My favored painkillers – Answer No. 50
„Is your pain unique?“ – Answer no.50
Over time and especially during the last years, I was confronted with several painful experiences. And as I got a chronic pain condition on top of everything, I need to become a specialist on pain*. MY pain, that is. I cannot speak about a universal experience because I believe that every pain is -indeed- unique.
AND I believe that the experience of pain is something that can connect us in various ways.
In this post, I explore how honestly looking at my pain helps me restore myself and how true comfort can ease the isolation of feeling troubled and in pain.
There is still a long way to go before I can actually claim „expert status.“ The topic of „pain“ is simply one of THE vastest topics one can decide to write about. So I am very aware that this article is only a tip of the iceberg description of where I stand right now.
Every pain is unique
I believe that nobody can genuinely apprehend how exactly another person experiences pain. We are all unique human beings. Our histories and belief systems are different. So no matter how much you think you know about a person, it is still only very little compared to the total of their lived lives.
Every broken leg feels different.
Every loss of a father feels different.
Every death of a friend feels different.
Even if we use the exact same words to describe a tragedy, I believe that what we truly feel inside ourselves is unique. And it is often not even evident to ourselves immediately what is going on. So we need to look at it and explore it with empathy and honesty. This takes time and patience. And the courage to stay with the pain for a while.
I believe that my pain is mine to explore and mine alone. Only I can fathom the depths of my losses, failures, wounds, and scars. No matter if it is physical or immaterial pain. Only I can fully acknowledge all the internal and external consequences of a painful experience.
And this is OK. At first, this may feel like isolation and cold and scary. But I find that this solitude is a necessary thing for me. Because this way, I can reach beyond the seemingly obvious. I can understand what I truly need to restore myself. This solitude allows me to reflect on new needs to fulfill and old needs to shed. My preferred mode of operation for this is writing.
I found that being alone with my pain in this manner is not a bad thing. It is only a tough thing.
I need comfort, not understanding
It took me a long while to understand what makes me slightly quiver if somebody says: „I know exactly how you feel!“ before hugging me to comfort me.
For an equally long time, I thought that understanding IS comfort. Or at least a prerequisite to comfort. And it is not. These are two completely different things. True comfort is unconditional, is not dependent on understanding what exactly the other person is going through.
Confronting my pain showed me that I was prone to explaining WHY I need comfort. Feeling pain just was not enough for applying self-compassion.
And for me, this is somehow hidden in the sentence „I know exactly how you feel!“°
First of all, I find it quite overbearing to state this. I always want to ask: Really? How?
And I start to secretly wonder: What would happen if you don’t „get“ my pain?
What if you did not „know exactly“? What happens if you can’t relate „exactly“ and deem my issue too small? Will you then not comfort me? Would I need to recount my tale to plead for my „right to comfort“?
All this can make me uneasy even in a well-intentioned embrace.
°On a side-note:
I’ve said this sentence myself. Especially when I felt
a close connection to the person suffering.
Now I try to avoid it and rather say something like:
„You must feel terrible.“
„This is so bad.“
– For me, it is more about emotional validation
than showing that I understand now.
I find it still tricky though.
Painkillers are not „earned“
When I am in pain, I may want a quiet, safe place to recover. I do not want to justify myself for the need to rest and heal. I do not need an assessment of my pain level to prove that I deserve that the curtains are drawn, red wine is on the table, and hugging arms are around me.
Or that I deserve a long quiet walk in nature. Or an hour of undisturbed reading time. Or journaling. Or playing with my paints. Or any approved „painkiller“ from my personal medicine cabinet.
I don’t even want to prove anymore that I deserve a painkiller when I am discussing that issue with myself.
I am a pharmacist, for heaven’s sake. I know that the equation is simple:
Pain + Painkiller* = Feeling better
“Feeling better” as in finding Comfort + Solace + Consolation + Healing + Rest + Energy + Motivation…
*I also know that in chronic pain, you give the remedy according to a fixed schedule. Not when pain „pops up.“ Then it is too late. But I also know that it may be tricky to find the best fitting pain killer. And over-usage is an issue, too. But both can be remedied by exploring the pain. And/ or consulting a „pain specialist.“ No matter what kind of pain you are dealing with.
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