Thursday, February 25, 2010

Trying to Explain

It is when the pain is gone or less present than usual when the truly traumatic experiences occur. How can this be explained in words?

Eloise sits down to take a sip of her morning coffee but today it does not taste like coffee. She cannot exactly say what it tastes like, only that it is not a coffee taste, though it is coffee that touches her tongue so familiar with that flavor. Frowning at the strangeness of it all, she opens her refrigerator to take out some orange juice. She notices then that the light bulb in the refrigerator has been removed and now sits comfortably atop an egg carton. When was this light bulb taken from its rightful place? And why? What nonsense! She closes the fridge door and finds herself jumping at the noise. How peculiar, she thinks, to be surprised at something I myself brought about. How could the small sound of such a normal thing have appeared so large and painful in her brain? What has happened to bring about this odd day?

When I have come out of a particularly horrendous bout of pain, the world is changed. Terrible pain is like a near death experience. For me, these two are linked, as one irrevocably caused the other to come about.

I will try, very soon, to explain the moment I was to die, but I can't think to do it now. To return to that moment is to delve into the mystical, and I haven't the stomach just yet. You'll have to forgive my procrastination-- I'm only human, after all, unless I really have died and am ghost or couldn't die and am godly.

When I saw that truck come toward me, my brain sped up. People like to say that the world slows but no, it is our clever minds that play tricks on us. They really do have their self-interest in "mind." Tobias Wolfe explained it so well in "Bullet in the Brain":

The bullet is already in the brain; it won’t be outrun forever, or charmed to a halt. In the end it will do its work and leave the troubled skull behind, dragging its comet’s tail of memory and hope and talent and love into the marble hall of commerce. That can’t be helped. But for now Anders can still make time. Time for the shadows to lengthen on the grass, time for the tethered dog to bark at the flying ball, time for the boy in right field to smack his sweat-blackened mitt and softly chant, They is, they is, they is.

Our minds recognize what a great events their deaths shall be and our to the entirety of our beings. While our muscles contract and our eyes secrete salty waters and our lungs panic into silence, our brains bring us through an infinite number of thoughts and feelings and memories. Our entire lives do not "flash before our eyes"-- how boring would that be? The mundane is abandoned. Our brains are not idiots, they choose the most profound moments and mix them in with thoughts of our approaching deaths and feelings about what might lie beyond.

In that moment, which lasted such an eternity, I came to terms with my death at the age of 18. I'm young, I thought, but some are younger when they go. It was... I think it was a good life, after all. At least mom can take some comfort in it being quick.

It is only afterwards, when the reality of my still living, that the pain and the horror and all the bad things set in. Having given in to the insane but self-preserving notion that death was an acceptable end to the day, how was I to return to sanity?

After going about shrieking at the slightest noise, feeling the darkness thrust a thousand objects beneath my skin, from tiny needles to cleavers, thanking god that death was eminent- rest was just on the horizon, how are we supposed to go back to a "normal" life? What was the sane seems crazy because you have forced your mind to accept the impossible as true.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Writing Practicum- An Object

this prison with the creaky door and too cold floors
it is too spacious for society's discerning eye
"come back when you're ten pounds lighter"
this prison

the lock has no key but I pull at the door and try
and try to break it open, to break free
from this cage

-- I need to do this one orally but it is WAY to loud right now. Sorry :(

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Thought

Thomas leaned back against the rails and considered how wonderful it would be to allow himself slip over the ledge, into the water, and disappear into the gaping blue. To feel the surface close above his head like the teeth of some giant monster. To sink farther and farther down into its bowels and inhale its blood, choking on it, quickly losing consciousness, and passing away without even realizing it. What a treasure everyone thought it was to be conscious, aware. To have that ever-meddling subconscious.


The captain considered how satisfying it would be to grasp Thomas’ slender neck and hold it tightly, watching Thomas’ eyes silently pleading with him, Thomas’ lips mouthing the begging words that the captain would ache to hear, to resist the temptation and keep his clasp until Thomas’ thin frame began quivering and the man’s long, thin fingers fought at the captain’s nose, long whiskers, and powerful fists, before Thomas finally wet himself and promptly died. Then, all the captain would need to do was throw the corpse overboard and blame the sea for Thomas’ disappearance.

