“Life is pain, princess. Anyone who tells you different is selling you something.”
– Dread Pirate Roberts
My friend JP and I have determined that we have a strange idea of “pain”.
Here’s my difficulty: when you go into the V.A., they ask you for a “pain level”, which is supposed to be a number from one to ten. In my head, that means one is “I stubbed my toe” and ten is “My hand has been burned to a stump.” When a fellow veteran came into the office after me and told the nurse his pain level was “10”, I couldn’t figure out how he could mean that – wouldn’t “10” be writhing around on the floor, screaming from the pain?
Upon reflection, I realized that a scale with that kind of spectrum really wouldn’t be all that useful for doctors, so I figured that my own pain level should be re-calibrated. I could barely move and it felt like the groundhog was gnawing his way out of my navel for a second look at Spring’s potential, so I smiled at the nurse.
“Three, maybe four.”
Hey, it’s a work in progress.
The Knowing of Pain
My friend JP, on the other hand, relates how he started feeling a little discomfort and wobbly walking in his ankle, and after a day and a half went in to have it looked at. The docs were incredulous: “Are you not in any pain at all?” His ankle was broken.
His response was something like “I am aware of discomfort, but it’s still far away from what I’d call pain.” For both of us, pain has to actually impede something in order for it to be addressed. If we are fully functional, and the pain isn’t more than distracting, we’re likely to just ignore it until it goes away.
On the other hand, we do look at pain as a source of information. For example, one of the reasons I don’t want to take the painkillers they gave me for my hernia repair is because I have this fear that it will numb me to the point where I’ll move more than I should and rip out the stitches. Pain reminds me of where my limits are, and tells me when I am close to being damaged.
At least, that’s the way it should be. As I pointed out to JP, his pain was telling him for a day and a half that his ankle had damage, but he didn’t listen. And the numbing of the painkillers is probably more to keep me still and not restless, so that my stitches can heal.
It’s hard to be a “tough guy.” You have a choice between feeling dumb or feeling whiny. Neither is much fun.
What’s your relationship to pain and the modes of alleviating it?