Every so often something happens to make you pause and look at your life closely. Sometimes you wonder: is this who I truly am? Other times you look around, blinking in the bright light, wondering: how did I get here? We hurtle though our lives at breakneck pace, and more often than not we are buffeted by the waves of circumstance, rather than deciding our own destiny.
I recently grabbed my destiny by the throat and chose to have major surgery rather than continue to endure the chronic pain that had begun to define my life. I am fortunate that I had the choice. Many don’t.
Last week I underwent surgery that I was told would take 4-6 weeks to get over. After 6 days I was already in less pain than before the operation. Today – just 10 days later – I am starting to get my bounce back.
With my bounce comes an exquisite emotional intensity that I have been privileged to experience before. It is the emotional reawakening that comes as I walk out of the dark, dead woods of chronic illness into the bright sunlight of wellness. In this state music can move me to tears. An email from a friend can take my breath away. Flowers, visitors, even phone calls are so joyous they almost hurt.
Fortunately this state doesn’t usually last too long. Right now it is tenuous as I continue to recover from surgery, but I am hoping that it will last, and soon I will no longer be a boiled frog in a world of pain. You know the story – if you put a frog in boiling water it will leap straight out, but if you put it in cold water and slowly raise the temperature the frog doesn’t realise what is happening, and it will stay until it boils and dies. That’s what happened to my pain levels. They got worse and worse and more and more frequent until I was in constant pain that ate away at my entire being. It stole my energy, my good humour and my resilience, until I barely recognised myself in the mirror.
I have stood here before in the pouring rain
With the world turning circles running round my brain
I guess I’m always hoping that you’ll end this reign
But it’s my destiny to be the king of pain
King of Pain, The Police.
What I find truly shocking about this experience is how many others are suffering similar pain – mine was from adenomyosis, which is an exceptionally painful condition that begins with painful periods and can end, as it did for me, in constant pain – not unlike being in labour 24/7. Talking with friends about why I chose to have surgery, I have heard numerous tales of unending pain. If there is no “serious” pathology underlying it, such as cancer, the medical profession seems to downplay it and, often, they are not terribly interested in finding solutions. So we walk away and continue to suffer. I am lucky enough to have a compassionate doctor who listens to me, and trusts me. I am lucky enough to be regaining my spirit, my energy and my life right now.
I can’t help wondering how many people out there are enduring chronic pain that is actually treatable. How many lives are needlessly draining away in endless, aching trauma?