Bejewell on March 22nd, 2010

A few months ago I was referred to something they call a “pain management specialist” for steroid injections, meant to relieve a chronic pain in my neck (and I don’t mean the husband - ba-dum-bump).

I walked into the office and announced myself to the receptionist, who promptly handed me The Clipboard — you know, the one with the eleventy million forms that require you to write out your name and address eleventy million times even though it doesn’t change from form to form.  (Do you hear that, doctor office people? IT DOESN’T CHANGE. Copy. Paste. Look into it.) I sat down and braced myself for the inevitable hand cramps, ignoring the shitty home improvement reality show playing silently on the lobby TV.

Question #14:  Rate the level of your pain, on a scale of 1 to 10.

1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10

Now, I was in a lot of pain at that point – I had to be to even consider submitting myself to injections of any kind.  (I’d say something here about how I don’t like needles, but I always wonder when other people say that - WHY is that distinction necessary? Wouldn’t you just automatically assume that I’m NOT a big fan of needles?  Do I really need to spell it out?)

I thought about it for a minute.  What IS my level of pain, anyway?  Well, it DOES hurt an awful lot.  Compared to this time last year, I’d say it’s a 10.  But if I circle “10” they’ll think I’m a whiner.  I don’t want to seem overly dramatic. I’ll choose “9” instead.

So there I sat, pen poised, decision made, ready to commit to the “9” on the page.  But just then, at just that moment, the door opened and another patient entered the room.  I looked up and in one flash of time my whole perspective changed.

The woman was probably in her late 60s, although she looked much older, and when I say she “entered” the room, I really mean she shuffled in, with the greatest of difficulty.   She could only move with the use of a walker, completely hunched over like something out of Notre Dame, and her daughter was there to hold the door for her, help her to a chair, gather the forms to sign her in, etc.  Just sitting down took her a minute or two and involved a tremendous amount of effort and winces of pain.

I looked at her, looked back down at my form, and circled “4.”

****

Just like pain, happiness is a relative concept.

We all have good days, bad days – some events in our lives are wonderful, others suck.  Some things we wish we could change, others we just wish we could control.  Some of the bad things are easier to overcome than others.  Sometimes they make us better.  Sometimes they make us worse.

Sometimes they bring us to our knees and leave us there, devastated, trying to catch our breath, for weeks or months or even years.

I don’t care who you are – I don’t care how rich or beautiful or smart or poetic or lucky you might be – we ALL suffer some kind of loss, grief, or heartbreak at some point in our lives.  We ALL feel pain.  We ALL live with regret and unresolved feelings, on some level.  It’s a universal truth.

Moving on can be a hard thing to do.  I know it is for me.  Dealing with the consequences of my own decisions is a constant struggle.  Outwardly I put on a good show, but deep down, I cling to regret and insecurity in spite of myself.  You don’t see it but it’s always there, somewhere under the surface.  And I don’t think I’m that unique.

I look at my friends’ Facebook pictures and they all look so happy, hanging out with their kids, flying kites, partying with friends, enjoying the weather.  Smiles all around.  Drinks held high in a permanent salute to life.  There are no photos of broken hearts or sickness or not being able to let go.  I read the blogs of the people I like and even when they’re complaining about the worst parts of their lives, they’re cracking jokes.  “Life sucks.  I’m sad.  This is horrible.  I wish I could die.  But see?  I’m laughing at it!  It’s okay!  I’m okay!  No sadness here, folks.  Nothing to see here.”

I do it all the time.  Nothing to see here.

****

Even as I write this, I feel wrong to say it.  It feels wrong to admit that sometimes things aren’t perfect.  I feel wrong to complain because where do I get OFF?  Look around you, Beej. Look at the people who are homeless or watching their marriages end or struggling with addiction or abuse or fighting cancer or dealing with the loss of a parent or sibling or friend.  Where do you get OFF?

And I’m RIGHT to feel wrong about it.  I’m right because I AM wrong.  I look around me again but this time, instead of seeing how others have it so bad, I see how I have it so good.

I have parents and grandparents who are all adorably kooky and who love me dearly and unconditionally, who would throw themselves to the wolves if it meant keeping me safe and happy, even now that I’m rounding the bend to 40.  I have a sister and friends who are incredibly amazing, talented, hilarious, full of substance and truth and love – and who regularly save me from myself, even when they don’t know that they’re doing it, even when they don’t know that I need it.  Maybe especially then.

I have a husband who makes me laugh and forgives me for my mistakes and tells me I’m pretty even when I look like hell.  Just because he knows I need to hear it.

And.

At the end of every day, I put to bed the most perfect little boy that was ever born.  He is healthy, happy, and incredibly well-adjusted.  He’s sweet and smart and funny and giggles when he toots.  He gives random hugs and Eskimo kisses and raises one eyebrow when he knows he’s doing something he shouldn’t.  He loves lollipops, jumping on trampolines, making new friends, and rocking the Casbah, and if you ask him what his favorite color is he’ll name whatever color he spots around him first.

