Metaphorically speaking the areas where pain is most likely to occur is the neck and the derrière. There is no limit to what can be the cause of that. Home and car maintenance, neighbors, pets, neighbors pets, relatives, drivers, politicians, bosses, cable companies and so on. I’ve had a real pain with the toilet lately. No, it’s not something Preparation H would help. You see the toilet tank has been leaking. Our cat Truman is sometimes known as a PITA. Pain in the same place as the toilet. I’m not talking about someone stealing your Twinkies or your team losing the big game either. I’m talking about honest to goodness gut wrenching, nerve searing, drop you to your knees kind of pain. The next time you run into someone who you think is a real pain in the keister, remember they may be dealing with a pain far worse than you can imagine.
I was a big fan of Bugs Bunny cartoons and The Three Stooges when I was a kid. I found it hilarious when a character had an anvil dropped on their head or was launched through a wall. I still love to laugh, but I’m a lot more sympathetic of the stooge who gets his eye poked now. Pain has its place in animated or vaudeville humor but real life can be a lot more sobering. Sometimes it’s hard to differentiate what is more painful. Is it the chronic illness or the broken heart? The pain may be different, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. If not treated properly they can both linger and cause worse problems. Mental and emotional pain can hurt as much as physical pain. Deep scars are hard to cover. Other people may no longer see the scars but you know exactly where the wound was.
With all the different types of pain, sometimes it hard to differentiate what a person is suffering from the most and what their pain level is. At some point you will be asked to rate your pain. If you’re just having one pain then it’s pretty straight forward. If you have multiple issues it can be more complex. The medical community has adopted the pain scale in order to assess the level of pain a patient is in. You mention pain and right away they make you take a test. “On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the worst, what would you rate your pain?” Is this going to count against my grade? Even though it’s multiple choice it doesn’t make it any easier. They trust me to tell them? I cant even figure out what I want from the drive thru menu. Don’t they have a device that tells them what level my pain is without relying on me? Quick somebody look up what I said last time I was here. So now not only are you in pain, but you have the added pressure to come up with an appropriate number. I don’t trust myself in these pressure situations anymore.
There are many different types of pain scales. My chiropractor uses a chart with an outline of the front and back of the human figure. I find it makes for a fun anatomy drawing project. My file reads like a life drawing portfolio. Some scales have cute little emoji faces. Some are very descriptive while others look more like an engineering schematic. We live in Southern California. We are acutely aware of earthquakes. There are many earthquakes we just don’t feel. We are as desensitized to earthquakes as we are car chases. Pain scales are the Richter scales of medicine. Unless it registers over a 4 or 5, don’t waste our time. Once you hit say 7 well buckle up buttercup, the pain train is leaving the station and you’re in for the ride of your life. If you have multiple issues, the pain scale becomes skewed. If you hit a 9 or 10, nothing else seems to matter. For instance, you may have had a significant back issue that normally would register a 7, then something that is supposed to be on the inside ends up on the outside and it registers a 9, suddenly your back doesn’t seem so bad. Pain for you may not be pain for me. What I think is an 8, may only be a 4 for someone else. It’s purely subjective.
Certain pains trump all other pains. Start combining them and now you have a real conundrum. This is my dialogue with my doctor during a recent checkup. Doctor, “So how are you feeling?” I say, “I’m having some pain.” Doctor, “What would you rate your level of pain?” I tell him “zero stars, two thumbs down.” He just stares at me. He wants details. So I continue, “Well my TN has been acting up, so it goes from 3 to off the charts in less than a second. My neck on the side of my brain surgery is a 6 at the moment. My lower back is anywhere from 2 to 6. My trigger finger is currently a 4.5 except when it locks up and I pop it back in place then it is easily a 7 but only for a few minutes. My right arm where the catheter was is a 3.5 but yesterday evening it was a 5. My blood pressure is high. I still have trouble swallowing and I choke easily. I still get dizzy and lose my balance. My eyes are bothering me still but I’m still taking my glaucoma drops. I’m trying to figure out this hearing aid too. Emotionally, I’ve been better, I’m sorry, what was your question?” I was a human piñata.
When you’re in pain you don’t always make rational decisions. The best you can do is to know you need help. You really don’t care how you get relief, you just want relief. Ever notice how people call out to God when they are in pain? Unfortunately, too often they do so in a blasphemous manner. I was told right after brain surgery I was calling for help from Jesus and Obi-Wan Kenobi. The quicker the help arrives the better. Does anybody buy just plain old regular aspirin anymore? Seems like when I was young, you had two choices, regular or Bayer. Now the choices are extra strength or maximum strength or super fast acting extra long lasting. We can’t wait. We want help and we want it now.
