It’s hard to write creatively, difficult to think, when one is in physical pain. One can only think of and deal with the pain. I have, of late, been to a place where I didn’t really care if I ever wrote again. But mostly I’ve been thinking about what to write next, with those thoughts continually interrupted by the necessity of dealing with pain. In frustration and impatience, I’ve decided to write about the very thing that seems to insist upon occupying my thoughts.
I decided to look on MedicineNet.com* for a definition:
“Pain: An unpleasant sensation that can range from mild, localized discomfort to agony. Pain has both physical and emotional components…”
I believe I have experienced agony. I have most certainly discovered some “emotional components” over the past few weeks!
After surgery, as I had been forewarned by the nurse, I had to focus on surviving the first 48 hours. There was pain but it was secondary to the nausea. And there was fear: I had been cautioned about blood clots, stroke, reaction to meds, etc.
After 24 hours, I went home. I knew I’d be up and down all night and suggested I should sleep in the guest room. My husband would have none of that!
“I’d be running in there to check on you all night!” he protested. “I wouldn’t get any sleep at all.”
So we were both wrestling with the fear.
After my first week checkup, some fears were assuaged. The doctor said what I was experiencing was within the norm, perhaps exaggerated by my sensitivity to all the medicines. (Hospital nurses called me a “lightweight” when I couldn’t handle the prescribed dose of narcotics.)
At five weeks, I had a physical exam and found I had not ripped any stitches. That was a fear I’d been dealing with, having been told, “Don’t lift anything. Don’t use your abdominal muscles to get out of bed or off the sofa. You could tear out stitching.”
As to my level of physical pain, the doctor said, “You’re healing a little more slowly than our schedule but you’re a little older…” He’s told me that twice now. I hold back my sarcasm.
Many years ago, I worked alongside a midwife, learning the trade. I was able to assure first-time laboring mothers that they weren’t going to die, they were in expert hands and that women had been doing this successfully for thousands of years. My calm confidence helped relieve the emotional side of their pain–the fear. They could then better cope with the physical pain and get on with the business of birthing a baby.
I find it also helped to remind them how the cartilage holding their pelvic bones had softened and relaxed, allowing the baby to better fit his passage. When it feels like your body is being ripped apart, I think it helps to remember human anatomy was designed by a loving and wise Creator.
A little child who is stung by a bee will scream like he’s being killed. A teenager with his first charley horse will try to convince you he’s dying. A man passing a kidney stone is sure he knows what childbirth feels like. But with experience comes knowledge. And maybe less fear.
In an effort to describe a degree of pain, sometimes I now tell the care giver, “It hurts,” but then modify my statement to, “Well, it’s quite uncomfortable.”
What do you think? Does fear make the pain worse? Does understanding take away the fear and lessen the perception of pain?
The complete definition from Medicine Net:
“Pain: An unpleasant sensation that can range from mild, localized discomfort to agony. Pain has both physical and emotional components. The physical part of pain results from nerve stimulation. Pain may be contained to a discrete area, as in an injury, or it can be more diffuse, as in disorders like fibromyalgia. Pain is mediated by specific nerve fibers that carry the pain impulses to the brain where their conscious appreciation may be modified by many factors.
“Pain is also a term specifically used to denote a painful uterine contraction occurring in childbirth.
“The word ‘pain’ comes from the Latin ‘poena’ meaning a fine, a penalty.”