By Jason Menard
Pain has no voice of its own, but it certainly has the power to rob you of yours – and to drown out the existence of everything else through its sheer volume.
Over two years ago, my wife and I were in a serious car accident. From that moment, when we were hit head-on in an intersection, our lives have been changed in ways we couldn’t have imagined simply because of a new addition to our family – pain.
It’s always there. It permeates every aspect of our lives and it becomes the driving, underlying force that guides us through each day. When a doctor asks you to describe pain, they often offer suggestions like burning, stabbing, or throbbing. But these words seem so insignificant when the better descriptors are debilitating, sapping, insidious, and demoralizing.
Most of us go through life knowing pain in only an acute sense. From stubbing a toe to breaking bones, the pain is intense, but fleeting. What hopefully most of us will avoid is that long-term, incessant accompaniment – a pain that is never truly relieved. Hopefully few will experience a time when that silent scream of pain becomes the soundtrack of your life. And as much as you try to block it out, it creeps in through the cracks of your resolve.
I consider myself lucky in that I’m capable of living a semblance of a normal life, despite my pain. I’m able to continue to work and I’m able to get through the day, yet with the help of pain-killers, therapy, and treatments. My wife is less fortunate. She lives her life in excruciating pain, where even the simplest of maneuvers – the ones we take for granted on a daily basis – have immediate and painful ramifications. And that just adds to the weight of pain as both of us watch the other suffer, yet are able to do little to help.
What this experience has taught us is that pain is nothing to be taken lightly — and it is certainly nothing to be mocked. It is insidious and it permeates every aspect of your life.
Pain robs you of the freedom to reach your dreams. Our shared goals and desires for the future have been put on the backburner in lieu of dealing with the here and now. Instead of being able to work on bettering ourselves, we’re focused on treatments and managing the pain.
Pain robs you of your family. Uninjured by the accident, our children still suffer from its ramifications. We are unable to be the parents we want to be, so we have to be the best we can. Cherish the moments you have with your kids while you can, because they mean so much once they’re gone. Things I took for granted in the past, like playing catch with our son or picking up our infant daughter, now are insurmountable challenges. Pain lets you try to be the best parent you can, but leaves you with the haunting feeling that you’re doing them wrong.
Pain robs you of your freedom. Nothing comes easy anymore. Going to the mall, getting groceries – even taking a leisurely drive, all of these tasks need to be planned and prepared for. When a one-hour walk means days of agony, then you better be darn sure that you’re prepared for the ramifications. It no longer is a question of what do you want to do – pain reduces it to what can we do?
Pain robs you of your faith. At times like this, I had always believed you could turn to certain people who would be on your side. But, perhaps due to the cynical way in which we look at our world, those days are long gone. The family doctor, once believed to be a source of unwavering support and resolve to find a solution, now becomes nothing more than another roadblock along the road to recovery.
Because there is no tangible indicator of pain, one is made to feel like they’re presumed to be lying. Tied up in red tape and unfounded fears, our medical professionals err on the side of over-caution bordering on obstinate. Yet what is lost is that we’re not treating words in a file – we’re dealing with real-life people in real-life agony. What ends up happening is that a culture of mistrust forms, and those already isolated by their situation feel that there is now one less person to trust. And let’s not get into the adversarial relationship that insurance companies foster.
You want to have faith that things will get better, but dealing with the day-in-day-out reality shakes anyone’s resolve. And it makes it harder when you’re working in spite of the system – not with it.
Pain robs you of your social life. When it’s hard just being in your own skin, putting on a brave face for the outside world is intolerable. You get tired of living your own reality, so it becomes even harder to share with those around you. And what makes it more difficult is the lack of understanding. Although rooted in good intentions, unsolicited advice often does nothing more than add to the demoralization. Questions like, “Are you sure you’re hurting?” or “Are you still in pain? After all this time?” or comments like “Well, maybe you’re not trying hard enough,” or “Maybe you should be more positive” don’t make things better.
We’re all unique and our situations can’t be compared. My wife and I were in the same accident, but our situations are completely different. Those in pain don’t need to know what worked for you – we just want to spend some time forgetting about our reality. So, when faced with this type of scrutiny, we insulate ourselves even further, finding solace in those that understand – even if it is only ourselves.
Yet, out of all this darkness there is light. Pain lets you find out who your true friends are, who you can rely on, and it stops you from taking things for granted. The constant hurt makes those moments of joy, love, and happiness all the more sweet. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but a valuable one for life. And it’s one that must be heard over the overwhelming silence of pain.
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