Thinking Back

The precipitating incident is given far too much credit in this story. That cacophonous meeting of two objects in motion. Newton's Second Law of Physics- "A body persists in a state of uniform motion or of rest unless acted upon by an external force." Uniform motion disrupted. That's all it was, yet it remains so significant in my thought, if not my memory.

It wasn't a terrible day, if you can imagine. The adrenaline took the pain away for long enough and then the medication for such a long while after. Frivolous wanderings through the strange town of my banishment- frolicking among the snowfall while in a narcotics-induced ecstasy. True joy-- simply the joy of being alive. It seemed like it should be enough.

It isn't enough. I am left wondering if maybe I didn't die-- perhaps literally, perhaps only metaphorically.

I wonder if I'm not a spirit of some kind among "kindred spirits," if you'll pardon the pun, who likewise believe themselves to be among the living. What would be the point of being good if we were aware of our deaths? It is an ethically trick of the gods, to keep us from sinning in our afterlives for their is no further punishment than this ignorance?

Metaphorically- I have lost the life I had that was so free from pain. In which my body wasn't a constant distraction-- I have never been more aware of its existence. I have lost the life in which I was so comfortable just to sit. Even just sitting is the great agony of each day.

Thinking back, it is the everyday that is precipitating- each of the next and the significance of sitting more significant than the collision of two opposing forces. My eyes grow hallower, my spirit dampens, I slouch more and more each day-- towards Bedlem?

It seems so.

today

I feel as though I should be experiencing some sort of philosophical revelation. My feelings are gone away with just the one remaining, the pain stretching from my ears to my back opposite my belly button. This enduring, making it through the long day despite the pain. This is the sort of thing that out to stretch my mind out as well. Tie it to the wall and beat some ingenuity out of it.

With only the one feeling, what have I to depend upon but the cerebral? Something profound must burst from my fingers, my mouth, my mind, and I should spend weeks proud of myself for having depth as a human.

If I am to believe what I have written, this destruction of the I that is occurring, the breakdown between the external and internal wherein I cannot believe that we are all in this common experience of debilitating pain, wherein I am the debilitating pain, this is something that should bring me to the very edge of enlightenment. Whether Buddhist or Western philosophical or some sort of self-realization, it should come.

Aren't I owed something? Isn't this pain worth some deep thought or some wonderful piece of creation that will help me to pay my way through life as an artist, one with talent, the beloved of society?

But no, the wretched sit int the gutters among the fallen and molding leaves, and we remain nothing but that to be swept away. Would that I might be swept away. Walking down the stairs, I am compelled to throw myself forward by a perverse temptation in the back of my mind. But no, you cannot do such a thing until you have spoken and been heard.

Only then will the masses mourn that one has entered immortality.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

quarterly break down

so damn tired.

m 0
p 10000000000

Monday, February 8, 2010

Binaries

From A Brain Wider Than the Sky-

The story of how migraines affect marriage, parenthood, friendship, and job, of how they change one's status as a citizen of the world of spirit and of history, is an important one- especially given how the divide itself between sufferer and nonsufferer is one of the primary reasons people have migraines. The pain is innocent. It can't help itself. But that divide- more than the pain- is the real villain here (8).

Yes, you are correct, I still have not reached page ten. If you read my other blog, you'd know why-- big focus on setting up the research for my Capstone.

Anyway, Levy cites nothing to make me believe that the divide between pain sufferer and pain free non-other actually caused migraines but the rest of his point is pretty powerful. It is the "othering" of self that comes from the pain suffering that is most devastating when one falls into agony.

I think that more people are becoming aware of chronic pain as a disability.

From the ADA (no, not American Dental Association):

To be protected by the ADA, one must have a disability or have a relationship or association with an individual with a disability. An individual with a disability is defined by the ADA as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. The ADA does not specifically name all of the impairments that are covered (emphasis mine).

