Just a little longer" it says, "Now you are MINE and you are going to PAY and PAY!" - oh well.

True - knowing the reason to a pain makes it limited, like, "It will heal" or "I can take a muscle relaxant" while all unknown pain USED to be "I've got Cancer!" - Now, I think I would just laugh and laugh if they told me I had cancer and the doctor would go, "Everyone responds different" as my hysterical laughter filled the medical wing.

Frida: Yeah, I still hate the phrase "You'll only feel this a second" for cathater insertion/removal - longest second I've ever know (I can still feel if if I think about it). I too try to come up with lines or jokes they might not have heard of, something off the wall. I also tend to respond to doctor's comments about what they are going to do with, "Is that a joke? You really went to med school and now you are doing what to me?" (it amuses Linda and the nurses but actually is what I do to stop from screaming and try crawling away).

Well, I can't say that any info is bad, but would be good if you could give us what DID work on internal hemmoriods (sic). In case that happens I am pretty sure I would WANT to know what helps.

See, now I want to hear the dehyrdration story, because I have been dehyrated too, and it wasn't that bad, but I was young and stupid so nothing seemed bad then.

Okay that was WAY too much info on ceasarians and cathater infections and you have made me sworn off both - no way am I paying $5,000 for sperm to face what you describe as "maybe the worse pain of your life....but off an on" or THAT description." If Linda wants to, well, I would say, "WE could buy a condo instead!"

Well, last night Linda said she had never seen me in anywhere near as much pain before and it seemed I screamed so loud so often we aren't sure why they didn't call the police since I was insensate, drooling and held down and I kept asking, when they could understand me, for a knife. So, I don't know where that pain comes from or why it wakes me up every hour but if someone else wants it, please come by and pick it up, I will leave it on the curb.

Perpetual Beginner: Well, those are two VERY good reasons not to like brain surgery - you have no illusions and you have the sword of damoclies over you. Yes, well since the effort of Dr. Hand, I am pretty sure they won't offer a term labour next round, I wonder if they would even allow a normal c-section- did they tell you?

Alphabitch: I really like the description you have for chronic joint pain.

I also find that you would find childbirth "boring" amusing - what about the 7 months of waddle and lying on your side? (I figure you would be all normal for 2).

Raccoon: Yeah, that's the part of the brain which is supposed to be smart but seems really stupid. What do they do for that - Like when my heart or lungs hurt they rub my hands or my head to keep me distracted, does that work for you, or just, hell pain?

ArrogantWorm: Ah ha...ha. As for your logic, I might have bought it until you brought up "duct tape" as some medicinal tool (which Linda says, "Isn't that the worst thing possible?") - which I usually equate with the type of "logic" I get from guys on how real men don't cry, they just headshoot each other on the X-box online. BUT, just before you posted one of my lesbian friends emailed to tell me SHE fixes things medically with DUCT TAPE and SUPERGLUE (you know I am looking at you) - so I figure any gender statement I make will be foot in mouth (if not already) and withdrawl except to say DUCT TAPE is not recommended, not taken in EMT's, not actually the same as say, a guaze bandage. Please, when you go camping, take a medical kit, not just duct tape (that's to BOTH of you).

Well, I have been run off the road when I did my biking days by bad drivers and hit with mirrors and opening doors and once by a bunch of 17-18 year old boys with an umbrella trying to knock me off like with a baseball bat. I am a LITTLE concerned that you keep running into trees but if you and the trees are okay with it, and no one else gets, how I am I supposed to take you seriously if you say, "Take care of yourself" - well, I understand it, and I would do it myself so I will let someone else do the lecture.

As for Peroxide, "Holy CRAP! That must of hurt" - um, well that would kill everything around your wound and yes, maybe germs but also give you a decent chance of gangrene wouldn't it?

Veralidaine: You consider being "tied to your bed" a "Funny story" - I have hospital nightmares where that happens.

And for the rest of your story, I skimmed, like ArrogantWorm's dental story - anything with sneezing bone shards is NOT bedtime reading.

Perpetual Beginner said...

There will be no more rounds of childbirth for me. Two children are sufficient - two rounds of childbirth were MORE than sufficient. Although people on the conservative Catholic site I occassionally post to keeps trying to tell me that if I really loved my husband and children, I would "offer my fertility up to them".

I suspect if I did have a protracted attack of insanity and had another kid, I would be sent to a tertiary care center for a Cesearean and watched carefully for at least a day afterwards.

Anonymous said...

I don't really have any new metaphors for pain, but have been a sufferer of intense migraines too.

My particular problem in life is pain in my feet, chronic pains. Usually the pain meds keep it pretty much in check, so that it's bearable, but never actually goes away.

However, one trick I use is to remember as clearly as I can the time of the worst pain I have ever felt.. and that gets me through whatever unannounced pains are trying to rip my feet off.

My story is a simple one.. I had to have some steroid injections in my heels, while conscious. No problem I'm thinking, this will help me in the long run. Until the "doctor" started moving the needle around while it was deep inside my heels. It seems the numbing stuff was the second injection at each site.. which made complete sense. I was on one of those medical bed things.. and I was trying very VERY hard to rip it in two. I have no idea what it looked like, as I'm pretty sure my eyes were pressed hard up against my glasses and trying to get further out. I couldn't scream - nothing would work.

I had significant difficulty letting go of the bed once he was done. My partner was... erm.. scared at how I'd looked while all this was going on.

ArrogantWorm said...

I didn't say duct tape on skin! The duct tape was used to hold craft sticks together so my finger wouldn't move and break the tentative scab on my knuckle that time the jacknife flipped over on it. I was in middle school at the time.

ArrogantWorm said...

I didn't have a choice about the peroxide, they cornered me. Can't bat them away when one hand is being used to hold a bit of the other together, and they weren't big on listening to reason, although I like to think I managed to keep most of it out with the firm pressing. Using peroxide on an open wound is a very large no-no for just that infectuous reason, it's much better to use cream.

ArrogantWorm said...

I also have my own medical kit, the "please take a kit!" was cute, thank you for caring. Why did you believe I meant on skin when I mentioned using duct tape? I don't even like regular bandaids because of the stickiness on skin and the removal, let alone duck tape for *that*. It was perfect for holding the sticks together, and regular bandages weren't working because they give, whereas wooden craft sticks don't give at all. I probably should've explained the use of duct tape, though, in retrospect.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Perpetual Beginner: Yeah, offering up the fertility thing. Well, I am glad to find out about the "no problem with childbirth" pleasures I will be avoiding.

Arrogant Worm: Why would I think you used duct tape - well because I KNOW several guys (and ONE LESBIAN - looking at you!), who used duct tape on wounds. Indeed, at my school the male gym teacher, known as most gym teachers as near industructable did something which made School Legend (and stuck in my mind ever since as I saw him turn green) - which was the day of the faculty/varsity game, apparently, while he was in the guys locker room fixing a light a guy opened a locker below him and when he jumped down, he got caught and RIPPED open his scrotal sack (which I am to understand is a BAD thing, a very PAINFUL thing). But because the game was in like, an hour, and he was the best point guard and three point shooter, he DUCT TAPED the rip back up. Then played the game. Of course, everyone in the stands knew the story by now and you could literally see him stop and turn kind of green if he needed to sprint for a loose basketball. So that's kind of why I thought that "Hey let's slap duct tape over it" might be a typical male response. And I was saying, "Hey, those medical kit are really cheap!"

Anon: Sorry, I simply couldn't read your whole story since I have a phobia of needles and if you say that it was the worse pain in the world and a needle was involved, I will DEFINTATELY believe you.