We all avoid it like the plague, but see it daily in the media or happening to others around us including family. As outsiders, it is difficult to fully feel the actual pain of others regardless of how much empathy or sympathy we may feel. We simply don’t like to feel that suffering can be as bad as it looks. Sometimes we even pray for others, for the relief of their pain.
And then it happens to us. Usually after we’ve ‘done it to ourselves’, been careless, or are blindsided. Raw, unmitigated pain after a dental extraction, throbbing migraines, or physical injury we had the option to avoid, but dumbly courted anyway. And we are caught in it; it becomes our sole focus. How can the bloody thing be gotten rid of? Nothing else. We can’t think about anyone or anything else. We totally lose the ability to distract ourselves or change the channel. And we become horribly isolated from everyone and everything else. Just on our own, suffering, pure and simple.
So much of our lives is an effort to stay in touch with others, to stay connected, to be part of ‘the group’, and yet there are things and situations that isolate us and totally alienate us from others, none no moreso nor worse than via excruciating pain. In the process, we become nothing more than the pain sensation per se. Like Winston Smith in Room 101 in George Orwell’s 1984. Wishing and begging for anything, anything to make the inexplicable, unexpected, relentless worst diminish or go away for even a few seconds of time.
And so with ongoing, continuous pain, all one thinks about is when the next pain pill is due and if one can get any sleep, or find a sweet spot when lying down. In fact, sitting up may become preferable to standing, walking, or lying down–the only position that provides minimal relief. By necessity, walking is reduced to several yards at a time and one may stand only a several seconds at a time, bearing weight on an injured leg, for example.
The brief, poor periods of sleep weigh one down and start to make one ‘ragged’. Recall the Macbeths who could “sleep no more” and gradually became mentally unhinged. Scientists in our time have shown that people who can’t sleep begin to hallucinate much as did the Macbeths.
Relaxants become almost irrelevant when they don’t work or do the jobs they’re supposed to. And so one may be down to relying principally on whatever painkillers.
I recall two decades ago when I had a tooth that had to come out. Aspirin and its variants did not work. I was down to using cloves until I tried, for the first time, the anti-inflammant Ibuprofen which immediately reduced the relentless pain. About four years ago, after I had lost another tooth, I had been prescribed Tylenol 3, but again it was Ibuprofen which worked best. From these two experiences, I would have to say that mouth or dental pain is the worst; it is just too close to the brain and consciousness to be easily tolerated or diminished.
Well, one never knows. There is also the pain from cancer or kidney stones which necessitates the use of heavy duty painkillers such as opiods and opium. But when pain has become your life or you have been reduced to nothing but unbearable, intense pain, whatever solution is like manna or a godsend.
No question that serious pain slows one to a limited, limiting crawl; work or whatever social engagements are quickly abandoned so that the seriously injured or ill person can just focus on one thing–surviving pain from moment to moment. Time-wise, one’s clock is greatly shrunk, and night becomes day, and vice-versa. All the usual structures and patterns are toppled while one tries to get better, not knowing, of course, how long the pain will last or how bad it might get before things turn the corner and pain begins to lessen and one can have one’s usual life and routines back again.
Oct. 13/ Addendum
Finally the specific raw pain stopped and I was able to sleep, walk, stand, and do non-pain-control-focused things. In retrospect, this injury was a reminder about moderation, personal limits, and limitations. Interesting to be so non-stop incapacitated this long. I have no great fears of personal death for many reasons, but my God, this was much worse in my opinion. Raw continuous pain which responded to no medication and left me greatly sleep-deprived and relatively immobile.
I’ve previously said I would not wish cancer on my worst enemy. Now I will have to add the debilitating condition of long, deep pain and suffering to that statement. No, death is relatively small potatoes compared to cancer and significant pain beyond the reach of technology.