"Substantially limits one or more major life activities." Harsh. I think that about sums it up, actually, in a bit of a non-poetic way. Today I had to cancel Japanese on account of a massive pain trip (I had to get out of the car and walk around, it got so bad). Saturday I canceled dinner plans. Thursday I missed class. It has been worse than usual, for certain, but these are such common things. Even leaving the house becomes impossible. Sitting, for me, is the worst. I must lay down or stand or walk if I am to reduce the pain. This is a difficult situation for a graduate student and office worker.

I am meeting with a lady from my program to try to start a support group on campus. I think it is not so much the fact that there are non-other people who are pain-free that makes things difficult so much as the inability to whine without feeling like a, well, whiner. I feel like someone will ask me, "do you want some cheese with that whine?" or say, "this is the smallest violin in the universe..." and I will simply deck them. Not literally, but I may get angry, and I'm very Hulk-ish when I'm angry.

But it doesn't feel like whining when other people with pain tell me about what they are going through, so I must assume that others like me feel likewise. Therefore, I shall have a place to complain about the difficulty of the situation with others who feel similarly. Hm, I suppose that is why it is called a "support" group-- I plan to support others and be supported.

It is a bit depressing because this silencing surrounding chronic pain is self-imposed and so widespread. I don't mean to be sexist but reserve the right to be a bit biased in favor of the "fairer sex" on account of abuse-- I think a lot of this silence has to do with more women suffering than men. Women are used to being silenced, I suppose, but that's another issue.

Oh, and that link is the American Pain Society-- I didn't know there was one. I should check that site out more in the near future.

<3

P: 9
M: 8 <--- very unusual to be in a good mood-- only able to type because it got so bad it's gone numb for a bit (hot numb. My back feels like its burning. I should go to sleep before it realizes it liked aching more).

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Tags

I'm going to try to go back and make "tags" for posts- so that you can search more easily. How to do this... I shall discover!

<3

With Age

I think the worst part of this whole pain thing is the clear understanding and unfortunate reality that it is probably only going to get worse with age. Sure, my doctors tell me I will eventually be cured; I'm young. But I know what's going to happen: this condition might get better but something else will assuredly arise. All of my parents, after all, have back problems (that's four parents).

I don't really even believe that my semi-truck injury is ever going to get better. Sometimes, I think of it as the great tragedy of my life, other times, I convince/delude myself into believing that I am so lucky-- I might have died, after all, and then where would I be (ah, there's the question)? I think it is so much easier to put things into perspective when you have something terrible to relate it all to, you know?

Then again, I am especially at peace today. Well, anyway, let's have a positive post then. Cheer you all up.

I had a revelation last week, which might not seem all that grand but was very significant in my life, nonetheless. Upon considering reconciling with a person with whom I had an unpleasant experience/falling out a few weeks ago, I realized that I simply didn't have any desire to maintain that particular friendship. It occurred to me that I have been making close acquaintances of people who I do not particularly enjoy the company of.

It's absurd! Think about it- why would I want to be with someone I don't like? And, more importantly, why should I focus on making people like me so much?-- if they don't like me, I sure as hell shouldn't like them!

I think that this is a major confidence breakthrough. I've realized that I actually do like myself. I try to be good, and what more could you ask for?

Now, I just need to apply this to my silly embarrassment at showing my pain in public. I should do what makes me feel most comfortable-- it is my agony, not theirs, darnit! So, if I've a headache, I shall wear sunglasses, regardless of where I am. What do I care if people stare? It just shows they are ignorant of the realities of MIGRAINE. I shall wear those heat patches, put ice packs on, take pills, wear sunglasses, cancel class, and do whatever I need to maintain a happy outlook. There is nothing worse than toughing it out, and I'm not going to do it more than I have to.

