Friday, May 23, 2008

Pain: not just the feeling but what you BECOME!

Pain. We have so many ways to describe pain and it still isn’t enough! But NOW I am not describing the pain, but what the pain turns me into: becoming that which I hate. Pain is a virus, it is a beast inside snapping, a backpack full of pointy weights I can never put down. I wake to it, I sleep to it. I don’t even know that I am moaning, because pain has invaded my brain and decided to play with my vocal cords. Pain is a manipulative bitch.
What is most horrific, is that even when I know pain is turning me from the nice, loving person I really am to the horrid, snapping, weird outburst, and desire to throw and break things shrew, I can’t stop it. Pain turns me, the great extrovert into the cranky, obsessive introvert.

I feel it as pain creeps, muscle by muscle, joint by joint, clouding my mind. And each the minutes tick on, pain creates its own time, a bubble of pain-time I am trapped in. Everyone else, everyone outside pain-time is going too fast, asking questions too quickly, wanting too much. Assume too much. They assume I can multitask what THEY want me to multitask. But I already AM multitasking, I am listening to 14 different nerve rasping tunes while on hold by my own private “your pain complaints department.” I am getting all that AND I am trying to listen to you, but you talk so fast and you want me to remember things and where they are and now you are heading out and am I ready? SNAP! There I go, screaming that no I am not ready because I can’t get my damn bra on, and if YOUR shoulder and YOUR arm felt like mine and quite honestly I would rather they fall off than try this damn bra again blah, blah…. I realize in a sort of horror mid-sentence what I sound like (which doesn’t stop the rant as I sort of float in slow motion time thinking, “I sound like a mad woman?”).

Pain makes you notice things about the people you love, things that went for years without being noticed, like how that MOLE they have on their cheek just STARES at you no matter where they go in the room. And you know that you are crazy. That this isn’t YOU, this person who is starting to simmer with the irritation because a person you love, that you honestly LIKE (on most days), has a mole that you feel is staring at you. Because that is the pain virus which is pounding itself right into your thoughts, making mush out of your sentences, having you start them and then stare into space. Or worse yet, do that to other people, stare at them and then keep saying “What were you saying…?” Finally THEY get mad and then, oh MY GOD they had no idea when they started to complain how you were just waiting for them to break the seal on all the pain rage leashed up in you. And didn’t they GET that you were trying to protect THEM from the pain-insane thinking built up in you as you pretended to be human (for THEM) instead of a pain virus infect viscous she-demon (which now you are, in full flow!).
Pain makes you tired, fatigued, where you wonder midway writing a sentence what your plan was to finish it? You trudge on in your mind like galoshes through treacle trying to get out what someone might think is your side to a conversation or writing an email so that you might get an email instead of being cut off alone in your pain. Of course, since pain reduces your attention span to that where a five year old is complaining that you are too distractible and won’t read the story; when it arrives, you likely can’t read that email. Let’s just scan a bit and see if it is nice, it looks nice, I will try to read it later.

Pain affects how you make decisions, what you think about things. For example, when your Sweet Love is being kind and says, “let’s go out to eat, that will be fun.” What do I think? I think “If I have to get dressed that is 284 separate pain inducing movements, much less getting into the car, getting out of the car, and then using utensils (will the restaurant let me flop my head face down into the food, that would be SO nice, so much less PAINFUL!)….” So in the end, NO, NO, that actually doesn’t sound very fun at all. And SNAP, out comes some statement, which may or may not be coherent, which you see hit the kind, open, and expectant face of your Sweet Love like bitch slapping a kitten. It is wrong. It is bad and yet, you can’t stop saying it!

I am writing this post maniacally in a state of extreme pain: every finger I use is making me make little yelps of pain (because oh the shoulders and spine and ahhh!). Earlier my home care thought from another room that the noises from my writing a postcard was an indication I had lost capacity of speech and was trying to communicate. No, NO, that was just the number of moans, groans, grunts and weird guttural sounds no girl should ever make that moving my shoulder and elbow produces. That’s sort of funny I think, or would be, maybe, if I could think straight. I remember a kid in seventh grade who used to pound his head against his desk. The teacher asked him “WHY?” He said, “Because when you stop, it feels really good!” I used to think he was a bit “not all there.” Now, this second, with the overwhelming feeling that I should pound my face into the keyboard again and again because maybe all the OTHER pain from all my body parts would go away for a bit, he sounds like an genius.

