Friday, August 8, 2008
Pain clouds the mind
I've been writing posts and abandoning them in the last few days. I'm overtired from being in constant pain. Even though chronic pain is nothing new to me, I'm always surprised by it. I am always surprised at its power to cloud my thinking, both cognitively and emotionally.
I keep up the hope that someday I will "conquer" this. My old Zen teacher used to say to me "when you become the pain, there is no pain." I wanted to hit him with his stick. I didn't want to become pain! I, like most people, wanted to run from it. If a doctor gave me a prescription for painkillers, I took it most happily.
Now, I do not, and I am seeing just how hard it is to function normally (or just function). I don't sleep well. The smallest errands tire me out so much I need to nap. I don't feel like socializing with anyone I don't know very well, for it's too much work. In pain, ones' world becomes much smaller.
I had written a post in which I called myself a hypocrite. It's sitting there in the drafts folder, saying "publish me!" But I'm not going to, for I think my tendency to be hard on myself when the going gets rough is not particularly compassionate. I had thought "I'm such a hypocrite", for one day I'm writing about being okay in spite of whatever may come, appreciating the hummingbirds, the flowers, or whatever I appreciate, and now I'm cranky and feel the stirrings of hopelessness.
But I do still appreciate what there is. It's just harder to see. Chronic pain turns its sufferers into people with a horse's blinders on. We can still see, but the scope is smaller. One must try harder. And sometimes one must just give in and shed some tears or succumb to an afternoon nap (both things that our society only aproves in young children and the elderly).
Some Buddhist writer wrote about "falling apart without falling to pieces." I have tended to completely self destruct when hurting. This time, I'm trying to do it differently. The first step is allowing myself to feel what I'm feeling and not run from it. Maybe that's what "being the pain" means, after all. I will not try to stuff my feelings or minimize how I feel. I will try not to judge my complaints, naps or need for help.
I am starting to see just how much this society wants us to carry on as normal, even when things aren't. We are given a paltry amount of sick and "personal" days at our jobs. People go to work when they're feeling terrible and even when they have communicable diseasess (which they should not be allowed to do). I can't begin to count the amount of folks I've known who pride themselves on never having taken a sick day in their lives. Some brag about working while having a broken arm or the like. Not giving in, not accomodating; that's the American way.
I would like to be as active and "productive" as possible, but I refuse to drive myself by the sick work ethic that we labor under. Now, the hard part is not judging myself as lazy, whiney, dependent or all the other negatives that come along with not functioning at a non-optimal level (and doesn't that sound like a description of a machine and not a human being?). I'm guessing that this will take me quite some time.
Painting note: "The Broken Column" Frida Kahlo 1944 Kahlo suffered from debilitating chronic pain.