Life gives us so many lessons. Often the most profound are those that hurt the most and take all our strength and survival skills to make through. I have learned easily and somewhat strangely that pain comes in many forms. It may be the mental disease, it may simply be my life, but the truth of the matter is pain is as real as hope. It may come from our brains, our souls, or our hearts but it is a force that must be fed. We can take medication, we can heal ourselves with other means, but unless we acknowledge the pain it lingers as hauntingly as the mist at dawn.
I am currently suffering from back pain. This is a strange thing for me, because physical pain has never really been much of an issue for me. Mental pain, the truth of this disease, has always over ridden all other pains. It has drowned out the pain of birth, the pain of monthly changes, and the pain that leaves bruises and scars. It can keep up at night, and is resistant to all medications and forms of help. It is that powerful.
I can remember the first time I felt the overwhelming pain of my emotions. I was eleven. It would be a decade before I understood that I had a mental disease or the cause of feeling so out of control that evening. I was simply an eleven year old child that couldn’t sleep. I was simply an eleven year old child surrounded by monsters that kept me company through the night. I did not understand that my world had changed. I didn’t have anyone to explain what kind of journey my life would now take.
Since that night, a night that is forever engraved in my mind, I have learned that sleepless nights aren’t scary. I have learned that monsters can be guides, and that pain is only as strong as my mind determines I can handle. The doubts, the lack of self-confidence, and the incredible pain of the reality of this disease has become as common as the breaths that I take.
Physical pain, therefore, tends to be so much less. Most physical pain can be cured with ibuprofen, or some other drug. It can be covered up, sometimes at the expense of our livers. It can not be cured by pain medication, but that same medication can give you enough relief to sigh through it. Some physical pain can’t be fixed with a simple pill. It drowns you in the actual, until you wonder what you did so wrong. So you bend and move enough to continue. But I dare you to find any physical pain that is greater than that produced by our minds.
What is more destructive, the side effects of chemo or the belief that you don’t deserve to live? What is more powerful, the broken bone or the belief that you did wrong? Some will argue that you can’t compare two such different pains; but I believe when you are swamped from all directions you learn quickly the answer to these lessons. I dare you to find within yourself that question, that single pain that is larger than the self that you carry around.
I don’t like pain. Not in my sex, not in my health, not in my everyday life. Physical pain will swamp my mind until it becomes emotional pain. And emotional pain will swamp my mind until it becomes physical. It is inter-connected; similar parts of a whole that is undefined. And yet, I will live with the back pain. Because the emotional pain that haunts me through the night weighs so much more. And I will spend hours in pain hoping that it doesn’t bleed.
I am not a great candidate for physical pain. I tend to feel it deeply, even when it probably isn’t as painful as I think. I would not make a good candidate for some of the diseases out there, because I would fighting so hard to keep the pain from showing, from bleeding into the rest of my life, that I would forget to fight on more than one front. Ultimately, I believe that I would lose all battles, instead of finding within me the ability to crush multiple fronts.
Pain is a part of life. And I accept that. Part of me has been so defined by pain that the idea that it wouldn’t be there anymore is terrifying. The idea that I could live free of emotional and physical pain is somewhat daunting. How would I define myself? How would I learn the lessons that are a part of my life? How would I know I was alive? Pain, for all its glories, is a clear indicator that I am alive. That I am moving in some direction, that I have survived to feel again.
Pain is insidious. It moves in manners and through veins that have no other reason than to be their vessels. It moves in darkness, and it moves in light. It takes our breath, and steals our hearts. It creates within us dissention, rebellion, discord. It takes our previously known truths and makes them a competition for demons to fight. And there is no other way, no other path; pain is as perfect as the hope for God.
Pain is a part of my life. I will never get away from it, and while I will sit here and pray that the next pain is a hit that I can weather, the truth is it may not be. Tomorrow the pain may be greater than I can handle, pain greater than I can understand. It may be my salvation, pointing me in a different direction, and it may be my destruction. It holds numerous places in my life, and will continue to define some of the most important parts of my world. Whether it is remembered or felt, pain lives.