I shall make every endeavor to remain a good student, but grades cannot be more important than my well-being. I must remember that I don't make enough money for work to be more important than my well-being-- if I have a pain crisis, it is going to cost my parents' insurances far more than I'd earn working. I am in a part-time job-- it is not the end of the world if I must leave it, however much I enjoy it. I must remember that I am far happier now than I was before, which probably accounts for why I enjoy working at the place I now am (not now... I'm actually at home in bed. hmm...)

This was meant to be a depressing post, but I suppose the wine kicked in just in time or something. I'm not going to worry about the future-- let us assume that the pain will only decrease and I will only grow merrier with each passing day.

Cheers!

Moral of story-- sometimes, a drink in the evening is good for the (psychological) health!

M: 10
P: 5 <--- probably has something to do with it.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Medication is Confusing

As well you probably know. Well, I'm pretty sure I mentioned going on Cymbalta for pain and pain-related depression (it works to suppress both- hurrah!) a bit ago (I think I recall an entry called "¡Happy Pills!"). Anyway, one of the happy side effects, apparently, is that over the counter pain meds now act differently. My doctor never mentioned this, but it must be true.

You see, I used to take ibuprofen all the time for additional pain relief. Excedrin Migraine looked so fancy but never helped. Ever.

This isn't really a story, so I'm not sure why I set it up that way. Conclusion- now that I'm on Cymbalta, or possibly for another reason, Excedrin Migraine randomly works for the migraine-type pain. Not for the shooting down the arms pain, as far as I know, or the general "can't move" pain, or the straight to my stomach kneeling to the porcelain gods pain, but the migraine pain is pretty awful and this is a nice new solution. Better than Vicodin-- I don't want the stabby man to return!

It could just be that I got immune to the effects of ibuprofen- it never seems to help these days. Can you build up a resistance to that sort of drug? If you don't take another drug for a long time (i.e. acetaminophen- active ingredient in Excedrin), does your resistance decrease (did I word that right?)?

I should probably be more knowledgeable at this point. Anyway, I'm chalking it up to magic.

"Something Haunting Me a Bit"

A short segment from A Brain Wider than the Sky stuck with me today. The author's son thinks that the author is acting silly when attempting to stop the pain from a headache by surrounding his head with three pillow. In response to his son's laughter, the author has a troubling thought:

... there's something else, too, something haunting me a bit, something buried in genetics, in the sleeping history of family.

You might be one, too, pal, I say, both hoping and not hoping it's true (6).

I like how honest the author, who I should probably call by his family name, Levy, is in his writing. It takes a lot of guts to admit that part of you wants the people around you, those you love, to be in pain as well. The desire for empathy, which seems only possible through a shared experience of extreme pain.

Reactions to pain do look ridiculous sometimes. If I do get migraines, I put on sunglasses and earphones with no music playing. I have no problem doing this in my tiny cubicle but I always, always take them off before venturing to get printings or leaving my safe space for some other reason. Wearing sunglasses indoors is attention-grabbing and makes one look like they just want to appear "cool." At least, that's how I feel when I wear them-- though I like to think I'm less judgmental when I see others wearing sunglasses indoors now.

Part of me wants the pain to be "seeable"-- I think about wearing my neck brace in public, even though I don't need it. I use sticky heat pads sometimes but cover them up with shirt. I've thought about wearing a shirt that shows them. Thought about wearing my sunglasses in public. But I don't want to seem like I'm screaming for attention.

It isn't really attention I want, but empathy. When I tell people I have chronic pain, I don't want them to think "well, it can't be that bad, or I would've noticed." It is that bad, but I don't WANT people to notice. If I tell people, there's generally a reason, and it usually means I either (a) really trust them or (b) feel it is necessary that they are aware.

There is such joy when I talk to others who are in pain all the time. It is a sadistic joy, one about which I feel terribly guilty. I shouldn't wish pain on anyone and I don't, but if they happen to have pain, I can't help but allow a tiny part of me to rejoice in our new camaraderie. "Finally!" I think, "Someone to talk (bitch) to!" Nobody wants to hear me gripe and moan, but if I'm willing to listen to someone else's pain then they'll listen to mine. There's just such comfort in this shared experience.