The care givers go through their own brand of pain. I had the unfortunate pleasure of spending a night in a hospital room with a crystal meth addict. He was a human wrecking ball. He was both demanding and demeaning. I felt sorry for the nurses having to cater to his incessant bellowing. I informed a nurse intern that it was never too late to change careers. That lightened her mood. Everything about him was loud and irrational. He cursed at the nurses nonstop. He blasted his television all night long. He was uncomfortable so he wanted everybody around him to be uncomfortable. He didn’t care. I wanted to let him know that he wasn’t the only one hurting. It would’ve been lost on him. At 5 a.m. when he finally turned his tv off and tried to sleep, I turned on my tv and discovered a Christian broadcast that for some reason only worked on full blast. We got to change rooms later that morning.
Everyone deals with pain differently. There are people who avoid going to the doctor because they are afraid of what the doctor will tell them. Ultimately they are afraid of pain. They would rather live with the discomfort of ignorance than deal with the fix. You go to the doctor to have a spot checked out. The doctor says, we can work on this one freckle size area but it’s going to hurt like hell or we will need to remove half of your body but you won’t feel a thing. What would you prefer? Which half doc?
Often, the fix can be worse than the ailment. Things doctors love to say, “This will pinch a little” or “this is going to burn slightly” or “you might feel a little discomfort temporarily.” Is that something they read in a book? What to tell your patients as you pull their intestines out through their nose with a tweezer. I once had a neurologist suggest a new medication. When we asked about the side effects he very matter of factly said death. Is that all, well give me some of that!
I was diagnosed with Trigeminal Neuralgia in 2003. TN has the distinction of making it somewhere on every list of most painful diseases. Some doctors will tell you it is the worst pain a human can feel. I haven’t experienced every single pain available on the menu so I really can’t say for certain. One of the treatments I sought for TN was a procedure called stereotactic radio surgery. During the procedure doctors screw a metal frame into your skull. You are then laid on a table while they bolt the frame down and shoot radiation at the nerve. Normally this wouldn’t be the worst but unfortunately for me, they didn’t inject enough local anesthesia prior to screwing the frame into my skull. I nearly passed out. This was supposed to be the fix.
We have a natural aversion to pain but we are incredibly gifted at giving it. As a society, we seem to derive great pleasure from watching others in pain or inflicting pain on others. We just don’t like it when it happens to us. It’s ironic that certain institutions and people that are supposed sanctuaries who advertise love and healing can be the very ones causing incredible pain and suffering. People can seem oblivious when it comes to how much pain they inflict on others. Either they have never experienced pain or maybe they just plain forgot what it was like or they are completely insensitive. You can always count on someone to illicit some insensitive remark too. Right after brain surgery I had to have a person tell me all about their uncle who died of a brain tumor. Tact and timing are everything. Something some people just haven’t mastered yet.
Dealing with pain can be exhausting and challenging. You can always find someone who has it worse. That doesn’t mean your pain isn’t real and what you’re experiencing isn’t bad. Pain is pain. It is no fun. Some people are relative rookies when it comes to pain yet they drone on like they are the only ones who suffer. They only succeed in embarrassing themselves. They do their best to convince everyone within earshot that a boil on the butt is a bigger issue than a ruptured spleen. They long to tell you all about how they have it tougher than anybody. It’s not that they necessarily have worse pain, they just crave the attention like a social media diva.
Then there are those people who offer unsolicited advice. They insist that your doctors don’t know anything. They themselves have no medical training other than a blog they once read. They have no idea your health history or access to any of the medical tests and yet somehow they feel qualified to prescribe what they think is best for you. It’s the personal version of socialized medicine. They don’t have a lot of credibility with me. Don’t tell me you know best how to deal with my pain when you don’t have a clue what I’m dealing with.
Pain and suffering can cause us to do extreme things. It can also draw us closer to the Lord. We have probably prayed more in the last few years than we did our entire combined lifetime. It can also make you more aware of what others are going through. It’s easy to find people who have it worse off than you do. A Shriners or St. Jude Children’s Hospital commercial especially tugs at your heart. No matter what type of pain you are suffering, it’s important to know that it doesn’t have to be permanent. Jesus came into this world to take on all our pain. He conquered this world and so can you because of Him. Pain in this world is just a reminder how amazing the gift of heaven will be.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:3
Copyright © Brian Dietz