God, I’m still thinking about it, can’t stop thinking about it. Will that work, if I pound my head and then stop; would all the pain go away for a second? It almost sounds worth trying.

See, that’s what I mean, would any rational person write those last few sentences? No! But the virus of pain is in my brain and a few minutes ago I was chasing my opiate pill across the floor with my fumble fingers after dropping it. I could care less about germs or the “three second rule.” That’s my PAIN Pill down there! I was getting that pill if I had to fall out of the chair next to it and lick it off the rug.

This post has turned into a public service announcement: “This is a brain……this is a brain on pain. (Take warning!)”

Tell me you know what I am talking about....please!


em said...

Having a baby hurts like that, but it only lasts a finite amount of time. When my daughter broke her leg and we were sitting in the emergency room and she was stoic except when she would get bumped or moved and then she would barely show the pain, but I could tell she was scared and in a panic and I had to watch and not be able to do anything for awhile except offer Reiki and try not to freak on her... that was bad, but it stopped after awhile too.

I don't really have anything, but thank you for writing it. I'm sending love. I care.

Perpetual Beginner said...

Yes, yes! I know that state. I remember that state. I can't imagine having it chronically, rather than attached to a specific time-limited condition - or rather I can imagine it, and really don't want to! That feeling of hanging onto human behavior by teeth and toenails, where one more stress - even something as innocuous as a well-intended question - is going to send me raving.

God love you, Elizabeth. I hope you can get some sleep tonight.

Raccoon said...

I can comprehend what you're talking about, but I don't think I've ever been in quite that much pain.

I think guys react differently to pain, anyway.

But I've only ever broken 2 bones (during the course of the accident), I rarely get headaches, and the aches I feel in my legs are just that -- aches, not pains.

However. When you are doing your blog, and are in pain, use your voice software if you can?

Tammy said...

Oh Elizabeth. I KNOW that feeling. They "OH MY GOD. How can you be talking to me right now and actually expect ME to answer or carry on a conversation. My bones are trying to come out of my skin, from the inside out, completely on their own. And you want me to tell you what the hell I want for dinner??" You mean that type of conversation. Where you try to focus on feeling your earlobes. I don't mean with your hands, but feel what they are feeling? You know there probably isn't any pain in that one earlobe. and Gosh dammit, if you could just focus on the one place in your body where there is no pain, maybe that would make it all take notice of what "no pain" feels like and follow suit.

In other words. I DO know what you are talking about. I get pissed because my husband is SNORING, and I'm in pain. can he be snoring when he surely must be able to HEAR my bones screaming too. And who could sleep through screaming bones??
I've dropped a pain pill in a cup of several day old soda before. I drank it anyways just to get that dang pill, with the prayer the pill would kick in SOON and no bugs had settled in the several day open cup. Disgusting, no? Hell, I even wondered if I grabbed and broke a finger, if the pain from that broken bone would be able to take the rest of the pain pulsing through my body and focus it in just one place. Thank goodness I didn't try it, or I would have still been in pain, AND would have to deal with a broken finger. Brilliant idea wasn't it?
I know there is nothing I can say to help alleviate your pain. I so wish there was. I can say I know exactly the desperate "Why is the mole staring at me just to piss me off" feeling too.
Here's to strong enough meds to either alleviate the pain, or strong enough to make you pass out. Whichever comes first.

yanub said...

I know what you are talking about. You are experiencing it more intensely and at greater duration than I have, but what you are describing, yes, that is part of it. So is the hiding of the pain.

When my cat died years ago, I asked the vet how come I didn't know he was sick until it was too late. She said that cats won't reveal their pain because the danger from other predators is too great to let weakness known. I guess we do something of the same, but not out of fear of attack. We generally fear that we will be abandoned, and so we hide our pain rather than let others know we can't keep up, can't really appreciate conversation, aren't enjoying the fun. The fear of loss and the pain itself entwine with each other, lending each other strength as they parasitically sap our bodies and psyches.