I'm sure someone's done some lovely research on shared trauma, and I'll write something up about it if it happens to cross my path. Otherwise, I'm too exhausted to look much into it. Mentally, I mean-- am a grad student after all!

Last Post's "Theme"

Well, I couldn't find the exact info to confirm my memory of Heian poetry, but basically there's this protocol in renga (it's a collaborative verse creation form- here is the Wiki). One of the rules is that only once in an extremely high number of lines (perhaps one in a thousand, but again, I can't remember) can you write about a bug's death cry. It is considered an extremely melancholy image- the creature's insignificant death going unheard. That is what chronic pain feels like to me sometimes.

The image of leaves and an insect being crushed into the ground is taken from a tanka where the poet mourns a cherry blossom (桜) trampled into the pavement.

The lack of subject is very common in all Japanese poetry. You don't need a subject grammatically in Japanese. The lack of subjectivity, incidentally, or not, as I consciously chose the form, also mimics the state of mind in an instance of extreme debilitating pain.

In the Kokinshu, the stages of love were mirrored by particular seasons-- Spring sees an initial attraction, summer finds unrequited love or some similar obstacle and sleepless nights spent pining, by autumn the sexual encounter has occurred and interest in each other is waning, and finally winter witnesses the death of the affair (similarly, in the Tale of Genji nearly everyone dies in the winter-- if you want to read about seasons and love affairs- go here for a decent article). Therefore, autumn is the last stage before death, the process of dying. Yes, I have used an unpleasant image in that of the falling leaf.

Anyway, I suppose that I actually used multiple themes but they all related to Japanese poetry, so I'm letting it be.

P: 4
M: 7

(aka, it is a relatively good day)

Friday, February 5, 2010

agony on a theme

final green swept to dust
tiny creature seeks
no more
pressed into earth
self-mourning song
one note
finds no hearing

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Writing Practicum #3

I didn't want to put this on my other blog-- the mostly happy one-- because I didn't want to drag that crowd down (all two followers). Anyway, I'm in a writing practicum for Autoethnography/Autobiography and one assignment is to write at least fifty lines starting with "I am." I plan on writing about chronic pain, so it seems more appropriate to place it here. If you want to see the other work, visit the other blog, which is not a plug, on account of I don't care if anyone sees it or not.

That said, I begin.

"I am."

I am alone from people but crowded by furniture.

I am like one of those pieces of furniture, passed without a second glance, not even an attention grabbing piece of furniture, I guess.

I am bleeding (literally).

I am picking at a scab on my head to keep my hands busy so that I don't crack them or rub my eyes and ruin my make up.

I am on a very comfortable but terribly ugly chair.

I am a little bit eavesdropping on a conversation across the building because it is quiet enough to.

I am typing this because my computer was handy and my pen was not.

I am actually spread across two chairs with all of my things because, if it so empty as this, I might as well make use of the space.

I am cracking my neck loudly and wondering if the people down the hall can hear it because it sounds so loud in my ears.

I am thinking about swallowing some Vicodin even though I'm not supposed to drive when I take it and I drove here.

I am thinking about taking more than one even though you aren't supposed to take more than one.

I am thinking about having Vicodin even though it makes me go a little insane and I feel nauseous and it's a vile drug that I shouldn't take at all.

I am looking at the people who walk past ignoring me.

I am not penetrating enough to get them to look back.

I am a little bit cold in this corner but comfortable enough to stay put.

I am dreading 6:30 when I will have to pull myself together and get to class.

I am looking forward to sleep and too much wine.

I am watching the person who entered my space and wondering if his neck is as full of pain as mine.

I am wondering how best to describe my pain.

I am picturing the scarabs from The Mummy sliding about under the greedy man's skin.

I am imagining myself floating in the ocean and strong waves colliding with my neck again and again forcing me under water.

I am watching the person who entered my space leave after he notices me staring at him and typing.

I am feeling a bit voyeuristic.

I am pretty sure it's justified, because he can read this- it's out there in the World Wide Web.

