Pain, as a Thing

Let's see if I can do this without tangling myself into words and give readers a migraine. But there is a point in my fracture healing process where I no longer recognize pain as a sensation, but as a thing.

Still with me? Maybe some of you are nodding in agreement and know what I am talking about? No? Let me continue.

I don't know when I first differentiated between pain as a thing vs. pain as a sensation but one day it just happened. Since then I have come to recognize that when the pain makes this switch, things are getting better. It has become something of a benchmark to me where I now realize: Soon that throbbing will fade away completely. Soon the nights of muscle cramps will stop. Soon all I'll have to worry about are people accidentally bumping into me, and for how long I can keep my mind off the itching.

When a fracture first happens I feel everything about it. I feel where the bone has broken, when it is jostled, when my breathing has moved it even a millimeter, when there is even a slight dip in the pavement or mattress. I feel it outside and beyond the sharp burning sensation that comes with a fresh fracture. It is in the hesitating way that I breathe, the way I am sweating a waterfall of bullets, the way I have lost all focus on everything else in the world except for that crack in my bone that should not be there. Those are the sensations that let me know I am in pain. Because suddenly when it is time to be positioned on the x-ray table I have stopped breathing, because I think if I do not fill my lungs with oxygen maybe those air bubbles will not carry the sensation of pain to my brain. I am always wrong. I know I'm in pain because during those five seconds the radiologist has ducked behind his little window, I relish in the moment of temporary stillness. In my mind I am pushing those waves of ebbing pain out of my head so that I might make room to experience the sensation of calm. My body suddenly turns cold as the sweat evaporates, but then it rains down on me again when he pops out from behind his window and says, "okay so for the next picture I need to move..." Pain is when I clench my jaws so tight I think I may have broken it as my doctor wraps the cotton layers around my leg, I wince as his fingers bring the roll of padding around the injured area. I tell myself it is all for the greater good so suck it up. Those are the moments I experience pain as a sensation.

Pain as an object is something I recognize in my head. It is easy to put away into a box, package it and put it on the back burner of my mind - and hope that I may turn the stove on so hot it will just burn it all and have it disintegrate to ashes. It is more than just a pesky dull ache because someone has accidentally bumped into my leg in a cast. But it is also less than the nagging tug and shimmy of muscle spasms at 2, 3, and then 4 in the morning. Pain as an object is something that just exists like a blemish on a banana, I recognize it but shrug my shoulders because there are bigger annoyances to my day that I can at least do something about. As a thing, pain is neither obnoxious or pretentious; it doesn't really demand all the attention in the room and nor does it expect to be the darling recipient at the pity party. This is the kind of pain visitor that has so abused its stay that it has left a numbing imprint on its surroundings. No one bats an eye or so much as waves as it comes and goes. I expect its presence, but I don't say that in any kind of heroic way or in an attempt to be brave, and definitely not inspirational. I say that in the kind of way that I am telling you that I expect the grass to still be green underneath all this snow. Pain as an object is something that I don't need to go chasing around my body, I don't need to lasso it all into a single number on a scale of 1 - 10 after surgeries. Pain as an object fits in my hands like it was made for these palms, and I can manipulate it like origami from frog to koi fish.

So there they are, the two different kinds of pains in my fracture healing process. These are the things I tell myself to pass the days or weeks, they are things I scrutinize just as closely (albeit privately) as my doctor honing in on the x-rays.

Posted in , , , . Bookmark the permalink. RSS feed for this post.

Leave a Reply

Copyright © 2011 Perfectly Imperfecta. Powered by Blogger.