As for today's pain, I wish my arm having fallen out of place again was somehow taking some of the pain burden off you. My hands are trying to throw the thumbs in on the deal, despite my protests that their noble efforts won't make a difference.

Oh, I got another postcard from you, and it is so lovely. It is of Himeji Castle, which is indeed visually stunning. And there is a tiny stamp of you and Linda in a very cute pose. And a US postage stamp of a papaya that would have made Georgia O'Keefe envious. I think it is the most sensuous US stamp ever issued.

Victor Kellar said...

I don't think I've experienced exactly what you are going thru and as stated by others, any pain I've had was finite

But when I shattered my leg, pretty much every bone in my leg, particularly the ankle that was in so many pieces they were calling in doctors from other floors to look at the film .. that was pain. When they were manipulating the ankle and the knee for the x-ray, the techs thought I had some weird accent but it was really my jaw clenching so tight and my throat muscles contracting so much I could barely make speech

Later, when I was laying on the couch for weeks, in those minutes before the pain pills could be taken I literally lost a little vision from the pain and when Collette asked me what was I thinking I said "I'm thinking I want you to give me the fucking pill, what else would I be fucking thinking" to the only person who was trying to help me

Elizabeth, my pain passed. I knew that it would. Your outlook may be different. But I understand it, and I understand that the pain not only hurts you physically, but hurts your soul, for what it is making you become. Still, it is only the pain. It is not who you are. Linda knows it. You know it. We all know it too.

cheryl g said...

Yes, I know that place of which you speak. I was there somewhat today. I reached the point where I couldn't speak without it all becoming swear words.

That struggle to not lash out, to remain human, to not hurt those we love is so exhausting.

I hope you do get some relief and sleep tonight. Bless the poppy.

Judith said...

I remember pain that went on and on but not like this. And it is gone now - so again it is not like this. I remember people being kind when I tried to explain and saying 'how awful' and 'I've been there'. And sometimes it was comforting and sometimes it wasn't. I have no helpful suggestions - you drive yourself and that is your choice. I have only respect for your tenacious and enduring spirit in light of your present experience.

Zephyr said...

Yep, I know what you are talking about, all right. I remember eating a whole tray of pot brownies in a state of pain desperation, even though I was only supposed to eat one and wait an hour or so, because I was in so much pain I couldn't wait that long and had to get relief NOW!

Elizabeth McClung said...

Em: Well, after enough, "24 hours of labour....that woman was lucky, I was in 52 hours of labour!" stories told to me I figured this was some sort of natural selection where only the really desperate or determined women would get pregnant. I'll bet that it didn't seem like a finite amount of time at the time (it never does, pain makes time go all funny).

Linda says that she can empathize very much with having to sit by and be helpless to do anything. Thanks

Perpetual Beginner: Well, thankfully, after a time where I think I have gone round the bend I will have a not such a bad day - which is when I will then rush off to do boxing or wheel 10K or some other such activity which Linda says is proof that I am "child-like" as in - too quick to forget that falling out of a tree hurts. Or a viscious circle.

I'm glad I'm not the only one that tries to pretend to be human instead of the pain-monster!

Raccoon: Well, males don't seem to identify with how I describe it but maybe you or another guy can explain this one. During high school or watching college basketball games, we would see a fast one arm pass to a guy who looked up just as the basketball impacted into his groin, he sinks to the ground as the coach yells, "Grab your ankle, there's children, grab your ankle."

So obviously pain does exist.

Well, the voice software is such a logical solution I am not sure why I didn't do it - probably because I had no post it note -when in pain I rely on post it notes to tell me what to do. Also, how many, "Ahhh, oh God!"'s would I have had to "Scratch That!" (the command to delete the last bit of text).

Tammy: Yes, I think you and I have WAY too much in common as at one point (not today) I thought, "They say nothing hurts more than burns, why not set fire to part of me and find out?" - NOT good and logical thinking. But yes, glad you did not break your finger.

I just hate the part when you know the pain is making you irrational/irritable and things which make no sense to anyone (really including you normally) like the mole, but you just can't HELP IT.

Linda laughed at the snoring comment becuase a few times I have woken her up with a stream of hissed, "Do you have to BREATH so LOUD, so LOUD, oh it is so LOUD!" and she asks, "Do you need a pain pill by any chance?"

