So our bodies are designed to signal our brains when in pain. This is to indicate, stop doing what you are doing. What does one do when the body signals a pain that you cannot see or one that is not from an external source? You cannot stop doing what you are doing. Such was the case for me last week; I had a Kidney Stone. The pain of a Kidney Stone is unlike any I have felt before, well any since my last Kidney stone a year ago.
This led me to think about pain and how we handle, process, and overcome our pains. I came to a point where either I was ready to jab a knife into my back and try to cut this thing out (yes it was a contender), or accept that I was in pain and embrace it until it passed. I am still here so obviously I followed the latter option. Pain is a funny thing, though, it tells our mind what hurts and where and gives the ultimatum to stop whatever is happening, at all costs. What then, I ask once more, does one do when the pain is not something that can be stopped by will alone?
You suffer through it. That is all that can be done aside from taking medication to ease the pain. I dislike medication; it has an effect on my mind that tends to leave me goofy and disoriented. I believe, when I was in the hospital and on morphine, I attempted to convince the X-ray technician that I was a time traveler, but that I could only travel forward in time, at a normal rate. I was convinced, as my wife tells it, that I had traveled a few seconds forward in time.
So, being how I am on medication and losing track of time, and space, and being stuck in a perpetual state of excruciating pain, my thoughts took a dark turn. I seriously considered the merits of ending the pain by personal surgery. Of course, the logical part of my brain (still unaffected by pain) regarded this as ludicrous and promptly told me so. At which point I came to a crossroads. Either I could do something about the pain (which we just established I could not, short of causing myself further pain), or I could accept that this pain was going to be a part of me until the kidney stone was passed. So, in a brilliant moment, I decided on the latter. Dealing with the pain, accepting it, was by far a more difficult choice as we’re not wired to accept pain. That part of my brain tried to reason with my mind explaining that we were hurting and needed to do something. My mind responded like a mother explaining to her child and told my brain, be calm little one this will pass.
In this particular instance, I remember the movie Inside Out if you haven’t seen this yet make the time it is a great movie. So here I am my mind is in a panic mode, the little voices are running around screaming in a panic, PAIN PAIN PAIN, but meanwhile there is a single entity in there not running amuck, but just standing still. In a quiet voice it says, be calm, this will pass. Anger is fuming and screaming at this entity, “CAN’T YOU FEEL IT! IT HURTS!” The other entity merely nods. Met with no opposition, other than this calm facade, Anger looks doubtful but is inevitably unable to maintain his ire. Disgust huffs and sits down. Joy is still in a corner weeping with Sadness holding her close. This entity, which I call Reason, sits calmly down at the control station of my mind. A large view screen in front of him, there is a computer prompt (because that is the way my mind is), in large bold letters there is the word PAIN, below it are two options: Accept and Expunge. The second option is flashing as if to indicate it is the preferred method. Reason reaches up and presses the Accept button. The alarms and screaming stops, the pain does not go away, but it gets absorbed into my body.
I don’t really know how to explain this last part; I, sort of, just decided there was nothing I could do and put the pain in a box. I closed the box and pushed it into a mental storage unit. I still feel the pain, but the panic and the worry and the immediate thought of it is gone. I am not dizzy from it anymore, but it is still there, and I don’t trust myself to do anything that requires too much thought. Accepting pain is, I think, the only way to deal with prolonged pain. Something changed in me at that moment; I realized that pain isn’t ever really forgotten, emotional or otherwise, it shapes us, it changes us, and it stays with us, but it does not have to define us.
I have mentioned before a struggle with depression and self-loathing, these are symptoms of pain; past pain, emotional pain, physical pain. I have allowed my pain to define who I am, and I find that accepting pain, however difficult, has changed my outlook. I am sure I will have to continually hit that accept button, and it will have to become a practice of thought, but it is the first step to healing. It is funny how they call overcoming emotional hardships healing. Food for thought? Until next time folks.
Your Friendly Neighborhood Author,