accustomed to pain; are we or are we not?


Last evening I visited my osteopath to treat my ongoing, lingering, persistent, lower back pain.  He asked me if my back ever wakes me up in the night?  I had to think about it for a few seconds before replying.  Does my back ever wake me in the night, I thought?  But more precisely, does my back wake me up because of the pain?  Do I ever wake up because of pain?  And then I realised something.  I never do. And certainly not from my back. Once I’m asleep, I’m gone for the night. There are dreams I never wake from. Getting to sleep however is another story.  

Pain keeps me awake but it rarely wakes me up.  So I told him that.  Then he asked if I had better days or worse days with the pain and I said “well not really, it’s kind of there all the time, like a dull ache I carry round“.  And it’s familiar. And there’s something else actually. It’s MY ache. It’s kind of who I am in a way.  Of course I would quite like the ache to dissipate; to feel looser, but I know the day I do, I won’t even notice it. It’s a lot like noise and stench.  You only notice these things when they present themselves.  So in terms of pain, I notice it now precisely because the ache is present.  And I live with it.  It’s my familiar, comfortable, shadow.

Today, a fellow blogger, Jin, reminded me of something else which prompted this train of thought and this post.  He said something really quite profound. He told me that he has grown accustomed to his pain.  And that made me think.  And when I start thinking I end up with many questions but very rarely, with any answers.  But that’s OK. I don’t mind.  I’m not really looking for answers anyway.  Anyway I digress. The questions:

Have I grown accustomed to my pain? Have you, to yours?  Do we, all grow accustomed to our pain?  

We are, naturally, products of our environment and pain is a huge part of it so I guess we do become ‘used’ and accustomed to pain; that this is what we, as humans, do.  Are we as accustomed to sweetness and joy I wonder?  There are no scars to show for happiness.  Do we become as accustomed to happiness as we do with pain?

Now ten years ago, the notion of being accustomed to pain would have freaked me out totally. Now I quite like it.  I guess I am more accepting of life. Don’t get me wrong. I am no sadist and on most days I remind myself not to be no martyr. I still scream and shake my fists when things get unbearable, albeit silently, or into my pillow but I don’t fight so hard any more. Either I am tired or I just know it’s pointless. And that in its own way, is a relief on many levels and one my psyche seems to appreciate.

I was looking for quotes about pain and found this one by Jim Morrison. There were many to choose from (!).  But I settled for this one.  I think it captures what I am trying to say in my ever so clumsy way.  I wish you all a safe, peaceful, WILD, happy or sad weekend.  Whatever and however it comes, be kind to yourselves.

P.S.  Jin – thank you for the inspiration.

People are afraid of themselves, of their own reality; their feelings most of all. People talk about how great love is, but that’s bullshit. Love hurts. Feelings are disturbing. People are taught that pain is evil and dangerous. How can they deal with love if they’re afraid to feel? Pain is meant to wake us up. People try to hide their pain. But they’re wrong. Pain is something to carry, like a radio. You feel your strength in the experience of pain. It’s all in how you carry it. That’s what matters. Pain is a feeling. Your feelings are a part of you. Your own reality. If you feel ashamed of them, and hide them, you’re letting society destroy your reality. You should stand up for your right to feel your pain.