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Thursday, October 13, 2011

It was true for a shot, it is true for the pain.

I used to be phobic about needles. Even the idea of getting one turned me into a coward.

Many, many years ago I worked in the emergency room at my local hospital. One day I mentioned to one of the nurses that I had stepped on a rusty nail the day before. "Carol, did you get a tetanus shot?" "No. No, I don't need one." Yes I did, she decided, and told me to wait in the exam room and she would be back with a shot.

I waited: thinking about the shot, imagining the shot, feeling the shot. My agitation increased. By the time she came back to the room the little injector she held looked to me to be about 9 feet long, with a needle as sharp as an eagle's beak and three times as long.

My quivering did not go unnoticed. "You don't have to be afraid. Look, it is just a short needle. It won't hurt that much." I scooched a little further back onto the guerney. "Oh yes it will. Oh. Yes. It will."

"I have a little trick so it won't hurt." Magic. I liked that. Maybe the shot would magically turn into a pill.

The trick required me to let her hurt me before she gave me the shot. Uh, really?

"Carol, I'm going to hit you in the arm right where the needle will go. I'll do it right before I give you the shot. I promise you won't the shot." Oh c'mon. Fear of the shot overcame fear of being hit. "You can close your eyes if that helps." I always want to see what is being done to me. Eyes open, I waited for her to move back, take a steady solid stance and swing out and into my arm.

My eyes followed her hand. Up it came. She turned it towards my arm. Uh oh. Tighten up. Here it comes. And I felt a tiny slap, a sting, a mosquito lighting on my arm and biting gently. And before I could pull away the needle hit my arm, entered my flesh, and was quickly removed. And it did not hurt, at all. Susan saw my slight smile. "It didn't hurt because you can't feel 2 sensations at once. You felt the sting, so you couldn't feel the shot." Wow. I gotta remember this.

I did the other day after I turned off the internet and my computer. I wanted to stay online: reading, answering emails, checking FB etc. but the pain had been growing as I fought to ignore it. I kept convincing myself, 'just a minute or two more. You can do it'. Finally I reached the point I usually do; when the eye, when the pain, becomes the dictator. "Get off the computer. Get off right this second."

The pain is bad but it is... okay. The kind of okay where you think if I just atop for a little bit, a few minutes or so, it will go away.

But it does not. As soon as I turn the computer off I feel pain in my eye and lids. It is at the slippery slope of nausea, any movement of my eyes making it worse. The few minutes I thought I would need becomes a half an hour, an hour. I sit trying my best not to move the eyes at all, the stillness of my body not stilling my sight. I move and my eyes move too.

Almost everything makes the pain worse. I lie on the bed. Eyes open I stare at a dot on the wall, or the ceiling, and force myself to not look even a tiny little millimeter to the left or the right. I stay this way as long as I can, hoping it will be enough to bring the pain back down to at least a manageable level.

Sooner or later, usually a lot later, I am back to my stable state, the pain minimal as long as I keep the eyes somewhat quiet. (The pain is the left eye but movinig the right one brings the left eye along with it, there is no way to use, and move, only the right eye. Would that there were, then I would be fine.)

I think about it. Why is it so much worse once I have stopped using the computer? It makes no sense. And then I recall Susan and the shot. The computer is the slap. As long as I am doing something to keep my mind occupied I do not feel the pain as much. My mind cannot feel the two things simultaneously. It cannot take in the thoughts and information I am processing and acknowledge the true level of the pain simultaneously.

It is one of those aha! moments.

Will I learn from it? Will I stop doing the ocmputer or something else I enjoy or need to do or get done before the pain gets to the level where I have to stop - a level I know is always less than the true level? I did not do it with this post, but that does not mean the answer is never.

It is a lesson for most of us with chronic pain. When our body first starts saying "stop" it needs to be heard. When we refuse to listen the cost is much much higher in the end.

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