Monday, June 28, 2010

The Nihlism of Pain

I'm not sure how to start this off, but I wanted to say a few things about the experience of living with chronic pain.  One of the most jarring and confusing things about living with chronic pain is the extent to which one's daily rhythms and life habits are altered in ways that people who do not live with pain could not possibly understand.

Humans are social creatures.  We cannot help but identify and define ourselves by shared experiences with others, from the most specific ethnic eccentricities to the largest sort of intangible aspects of simply being human.  So a person in chronic pain, acutely aware of an absurd difference in daily experience, develops a sense of alienation.  More and more, the juxtaposition of personal experience begins to erode social bonds at the edges.  Things like walking or talking or sitting are sometimes difficult. 

So a fragile dance begins to pick up in rhythm.  The object of the game is to feel and appear normal.  When in public this is an utter necessity.  To the best of our ability, we all want to love and be loved.  Well, some of us do.  But society tends to shrink from suffering.  Nothing worse than to be shrunk from. 

That's less important.  The real trick is in maintaining personal integrity at home.  If a man's home is his castle, his body his temple, then chronic pain is like barbarians at the gate.  And they're sneaky.  Sometimes things look good - the sun is shining, the milk is flowing.  That's when they like to pop out!  Scabbards dangling, hatchets clanking, they throw you into the furnace.  It's hot in there.  You do things, say things you regret.

You recover, of course - you always do.  And hopefully the damage isn't too bad.  But a sense of impermanence sets in.  Life can begin to feel like a series of spinning plates.  Sure, you've got them all going now, the crowd is going wild - you're doing it, son, you're doing it!

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