It’s not great. It’s broad, complex, and personal. It impacts everyone around us. No one really knows what it is, or how to fix it, or even if we should be fixing it at all. Physical pain often presents itself. There is blood or a scar. But it can also be invisible to all but the bearer. Emotional pain can have a physical expression as well – sobbing or screaming aloud. Much more of it is invisible, sometimes even from the bearer themselves.
What am I, if I am not pain? There is pain somewhere in my body almost every single day. I cannot give up my entire life to avoid pain. It’s hard to determine if I am “myself” on the days when there is no pain since it would then follow that I am not myself for the majority of days. When I look at how others around me experience their chronic pain issues, I am still working and playing and otherwise living. It may be false to think my pain is less than theirs…but it may also be false to think that I am magically more tolerant to my pain.
Intrusive thoughts consistently challenge what I might be without all of the hurt. On some days I know I would be more productive, that if I could eliminate the pain I would be so much more “accomplished.” Without my pain, I would spend far less time on the couch with my memes.
Yet this shit hurts. It hurts in my hands, the executors of my work. It hurts in my neck and my eyes which I need to sit still, to look at the screen where my work lives. It hurts in my shoulders, arms, and legs which I need to move. It hurts in my knees, both of which I took for granted and injured dearly in my youth.
Did it ever not hurt? I am not even sure.
I think we are all creatures of pain. Some physical, much more of it mental.
I broke up with a partner of 6 years and never skipped a beat according to anyone observing. I suffered no school or work absences, no emotional outbursts, nor isolation from friends. I know someone who took nearly a week off of work and recovered at home when they broke up with a partner of nearly half the time. I don’t believe that either of us reacted to that pain in the wrong way. I had the strongest desire to curl up for weeks and do nothing…I just did not take myself up on that offer.
I currently cohabitate with a partner who has been going through an extended flare-up of back, neck, and hip pain – some the parting gifts of a serious vehicle accident, others of yet unknown root causes. There are so many days that I cannot wrap my mind around understanding those pains in a personal way. “Just … move around, just get all the things done that you need to do. Just … just…ignore it like I do.” I diminish my partner’s pain when I am low on energy for myself, and it can create some difficult days for the both of us. It limits our intimacy, it slows down our productivity. It keeps us away from certain events or activities. It can keep us isolated from each other even though we’re together almost every day.
Our thresholds vary; I even notice fluctuation inside myself from minute to minute. I cannot feel someone else’s pain, not truly. I can remember my own past pain. I can theorize the degree of their pain if I can grow my understanding and compassion for them.
But even then I cannot truly know the suffering of the nameless wanderers, the lonely, and the abused.
I’ve felt many types of pain and I know how I feel about them. How they each make me hurt either in my joints or in the weird pockets of my chest.
I want to know how other people think and feel about their pain. I want to understand how it affects them. I want to know the key to decrypt what they are describing to me so that I can properly understand along with them. I want to know what to say when I reconnect with long lost friends and only have a limited amount of time to try and be vulnerable with them.
If I can better understand my pain by writing about it, and really putting names to the sensations inside of me, maybe I can also come to know it in others. If we can all do a little bit of that, maybe we can make more informed decisions that benefit more of our community. Maybe we will be able to stick up for the underprivileged of our peers, for the folks that know nothing but pain. Maybe I can say the right things on their behalf if I’m even in the right room at the right time. And maybe they will be able to do the same for me.