OK. We all know there are levels of pain. Different types of pain. So how we respond to each is different.
There is the ‘stub your toe’, where you grumble or let lose a few bad words. You can rub that pain away or at least ease it. It will only hang around for a few minutes. It might remind you if you put some socks or shoes on, but you can express that pain.
Then you have the pain that is ‘chronic’, it is there all day, every day. It varies in strength; it ebbs and flows. After a few years it is just part of normal life. You can talk about it; you can try different things to make life a little easier. You have to adjust your mind-set to accommodate.
Then there is the “seeing stars” pain. I have had lots of those. I can remember the first time it happened. I thought to myself, “it’s true, you do see stars”! By the time you get past the “stars” the pain is already subsiding and you can continue on with whatever you were doing. Let me qualify that a little. If whatever causes the pain only happens once, but repeated jolts at a fast pace will cause the pain to hang around, maybe for days.
Then you have the excruciating pain, such as spilling 400° grease on your body. That pain is realized seconds after the spill and will make you scream your head off, and will send you looking for relief within a minute.
Then you have that pain that is an abrupt shock, a surprise. It is a pain that stupefies your mental function. It stops everything. You can’t express it! You can’t grunt or cry out. You can’t even breathe! I have experienced that type of pain only a few times. If I am standing then it brings me to my knees. If I am sitting it freezes me. I wonder if my eyes pop out, I wonder what my expression is? Rarely, when it has happened, could I cry instantly. It is after, when the pain is getting to a bearable level, that I can cry or feel anything but the pain. It is not until then that I can communicate a problem.
This type of pain hit me today and it got my mind to pondering the whys. Why did I just not vocalize the instant pain? Why could I not tell the husband? Why could I not just move myself? 02/05/2018 Update
Now that my medicine is taking effect I can look back and digest what went through my mind. First, I can remember thinking that was weird, and ‘it’ hit my tailbone. Of all the places to hit me, my tailbone? I can even remember thinking why didn’t that spring jab me on my butt cheek, why did it have to pick my tailbone? Then I can remember thinking that all I can feel is pain! I was in public, no screaming, no tears! So I chose not to tell my husband, or the waiter. At first it was because I did not have the mental ability to do so; then it was because I did not want to embarrass him. They didn’t need to know that I was hanging on with barely a thread of sanity. After a minute, my mind went to logistics. How am I going to sit back down off my hands and scoot out of the booth? Will I be able to walk?
All those thoughts and worries took maybe a few seconds. Then I started my arsenal of “how to get through the next few minutes”. Breath; smile or not grimace at least; no screaming or crying. — “You can do this, you have before, this is no different from before.” — “Don’t look down or you will cry, keep looking across the room!” — “Don’t look anyone in the eye.” That takes a little longer than the first thoughts. That takes some practice.
Then, I went to the trying to speed the husband up with the bill without yelling at him. I can remember thinking maybe I should just get up and walk outside; but just as that thought was forming, my next thought was ‘hell there is no way this girl was going to get up on her own’. I could not even move my hands off the seat where I had instantly jammed them down. That was when I realized my arms were not going to hold my rear off the seat any longer. But being a semi-pro at this pain stuff I calmly eased back down and finally told him I needed up right now! My husband is not the quickest at recognizing “calm panic”. At least he didn’t ask his questions this time or I would have lost it.
I think this being able to categorize my pain has gotten me through a lot of moments that could have caused panic in others. I can call myself a “semi-professional of pain”. I can take certain amounts of pain at certain levels of pain. I can shrug off some ‘amounts’ and ‘levels’. I have my mental arsenal for dealing with it, and I know when my mental capacity is used up. I know when things have the ability to ease and I am getting better at recognizing when I will need to just give up and seek medicine. I hope I never get to the point of saying that I am a “pro” at it. That just sounds like it has the potential to be like giving up.
So, the next time you have one of those sudden, excruciating painful moments happen, think on your responses. Did you go through so many thoughts as quick as just whispers on the wind? Were you able to vocalize it? Have you built a mental arsenal? By building that mental arsenal, you are the one in control. And we all have found out that things happen for no reason at all and having a little bit of ‘feeling like’ we can control at least our response is a big boost in surviving pain.
Since I delayed posting the above I am adding the below.
Well, darn! I can add another type of pain. That is pain from a body function. No ladies I am not talking about cramps. I am talking about a stone popping out of your kidney. That was a ‘no warning’, ‘no lead up’, ‘nothing pain’. Just bam! Just ‘knock me out ’ or ‘shoot me pain’. That was pain that made me delirious, confused, begging. 03/13/2018 Update – Fun With Stones, 03/15/2018 to 03/21/2018 Update By By Stone
I will admit that I could not control any part of this type of pain. My mental tools for coping were not strong enough. I doubt they ever could be strong enough. I had gotten out of the habit of carrying any pain meds on my person. I made the mistake of thinking that I was capable of handling pain to most levels. I don’t think too many people would be able to handle it. My thought is that if I had not have had so many places on my body dealing with discomfort, I might have been forewarned. After about 15 minutes I could not function. I remember doing those labour breathing exercises, counting, even causing pain by digging my fingernails into my stomach. All to no avail. I have now decided that maybe, just maybe, to start carrying pain medicine everywhere I go. I may not have become delirious if I had taken something within those first 15 minutes. But hind sight and all that jazz. Truly no one knows if the pain would have been as excruciating, but I would have had a fighting chance.
So, about that arsenal. Please keep practicing some form of mindfulness, and don’t forget to carry your pain meds.
This was originally written in February and edited in March, but this girl lost it somewhere in her files.