Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2019/ Reflections on Pain

Reflections on Pain

Some time last night my shoulder started hurting. Maybe I slept improperly on it, or maybe I carried too many heavy things in my backpack the day before. In any case, I expect to be in mild pain for the next few days, at least.

It is a cliche to say that we take our good health for granted, but it is a true cliche. When I am in pain then it is hard to think of anything else. I don't want to put in 100% effort at work or at home. I want others to baby me, because I am a big baby. Don't they see I am in pain?

Of course they don't. It is no different than the way I minimize the chronic pain others experience. I know many people who deal with chronic pain (a few who might even read this), and although intellectually I know that chronic pain is debilitating, I treat these people as if they are healthy, because I do not feel that pain myself. Honestly I don't know how people continue to function normally with chronic pain, never mind be cheerful sometimes. And this is a mild pain -- it barely hurts. Why must it take the punishment of experiencing pain for me to summon up empathy for others who experience it?

As usual, my anxiety has taken over. My thoughts have raced to the future. Is this the pain that won't recede? Thus far my bouts of chronic pain have gone away so I could be oblivious again, but if I live long enough I should expect chronic pain to be permanent. In some ways my worries around the future are as bad as the pain. Will I be able to function? Will I be able to work? Even typing aggravates the pain a bit. I have often thought of what a disaster my life would become if I was to hurt my foot or leg badly -- how would I get around? The shoulder in my dominant arm is maybe not as severe, but it is still irritating.

Of course, if I was a good Buddhist (or a Buddhist at all) then I would have some practice in observing the pain for what it is and letting the racing thoughts associated with this experience go. But I squandered those practice opportunities, and here I am.

When I am active with something else I can forget about the pain for a while, but as soon as I lose my focus the pain is there to greet me. It sucks. I wish living pain-free was not such an unreasonable request.

It occurs to me that this is how people get on opioids, and that I am a natural candidate to get hooked too. I should keep that in mind the next time I am feeling judgemental because some psychotic meth-head is doing something irritating.

It also occurs to me that there is something much worse than the pain -- the difficulty pain can cause in getting a restful sleep. When I do not have enough sleep I fall apart. That is much worse than the distress of the pain itself.

I do not know what will happen. My guess is that sooner or later my body will heal up, and then I can become oblivious again. But I don't know for sure, and I don't have a good plan for when chronic pain stops visiting and sets up shop permanently in my body. There will be a breaking point, but I do not know what that point is or when I will reach it.