On the Nature of Pain

{A caveat before you read this. Everything, other than this note, that is written here was written while I was experiencing severe pain, sleep deprived due to the pain, and medicated (which is unfortunately not that effective for the actual pain but does add a nice sense of unreality to everything). I wanted to try to give a sense of what the extreme pain feels like (though not the most extreme since coherent thought isn’t possible at that point) while I’m feeling it because it’s a difficult thing to describe, even when it happens really often, the memory is too fleeting to really capture. I’m not sure if I succeeded, it feels like a pale shadow of reality when I read my own words but that may be the best anyone can achieve when it comes to something so personal. Every experience is a little different, this is a collection of writings from three different episodes, so the tone does vary a bit, some lighter, some a bit more maudlin. I tried to leave everything as I originally wrote it during the episode, only editing things which were completely unintelligible. I debated whether to actually share something so personal but in then end isn’t the point of writing, to give an outlet, to share our thoughts and experiences. This is a snapshot of a very specific experience but I hope it may resonate with more common experiences of life.}

Pain bursts like fireworks, the world becomes small, hard to see, hard to comprehend. Everything is there, I can describe my surroundings but it all feels unreal, far away. Pain encompasses everything and becomes the only reality. Connection to the ordinary world fades, barely tethered, an alternate reality seen but not touched. Disconnected, untethered, floating in the world but not really there. As the pain eases, life comes back slowly, becomes more real, but a remnant of discontinuity persists. The pain never really ends just ebbs and flows until another wave crashes over me and I am again lost in the tide.

Maybe the pain is better described as a roller-coaster. It rolls up and down, never-ending, the occasional straightaway where things start to feel stable and then you hit the loopity loop, you’re upside down then right side up, around and around till you want to throw up. Problem with this roller-coaster is the exit ramp is still under construction so there’s no way to stop the ride yet. And every time the exit seems like it might be coming close to a finish something smashes it to pieces again. Hope remains but it has less strength than it used to have. Nothing to do but ride on and endure. I used to enjoy roller-coasters.

As we suffer there is often nothing we can do but wait for the pain to end or, at least, lessen when there is no end in sight. It can seem impossible to continue, as if the pain will take away all that we are and could ever be. There are points where we believe we would do anything to make it end, cut off the offending limb, burn away the source of the pain, anything at all for sweet relief. It is endless torture and in the end it feels like it will destroy us. This is pain, how it winds its way into us, seeks to control our every thought and action.

But is it real? Pain can feel larger than us, larger than life, but it comes from us. We create it, we are its source and its only power comes from us. Pain is a part of us and therefore, by definition, it is smaller than us, only a part of the whole. We endure because we are greater than the pain, stronger even when we feel so weak. Pain is very real but it is also an illusion, it holds only the power over us that we allow it to hold.