Saturday, May 1, 2010

Pain, just like a personal assistant only crunchy.

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"I thought I could organise freedom;
how Scandinavian of me."
Hunter, from the album Homogenic, Bjork.

I suppose it looks pretty hypocritical when I'm an advocate of sensible use of painkillers but generally resist taking them myself.  It's more that I respect the notion that the pain is there to tell me something; for a good reason that is, and I want to learn from it.  Much of my resistance is that I wish to have as few chemically concocted weirdo substances in me as possible, but also that I remember all too well the feeling of being on opiates for chronic pain, and it is decidedly un-nice.

Severe pain is usually pretty obvious though, isn't it?  Like "so, you've broken your leg" or "see, fire really does burn" and things along those lines. Same with more purely emotional pain, as with grief or heartbreak.  Aye, but there's the rub.  I'm only a partial fan of the Louise Hay (author of such books as You Can Heal Your Life) philosophy of cause and effect, but that's mainly because I find her approach a bit too reductionist and narrowly-defined.  I suppose you get that when you write a how-to manual based on symptoms.  But her big point is that we get sick or injured because of our emotional 'baggage' and mental/emotional/spiritual states, and thus it follows that we can physically heal by changing our thoughts and feelings.

I'm cool with this, and have found much truth there.  I too believe that we are responsible for what goes on in our lives, but I'm not sure that responsibility has a pure and causative function.  Shit still happens, in other words.  But it happens for a reason, probably.  And when it happens, we are then responsible for what we do with it.

Pain happens, too.  Like most of us, I'm not a stranger to pain.  One of the things I've been very grateful for with my current illness phenomenon is that for the most part it doesn't involve bad pain.  I did have some excruciating moments with it a while back, being hospitalised with a GI tract that had simply stopped and gone into chaos and spasms, but apart from that the pains have been minor.  Often there's a low-level nagging pain somewhere about, but you just ignore this stuff, right?  You know why it's there (physically and otherwise) and use it as an opportunity to clean, a reminder to be self-responsible, and maybe a continuing lesson in humility.  I can always use another one of them.

Anyway, about ten days ago I had what I thought was another back spasm.  I'd had an episode of this a couple of months back.  Because of a) my scleredema and b) my scoliosis and especially c) the combination thereof I'm a bit susceptible to such events.  Anyway, I took one of the NSAIDs (a pill) the doc had given me for if I had a recurrence, and it helped a bit.  But only a bit.  Days later, there was still pain.  Not the "OMG I can't breathe in properly are you sure I haven't broken a rib" pain I had last time, but there nonetheless.  I saw my doc, she visits my respite place.  She opined that this was not a spasm thing, just structural problems because of a, b and c above.  And said it was probably now time to be on regular painkillers - just paracetamol mind you, but regularly.  OK then.

Well, I am taking them and it seems to work.  And in so doing, I have rediscovered (as in "don't know what you've got 'til it's gone") how pain itself affects your mood, your thoughts, your everything.  Even low-level pain.  I mean, I know this, and have helped others with it, hence my advocacy of sensible painkiller employment, but it has just come home to me freshly.

Pain is an organiser.  When you have a pain, it demands precedence over your movements, as you must take exacerbation into account in everthing that you do.  It orders your thoughts, in that you will consider how what you may think or say or otherwise allow yourself to feel will interact with that pain.  Severe pain of course, is insistent.  It needs your attention constantly.  Low-level, omnipresent pain is a bit more sinister as it subtly infuses each little nook and cranny of your life with its personality.  

Without the pain, I feel so much freer, and did not realise how my freedom was being impinged upon before.  I have a good tolerance for pain, physically at least (especially for a man) but this is a mixed blessing, I now recall.

But is anaesthesia a cure for all our ills?  I mean, there is a lot of truth in the notion that pain drives so much (or all) of our destructive urges in life - addictions, distractions, all manner of antisocial behaviours - so well, maybe anaesthesia can help us get some perspective on the lessons the pain is bringing us.  A chance to clean without the constant duress.  It's just that with the exception of some physical ills aside, we just don't have useful anaesthetics for this stuff.  All the running away in the world has never been shown to work. I'm no rabid Scientologist on the subject, but I'm no major fan of reliance on so-called 'anti-depressants".  Or reliance on analgesics.

There are certain indigenous peoples in South East Asia (and possibly elsewhere) that get drunk for the hangover.  Yep, they're after the pain.  The visions and lessons that come through that vile state, and then the slow, creeping release of healing as it all eventually subsides.  They claim to find no pleasure in drunkenness, it a just a means to a visionary hangover.  Lots of people seek pain for different reasons.  This is fine and good I guess.  It's conscious.  It says to me you are dealing with pain as a responsible person.  Seeking out lessons and experiences, maybe.  Of course, it can be habit forming too........

So perhaps it is that we need to get better (just speaking for myself here, I think) at acknowledging pain when it's there.  Taking responsibility.  In my case, this could mean taking a pill every now and then - or, and this is a biggy, accepting the pain as being a prime organiser, accepting the limitation, and finding the freedoms within and beyond it.

One thing's for certain; bullshitting yourself about hurting, choosing to "just get on with things" while ignoring your pain, is never going to cut it healing-wise.  Maybe a pain is permanent.  Maybe not.  If the pain is in me, then it is me, and I am responsible for me.  Warts and all, as they say.

I shall choose to have it help me.  Painkillers and all.

And have a nice day.

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