Yanub: Well, some people are better at hiding it than others. Linda is very good, until she snaps and since Linda never snaps it is like you just heard the world crack into two (at least my world).

And yes, you want to have fun and not drag everyone down and often I will sometimes drag myself out of view and then lie there or curl up in the "attempt to turn myself inside out" manuever.

No, I hope you DON'T have pain, or throw out your arm or thumbs, I just wanted to record what was happening as well and articulate as a could with some humor becuase I thought I could capture a sort of moment of disability or human experience that others might know about - or know as caregivers.

Victor: Well, from what you describe you went through many of the states EXACTLY - the trying so hard to control yourself so that you are still in control and not the pain that your voice changes, yup, been there - which is why when Linda asks, "Are you okay" and I'm like "FFFFIIInnnnneee" she goes, "I DON'T think so!"

Also thank you for your honesty in giving that line which made me and Linda crack up becuase that is what it is like and I hope Collette understood, becuase you are just hanging on until it kicks in or you can take it (that is the worst, when the night care people say, "No, you can't have anymore for 70 minutes" and I'm like, "Who needs a liver, gimme one!"

Well, I am not like that all the time and I do things like blog or write post cards becuase no darn nerve endings and pain is going to keep me down, just takes a half hour to write a post card is all, sometimes an hour. But I still like to think I'm winning!

Cheryl: yeah, I know that state, I too swear a LOT more when I am in pain and tired, and exasperated. Of course since I know SOME of what may have caused this, OOOOOOHHHHH expect a lecture...once I get some pain pills into you so you can hear me clearly!

Yes, bless the poppy!

Judith: Well, thankfully, things flow so even when it goes on so long you think you will never be sane again you get enough relief or watch a film and forget for a little while and it helps. But actually, I wanted to write it down so the days I do feel better Linda can go, "Look! Read that, you go up and do (insert crazy latest plan here), that is what you will feel like!" And I will say, "No it won't.....I'm just going for......a little while."

Thanks for hanging on and reading, I hope parts of it made you laugh, I tried to make it identifable or funny.

Zephyr: Good to see you, yes, I have to actually roll the 12 blocks to my medicinal Cannibas club to get that going. Yeah, pain is very um.....distracting, and helps focus the attention on ANYTHING that can take it away.

The Goldfish said...

I wrote about this recently, a post which might be useful, or not, I don't know.

SharonMV said...

Yes, yes I know.


ismith said...

I've never felt pain as bad as you describe (Well, not for long - I had awful spasms after a surgery I had when I was younger. Like clockwork every day for a month.) But I definitely know the mental state you're describing.

And there's no way a guy'd grab his ankle in that scenario. Getting hit in the nuts totally outweighs any prudery, no matter how socially conservative you are.

Heather said...

Oh yes. Kidney stones. The pain stops but not before death seems like an excellent treatment method. Not so sure I could manage to be eloquent in the midst of the kind of pain you're dealing with.

Evil Lunch Lady said...

I've seen my children in that kind of pain! It's horrible to say the least, and mind blowing for them.

Also sending healing thoughts your way!

Katrin said...

YES! It's when that stupid ass "pain scale of 1 to 10" is completely MEANINGLESS and you start throwing out numbers so far past 10 that they think you're insane (and at that point you pretty much are) and then they write "10" on the ER chart and you want to scream- No, No, NO!!!! "10" is NOT enough to describe this!

Or when they show you an idiotic smiley face chart with a smiley face of what 1 should look like in smiley face land through to 10 and you want to say- take mr smiley 10 there and crack his head open like an egg and smash it repeatedly with a hammer, then there you go, that would be me.

(If you can't tell, I HATE to 1-10 pain scale)

Seriously contemplated that whole- if I hit my head against the wall over and over and over, will it cancel out the pain or at least make something balance?

Lisa Harney said...

Did I mention here awhile back the employer who wouldn't let me have a day off due to an abscess?

While I was at work, I kept a cup full of ice chips to numb the pain, and when I ran out of ice, I ran out of civility, of anything but the pain. What you said about everything going too fast and people wanting too much? That's what it was like. I simply couldn't function as a fully civilized woman until I refilled the ice cup.

But that was only a few minutes at a time, for about four hours before I could leave work and rush to the dentist. It wasn't every day, for hours at a time. I know what you're talking about, but I've never experienced it as profoundly as you describe here.

Anyway, do you remember asking if anyone would hold your hand and take your pain for a little while? I wish that were possible.

Gaina said...

Oh wow, I'm hearing you loud and clear!.

One of the pieces for my art assignment this semester is actually dealing with that all-consuming, soul-sucking painful disorientation.

I'll put them up in a blog in a while.

That's actually why I listen to heavy metal - the pounding drums and heavy, low guitar tones actually calm my nervous system down.

Neil said...

Oh my good god, Beth...

My first thought is that it's a good thing that your condition is so rare, because if Certain People could bottle or create that pain, then othe Certain People wouldn't be deported to Syria, and Guantanamo Bay would be less a hotel or displacement camp, and more of a place of punishment.

And yes, I am aware of how innocent some of that reads/sounds.

Ibuprofen is my friend sometimes, and damn the kidney/liver damage, but I don't think even migraines come close to be that bad; migraines are, in my case, only in the brain. Abdominal migraines don't involve pain, just extreme (times ten to the 43rd power) nausea.

Ooooh, I hope you feel better this morning, Elizabeth!!

But now I'm off to my Weekend Adventure: learning to spin Poi balls. WITHOUT the fire, thank you very much! Don't know what I mean? See, except I'm not that young, cute, female, skinny, or limber. Or so outrageously dressed!. :)

Hug Linda for me in sympathy for having to watch your pain, and have her hug you for me just because I can't.

A presto!

FridaWrites said...

My pain level's not usually that high, though it can be between medicine doses. Sometimes I sit there for the last 15 minutes unable to think about anything other than the drug that is coming. That's one reason I'm not fond of pain medicines if my pain level is lower--because the sudden intensity of pain is more difficult to manage than when I'm at a constant pain level.

I do get snappy and rude when my pain is highest. It seems like my remarks are never more cutting, even though I don't intend them to be. This is generally only with my spouse, probably because he's the one who's trying to move me or get me to do something.

I know exactly what you're talking about with looking at email and not being able to fully read or respond to it until later. It's like a little present waiting to be opened, only I don't feel like opening it, or when I can and enjoy it, I can't necessarily reply back. I also answer questions with no idea of what was asked, wrongly, then get upset later because something's been done that I didn't want done or vice versa. I can, on the rare occasions I watch television, watch for hours with absolutely no memory of what I saw.

People can often miss how high my pain level is because I become silent and nonmoving, trying to preserve all energies and keep from moving. Thus my husband can have very unreasonable ideas because he can't see that my pain level was any higher than earlier in the day and thus think's I'm ready to go out with the family or able to do something for myself. And thus when we stopped using morphine after my surgery and I didn't realize I didn't have other pain medicines in my system for many hours, my pain level got up to about a 9 without anyone else realizing I was in increased pain.

Lene Andersen said...

I know.

You are not crazy. Pain does this.

(I think I accidentally posted a partial comment before this - feel free to ignore of one them).

em said...

I hope you are in less pain today Elizabeth and playing with Linda and Cheryl. Hug Linda for me. I thought of her when I was writing about seeing my daughter in broken bone pain. I have been a caregiver and it's a different kind of pain just sitting there. Sure sitting and offering energy and singing and speaking in what you hope is a comforting voice and putting off your own freakout and soothing where you can, but it still feels like just sitting.

Tayi said...

I do know what you're talking about. My fav is laying, staring at the ceiling in agony, contemplating the pros and cons of taking pain meds: if I take them, I'll be so nauseous I'll want to die, but if I don't I'll be in so much pain I want to die (unless they don't work, which, you know, a lot of the time they don't). I guess the alternation between states provides a kind of interesting variety to life, and the gamble on them working... just makes it more interesting.

Have courage. I would hold your hand if I could.

saraarts said...

Gad, this is brilliant.

Dawn Allenbach said...

I haven't gotten that bad, but I think you've given me insight into my brother's last years and especially his last MONTH when he was alternating Diloted and Percocet every TWO HOURS.