I am feeling a bit silly for saying World Wide Web.

I am hungry but there's no eating in the library so I'll just wait until class is over.

I am angry as hell and bitter and I am aiming it at someone who doesn't deserve my rage because I have equated him with pain because he doesn't ask me if I'm alright and I'm not alright and I just want someone to ask so I can break down and stop wearing this lion's mask of strength and just be the little girl I really am but pretend not to be for just ten seconds, at least.

I am in need of a good cry.

I am desperate for a warm cat.

I am feeling alone.

I am surrounded by chairs that feel like ghosts.

I am remembering that play "Lonely Planet" where the chairs symbolize ghosts.

I am thinking about being a ghost and haunting people, hanging on their necks like in ชัตเตอร์ กดติดวิญญาณ, Shutter where the dead woman is to blame for his ache.

I am feeling incredibly selfish and a little bit glad to be alone.

I am considering stealing this fantastically comfortable chair.

I am going to have to leave for class.

I am typing the end of this poem.

Low Point

I've gone from angry to bitter today. It's an ugly thing to see, but I hope I've contained it well. It isn't fair to compare one person's personal tragedy to your own, especially knowing that there are lots of people out there who have it worse. You can't put everything in perspective either. I guess it's a matter of accepting that you only can live in your own skin.

Anyway, I'm still bitter so you'll have to excuse my lack of empathy.

It's just listening to someone bitch and moan about their own sad story, using words like "bitch and moan" that are biased against the subjects within the tale. When you listen to someone tell their history so obviously from their own perspective and not empathizing with the other characters at all- making those against them out to be enemies, villains, evil creatures, when you know that they're just people. You can feel the subjectivity to the nth- becoming certain that there's more to the story that somehow makes the teller appear as less than poor Wort pulling Excalibur from the stone. Trying to make a legitimate "poor me" weep out of a molehill.

I wonder sometimes if it's because I feel like I've got such a short stick in this life. I've been in terrible pain for four years straight and I'm only 22. I feel such a connection with people so long as it's not face-to-face. I know that I am extremely judgmental, especially of men, and I don't know what to do when a person comes to me in sorrow for something I find petty. I guess "petty" is the worst possible word choice - I mean, when I think it's not something to get worked up over. And people seem to get so upset over such tiny things-- but I must remember that they are only tiny to me.

I feel like my life is such a tale of sorrow, but I know I am lucky. I keep thinking of this scene in Saved!

Roland: I fell out of a tree when I was nine.
Hilary Faye found me.
She calls it the miracle that saved my life.

Cassandra: The miracle you could've used
would've been not falling out of
the tree in the first place.
Anyway.

P: 6
M: 3

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Brain Wider than the Sky

So the book came in today. I read a teeny bit of it, though I need to get myself to bed. Honestly, if I want to get 6.5 hrs sleep, I really need to leave myself 9 hrs to be in bed, at the very least. I suppose I probably never get that much sleep though, on account of waking up so many times. Well, I have a genius plan tonight, which is to drink enough wine to knock myself out. Hrm, at some point, I will need to talk about alcohol and pain.

By the by, after that rant against Vicodin last night, I still took it at about 2AM to get myself past a hard wave. It is insanely hard to wake up afterward though! Today was rough, but I am randomly optimistic- tomorrow will be better.

Anyway, one of the things Andrew Levy has talked about so far is the switching of beds when a migraine is coming on. I don't get migraines that often, thank goodness, but I always have bad pain when I go to bed. Well, Levy talks about switching beds with his 4-year-old. When my pain gets really bad, I sneak into my mom's bed (yes, I live at home. I didn't work for a while on account of the pain, and I don't want to have to stress about losing my job from the pain either!). Somehow, just the change of bed seems to help. Plus, her electric blanket (purr).

It made me feel nice to know that I'm not the only one. I'll also lay on the ground or the couch sometimes. The ground when it's so bad I know I can't do anything. The couch is an act of desperation before that. Momma's bed is the step above that. There you have it.

Much love!

P: 6
M: 7