It’s all about perspective.

I am NOT the old lady with the walker.  Nope.  I most certainly am not.

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22 Responses to “Pain Management”

  1. Aw. Squishy. That might have even altered my perspective enough on this shitty rainy Monday to get my ass in gear. Might. Probably not. Wait, I’ll read it again.

  2. awesome post, and perspective on things! we all hurt, feel, need, just on different levels.

  3. dammit, i’m crying again: blubbery old fart in no pain whatsoever after reading this.

  4. Sooo were you getting the shots in your neck? Because that sounds awful. I’d ask to fill out the form again while they administer the shot.

  5. Such a good post.

    And it sounds like you and my husband can share notes about pain management. He has arthritis between C2 and C3 in his neck and has undergone many injections.

  6. Okay, I liked that whole post, but I have to go back to the beginning. That pain scale? I hate that stupid thing! When I went into the hospital in labor, they asked me what my pain level was, 10 being my arm ripped off (seriously)… well, I couldn’t breathe or talk through contractions and I was in serious pain, but my arm being ripped off? That would be pretty damn bad. So they said I looked like I was a 6. Okay, whatever.

    Then after the baby was born and I was lying in the hospital bed that night, I asked for some motrin or vicadin. The nurse asked me on the same scale how much pain I was in. Compared to contractions (a 6) or my arm being ripped off (a 10) I was pretty content… just mildly uncomfortable after pushing a baby out of that there little area. So I said I was a 2. The nurse raised her eyebrows as if to say, “Why are you even asking for pain meds?” I seriously thought she was going to deny them because I didn’t give her a high enough number, even though I would’ve been exaggerating if I had.

    There’s just no winning with that stupid pain scale.

  7. Well written, Beej. Perspective is great to have. And you can always find someone who’s got something worse going on. Another favorite saying of mine is “And it came to pass…” I always take that to mean that nothing sticks around forever, not even misery. Good to know, eh?

  8. Great post. I completely agree. Recently I was mildly accused of presenting a false persona on my blog, because the awful stuff isn’t there (with a few exceptions). I have decided to use the blog for good – MY good – by focusing on the positive and my blessings, which are many. And LO, I am accused of being a fake. Which sucks.

    But everything on my blog is 100% real and true. It’s just not 100% of everything.

    (I hope they fixed your neck!)

  9. ThAnk you so much for this post. It’s almost as if you were speaking
    directly to me. I don’t have a bad life, but bad health. Well more than bad,
    but you have reminded me that no matter how bad off I am there
    is always some one else worse off.

  10. thanks for putting it into words that everyone can relate to.
    heartfelt and beautifully written.

  11. Cheers!

  12. That was beautiful. I fight that good fight a lot. To stay sincerely grateful for my life. Thank goodness for funny friends!

  13. What an encouraging post. I hope you are feeling better.

  14. Love it…so true, it’s all perception. I try to be grateful every day but I still get down in the dumps and then I get mad at myself for being down in the dumps. Viscious cycle really. Hope you are feeling better!

  15. Yeah, sometimes perspective is what it’s all about. A lot of us are blessed even when we dont’ feel blessed. And even for those who are going through trials, there’s something in their life that’s a blessing — it’s just seeing that blessing that’s the hard part, sometimes. I love this post. I saw your “tweet” that heartfelt posts get a few less comments, and I wanted to add one because you deserve it. :)

  16. Your little boy is absolutely gorgeous!!!

    I love this post. It is definitely about perspective. For me it’s about stress. I get stressed and anxious about so many different things. And then I go home and see my family and I remember what is important.

    But I think it’s okay if it’s all about you sometimes. Sometimes I do wallow in my depression or stress. But it’s equally important to get back up or get on with it.

    This is the first time I’ve been here…I like it!!

  17. I loved this.

    I need to change my perspective once in a while, thank you for the reminder.

  18. i love you…

  19. You are awfully hard on yourself.

    I see you as someone who is human, OKAY???

    And is blessed by the awareness of what she has.

    From,

    Someone who is awfully hard on themselves.

    p.s. Sorry I had to go all “blessed” on your ass, but you deserved it.

    (nothin’ to see here…)

  20. Oh, I’ve missed you.

    (I’m baaaaaa-aaaackkk …)

  21. I came here to read this because I saw your Twitter comment (you whore). I loved this post. Adding up plusses and minusses is a startling reality check – as is seeing anyone using a walker. Hope you neck feels better — could it be the laptop?

  22. i love this post. it tickled the cockles of my heart.

    another thing that i think about… my 9 isn’t someone else’s 9. that doesn’t mean that i’m not experiencing a 9, and vice versa. someone’s in pain, complaining about whatever they’re complaining about and it’s hard not to think… shut UP, already. do you know what i’m going through? but you can’t. because that’s their reality, their pain level, their truth.

    anyway, something i think about both when i get complain-y or someone else does. it’s all about perspective.

    i love this post.

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