Talking about my feelings has never been one of my strengths. You know what I’m even worse at? Talking about my pain. Physical, emotional, it makes no difference. For as long as I can remember I’ve felt that showing any pain at all was not only a sign of weakness, but an invitation; it might as well be a neon arrow pointing at me, letting anyone and everyone know of the perfect opportunity to take advantage of me.
I’m in pain constantly. I’ve endured physical pain all day, every day since the age of 13. Don’t even get me started on emotional pain! Training as a fighter didn’t do me any favors in the trust & emotional openness arena. At 13 I already felt ostracized enough to believe that I didn’t have a family, in as much as what it actually means to be family rather than just having living blood relatives, and that it was absolutely vital that I be able to take care of and protect myself, because nobody else was ever going to – I was on my own and always would be. These weren’t fears, they were realities I had accepted without question. I was absolutely relentless in my pursuit of advanced skill as a fighter and I was quite successful – I had natural talent and the drive only found in those who know deep within them they have true reason to need to know how to physically protect themselves from harm and death. Every fight was a fight for my life in my mind; not only that, but every exercise, every push-up, every punch, every single moment of training was fighting for my life. I wasn’t conscious of this at first, but it became apparent relatively quickly. I never even questioned why I had these feelings, this knowledge. It just was, and it was my responsibility to fight if I wanted to survive.
I all but destroyed my body through the years of training and fighting – not to mention the anorexia, the cutting, later the abuse and through it all the bone-deep hatred I had for myself – all while I pushed myself until I hit unconsciousness in martial arts. I trained myself, very successfully, to ignore pain. Not in the I-can-continue-in-spite-of-it way, but in the pain?what-pain way. When I’m in pain, I’m not even consciously aware of it until it hits at least a six, sometimes higher. Here’s the thing about my pain scale which I’ve never explained in detail and only provided a partial explanation to H once – a broken bone is an 8.5 for me. When I hit an eight, which happens regularly in the past year, I’m just a hair shy of the pain I’ve experienced with a broken bone. This may sound like I’m exaggerating, I wish I was. When I’m at a nine is when I use to go to the ER. Now I’ve got an Rx for the same pain med they give me in the ER, so I just give myself a shot and stay home. The one time I’ve hit a ten, I was on the floor, unable to stop screaming and literally hitting myself in the head while thrashing like I was bat shit crazy. It sounds unbelievable, but I recall it clearly. The migraine I had at the time was the worst physical pain I’d ever experienced and apparently those types of actions are coded into my DNA because I wasn’t able to make any decisions of any kind in that state, I can assure you. When I’m at a seven, I’m in enough pain that I can’t sleep.
Even that time in the ER, I’ve never admitted to being at a ten. How could I? There could always be more pain, I know that’s how life works. Things can always be worse. What gives me the right to stay my pain is “the worst pain possible” as it has often been described to me? Quite simply, I don’t have that right. But doctor’s don’t want a lengthy explanation as to why I need to give them a number with a decimal or what the numbers mean to me, they just want me to pick a number. So I do. Here’s another secret – I’m absolutely terrible at picking a number. I truly have no idea whatsoever how to transmute my pain into a number on a one to ten scale, even when they give me guidelines as to what number might apply. So, just to be on the safe side, whatever number I think I’m at, if I have to say it out loud, I always, always, subtract one and round down before I say anything. I wouldn’t want to exaggerate the pain I’m experiencing…I might as well ask for more pain. No thank you. I may be a masochist, but I can only take pleasure from some types of pain and what I experience on a daily basis does not, unfortunately, fall into that category.
On the other hand, the right kind of pain is a godsend when I’m in serious pain. Yes, orgasms help, but that relief fades quickly. If I can get the right kind of pain I can use it for hours or even most of a day to bury the terrible pain I’m in. The problem is finding that. Cutting worked, but it was self-destructive. I try to never resort to it anymore, although I’m not always successful. To be fair, asking for always is asking a lot, in my opinion. My health has been worse for the last year than it has ever been in my life. My physical pain has been worse than I’ve ever had to endure for any length of time ever before. I’m in so much pain it’s changed me, changed my life. I never wanted this. It’s ironic to be in so much pain and still crave pain with every atom of my being. I know, I’ve felt the power the right kinds of pain give me over the pain which is causing me misery and trying to ruin my life, my marriage, my happiness. My pain has robbed me of my hobbies, has robbed me of pieces of myself I fought for and worked so hard to create. I can’t talk about my pain. Failing of my own or not, I can’t admit the depth, the constant companion it is. If I ever did, how could I expect H to have any hope? I couldn’t even blame him for giving up.
I’ve always been a fighter; it’s just not in me to give up. I’d never have lived long enough to meet H otherwise. The problem is I don’t know how to fight the physical pain, the broken body which is entirely of my own doing. I used and abused myself; I choose to ignore pain, to take it as a sign that I had to push harder and further every single time I noticed it. I’m the one who showed my body no mercy even before E did the same. This is what I am – I don’t know how to take care of myself. I don’t know what to do in the face of this overpowering pain. So I use it. It’s exhausting and sometimes I fail. But I don’t know any other way to live at all. I can only function by channeling it, by using it as fuel. Whatever I need to do, to get done, it’s just a matter of feeling the pain and then taking the energy from it and focusing it to whatever it is I have determined I must do. It’s how I work every day. It’s how I feed my cats and drive without causing an accident and how I get dressed in the morning. But it’s so hard. It’s not like emotion or touch or communication, it’s not a tool so easily manipulated. I guess that’s why more people react to pain rather than ignoring it.
I have a bad habit of finding myself in Mr. Casual Friday‘s office when I’m struggling, physically or emotionally, at work. He told me recently, “I don’t know how you do it.” referring to my pain. He has also made numerous comments along the lines of, “I have a feeling you are in far more pain than you ever show” and, “How can I complain when I know others suffer from so much more pain, all of the time.” He has empathy for me I think. But how do I respond? It makes me uncomfortable – the last thing I want is attention drawn to my pain. I can’t deny what he says without lying, which I’m surprisingly not willing to do, nor can I admit just how right he is. That my pain is unimaginable for most. I don’t want him to know what this is like; I don’t want him to know this much about me or how I am struggling…and losing. How I’m drowning. I’ve wanted to be normal for as long as I can remember – not special, not smart, not different, just average. Shallow. Uninteresting. I’m no closer now than I was in the past. Maybe next lifetime. Being in pain, craving pain, this is who I am, this is the majority of my existence right now. I wish I knew what’s going to happen. If my team of doctors is going to help, if the pain is ever going to lessen. Or if it’s not. Instead I’m stuck not knowing, living this diminished life but refusing to accept it. I’m afraid.
And I didn’t even make it to the emotional pain I originally thought to include in this post. I guess that will have to come into the light next time.