Pain is humbling. I sound like a martyr. Not so.
But however we experience it, pain changes the way we look at things
The idea that pain ennobles is not always true. History is littered with bullies in agony, with everything from dermatitis to constipation, their savagery a lashout for intolerable suffering.
What is inevitable is that pain changes the focus of the mind … and then we forget and have to learn all over again, often from the same pain.
Looking for pain images takes you to back pain, it is so prevalent. My back pain is much more manageable after the advent of a proper chair, no more long periods of sitting, Pilates and Mr. Nordeen who found via MRI the chip out of the vertebra occasioned by a fall downstairs when I was 12 and told me how he planned to keep me off the operating table.
I exercised. I walked. I changed position. It’s just that four times in the last two years I have fallen on the right knee. This is not because I am a drunk but I am clumsy and after the last fall, my usual nostrums (hot and cold, elastic bandage, rest) weren’t effective. It took a long time to start feeling like my knee again. A month later, when a friend arrived to help me paint the bathroom, I forgot all about it and used the joint as usual but when Pam the Painter went home, we were on the segue from discomfort into pain. It’s been the downward road from then on.
Interested in the mind/body crossover, I had backache all right but reading that Freud relates back pain to mourning made psychological sense.
More recently Sam the Seriously Short of Sleep told me that after 10 hours’ sleep – an event on a par with the appearance of Halle’s Comet – he was still tired. Perhaps he remarked wearily, he was sickening for something? Or was he just exhausted with the hooha attendant upon selling his flat preparatory to The Next Stage of His Life? I had to say it might be both – if you’re ill you may feel tired and if you’re tired you may feel ill. Stress affects the auto immune system.
When I opened the Sunday Times colour magazine and saw Nick Brandt’s photographs of the magnificent elephant butchered for his tusks (also pictured), I cried with shame. That people will do anything for money I already know. And I am no saint where animals are concerned, no matter how drawn to them. But I don’t understand the unnecessary inflicting of pain – from ignoring the watering of plants on up – so I hope what goes around comes around, that whoever inflicted this suffering, suffers too.
You can see that pain has not improved me. But did opening up to that pain make me feel more of my own or differently?
When you say you’re in pain people opine and draw from their experience.
Wal whose broken back occasionally relapses through strain he’s not aware of with consequent dramatically awful spasm, was of the opinion that my knee couldn’t be what is called “referred pain” because “it wasn’t the right kind of pain”. Or I couldn’t convey it convincingly to him?
Di has a knee deteriorating over much longer than mine after years of theatre and exercise of every kind. She was offered surgery earlier this year but, casting around for help, she was introduced to a Japanese shiatsu expert. Not fun. “Pure pain” is how she described it. However, three weeks into his treatment, she has 50 per cent improvement in relief from the daily pain she’s suffered for years.
I spent an hour with a recommended laconic thoughtful Australian chiropractor who asked questions, made me stand and move, examined me, front, back, knee and sides, and took x-rays of all of them. I have a second appointment to discuss what he can see, a treatment plan, and homework, things I shall have to do. Nobody has said anything about pain except to acknowledge that it brought me to the practice. He prodded round my knee without having to peel me off the roof. And in pure terms, it hurts as much now as it did two days ago, if marginally less than one day ago.
But the pain is in a different place in my mind.
It has been acknowledged.
I just want to know if this is what we used to call housemaid’s knee.
My mother will fall off a cloud laughing.