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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Power of Pain

It is not unusual for abuse survivors to develop the ability to disregard pain. It's a coping mechanism necessary for them to continue living. I believe some people actually do not feel pain, or they feel it momentarily and then dissociate from it so they feel it no more. My experience is that I'm aware of the pain on some level and it manifests itself in ways other than actual "hurt".

This means that I've never completely lost the ability to feel pain which is, according to Therapist, a very good thing. Pain is important. It tells us when something is changing our beings and needs our attention--and that includes both physical and emotional pain. Notice, I said "changing." Pain involves change. It is impossible to experience pain without some sort of impact. If we disregard or dissociate from the pain, the change still occurs, often without attention which can cause a great deal of harm. This is not always the case. Small injuries can heal on their own, but will probably heal more quickly if we acknowledge and care for them.

You may read the above paragraph metaphorically, should you desire, but today I'm speaking literally.

I've been working in therapy to learn how to feel pain more naturally, acknowledge it, and tend to its needs. And in the past six months I've become wildly successful at this. It sucks.

When one is used to expressing pain as mildly annoying crankiness, feeling the actual physical manifestation of pain is a little shocking and very unpleasant. I have iliopsoas tendonitis. Roughly translated for any who have not experienced this, it means that if I lift my right leg (to put on pants, get in a car, walk up or down stairs--you get the picture--basically anything you have to do every day of your life), piercing pain runs through my groin and down my inner thigh. It takes my breath away. When I told Therapist I was feeling it I thought he would do cartwheels, and then I got a huge speech (while he did a tiny happy dance) about how wonderful this was and three years ago I probably would have noticed something didn't feel quite right, and then I would have gone running. I didn't like him very much in that moment.

The point he was making was that I would most likely have experienced further injury or exacerbation of the problem because I didn't recognize it was hurting me. Pain is good, he says, it helps us get better. I'm not yet on his band wagon.

What I know is that I am getting better, but I'm also feeling a great deal of depression and discouragement. Therapist would tell me that's a wonderful thing, too. Hearing that I understand what I'm feeling and acknowledge it, would send him into another, larger happy dance, so I probably won't tell him. That's just an awkward thing to witness.

But I'm not sure what to do about those feelings. The physical pain is intense, and the physical therapy I'm required to do adds more pain at a different level, but I understand that's all part of healing and it's temporary. I'm still discouraged. I feel powerless and wimpy and out of control. Controlling my body has always been important to me (hence, the years of running and the bout with anorexia). Yielding that control is horrifying and scary. I spent much of yesterday in tears and today doesn't look better.

Therapist would tell me again and again that I'm getting better. Maybe I need him to tell me. Maybe I need everyone in the world to tell me, because I'm sad and afraid and in more pain (emotional and physical) than I want to think about. Sleep is difficult, too, because I have the added delight of that cracked tooth. It hurts a bit, as well.

For a few days I could self-soothe. I would do things that made me feel cared for and loved. That was helpful. I've reached a threshold, however, where I'm unable to do that by myself anymore (read: even more loss of control, more vulnerability, more desperation and discouragement), and asking for help feels so silly.

"Dear Person-to-whom-I-am-reaching-out:
I'm finally doing what everyone else does every day; I'm feeling pain. It sucks and I'm not dealing with it very well. I want to curl up in a ball and die when I get a hangnail. When you're finished laughing at me, will you please give me a hug and NOT remind me that I'm just doing something normal and trivial, and instead pretend that I'm amazing for going through this in the first place? We'll both know it's a sham and most people go through this on a daily basis without doing more than saying "OUCH!" and showing the owie to someone nearby before they finish climbing Mount Everest, and I'm inanely making my own mountain of a molehill, but it would really help me if you'll just coddle me for a moment and tell me I'm going to be okay.
Thanks so much.

See--very silly. Still, today is sunny and there's no wind and my leafless trees and shrubs are trying to make leaf buds and the sky is so blue you could swim in it. Maybe things will feel better today.

Time for me to go to the gym and feel a bit of pain. I can't wait!

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