Tuesday, December 7, 2010

In Progress - Part 3: (Don't) Lean On Me

Pain is a personal thing. Explaining your own physical pain is challenging, it is almost pointless. And dull. Not that that stops any of us. My head is killing me. My arms are going to fall off. I can't move my back. It's sore. It's swollen. It's tender. It throbs. It stings.

It burns. Burning. A burning pain. This is the only word I can find that fits me - the only description I can muster that matches the sensation in my wrist.

In describing my pain this way, I feel that I'm disrespecting true burn victims. Victims. Not mere sufferers or simply patients. The extraordinary pain of a burn makes one a victim, as if you were shot in your own bed by a crazed stranger. Something horrible has been done unto you. Something unexpected. Incomprehensible. Irrevocable. I am dishonouring many I know: acquaintances, a dear friend - men and women who daily tolerate extraordinary, unrelenting pain. I think of Natalie and I am ashamed.

However much I know I am not on fire or even smoldering, I can only say and feel that it burns. In my imagination, a slow burn, like a subterranean Saskatchewan coal seam, is methodically laying waste to the core of my hands - until it is spent.

"Some smolder deep within abandoned mines; others blaze forth in exposed seams of coal. Like forest fires, coal fires can be sparked either by natural phenomena such as lightning or by people's carelessness. Beyond their potentially devastating effects on mining communities, coal fires change the landscape and damage the environment. "

But what I think I know about pain at this moment, even after surgeries and disease and childbirth, will be shattered, blasted apart in a few months time. Burning has its own vocabulary. Burn. Singe. Sear. For now, I have my slow burn.

Doctors have a system for helping patients articulate their pain. The 1-10 scale. You know it: So where does it hurt? Here? How does it feel now? When I do this. On a scale of 1-10? 1 being little pain.

Of course, the relativity of pain renders this assessment tool almost useless. One man's 10 is another man's 5. The man that has broken his back understands 10 just a little differently from the man who has suffered a bout of indigestion. Nevertheless, somehow, both you and your doctor learn something about you.

And then there is the hierarchy of suffering. Me and my Natalie. Many, if not all of us, in our quest for validation and treatment, seek to paradoxically *score* higher on and refute the hierarchy. But the hierarchy is meaningless. In the end, it is only you. You, and what you can bear.

I can almost bear the burn. There is no painkiller that can reach inside a dying bone and soothe it. No tonic or lotion. There are just forgetting drugs: wine, laughter, love, distraction. These I have in abundance, when I remember to take them. And accept them.

God bless my husband for easing my pain and my load - thank you, Eric, for showing and saying time and again:

Lean on Me:
Al Green - Lean On Me .mp3
Found at bee mp3 search engine

No comments: