Archive for the ‘pain’ Tag

Pain   1 comment

I have so much yet to learn about what it is to be a person, the wildness that is in us. Part civilized and part savage. Today I heard a terrible story — about pain — that gives rise to a prayer, first, and next, the need to investigate further why there is such a powerful force — pain — in us.

My friend’s mother in law had been feeling very weak and was hospitalized for immediate treatment as well as extensive testing. As feared, it seemed the cancer she’d battled years earlier had returned. A PICC line was installed to get urgently needed blood into her system as quickly as possible while a treatment plan was being worked out. Who knows what, who knows why, but while my friend and her husband were away from the hospital overnight, Edna pulled out the PICC line and when they arrived in the morning she was extremely agitated, demanding that they get her out of bed and take her home. When they couldn’t agree, she became extremely hostile, particularly shocking because they had been such a close family. My friend persuaded her husband and his sister to leave the room; she couldn’t bear their pain as their mom, in her delirium, turned on them. Better, she thought, that Edna rage at her, the daughter-in-law. The nurses were finally able to calm Edna’s agitation with high doses of morphine. Whether because of the morphine or the trauma of her having pulled out the PICC line or something else, Edna died the next morning, never regaining consciousness, her last interactions with her most beloved people a crazed assault of blasphemy.

“May I be spared!”, I think. I remember my first experience of intense pain, in labor with my first childbirth. Left alone in the hospital room with horrendous, incomprehensible, things happening inside my body, I looked desperately for a way out, and saw my clothes, the clothes I had replaced with a hospital gown, on a hook, by the door. “Simple!” I thought. “I’ll just take this gown off, put my own clothes back on, and leave! I’m not a prisoner! They can’t stop me!” Unable, for a few minutes, to comprehend that the pain wasn’t in the hospital; the pain was in me. The nurse did stop me, of course. Despite having entered the hospital with the strong intention to have “natural childbirth” (my husband and I had taken a course to prepare ourselves), I succumbed, shocked by the experience of pain, to the nurse’s offer of “a little bit of demerol”. I thus missed out on my daughter’s birth, during which I was completely unconscious. The demerol was amnestic, leaving not even a memory trace.

Ten years later, on what would turn out to be the last day of my husband’s life (although he had been severely ill for several months, I simply hadn’t grasped the possibility he would actually die of the illness), I walked into his hospital room in the morning. A nurse was opening the curtains. “Such a beautiful day,” she says. My dear, gentle husband, who never cursed, bites her head off. I reprimand him, “She was just trying to be pleasant [still a very young woman, I haven’t a clue about sickness, pain, powerlessness].” — “There’s no reason to yell at her.” My husband, a skeleton, raises himself up in the bed, to roar at me, “Nothing matters! NOTHING!”. And that is the last conversation we ever have. And in my mind, that last conversation, despite fourteen years of amicable marriage, has a very disproportionate weight.

Now I am ill. Sometimes, the pain is like a roaring in my head that drowns everything else out. To make myself heard — to myself — above the uproar in my head, I have to yell. It seems as if I’m yelling at my caregivers, at my friend, who gives to me so generously. Afterwards, I beg their pardon, explain that my yelling has nothing to do with them, it is just the pain. I can see that they are shaken, but I can’t help it; I can’t not scream. So far, there has always been time afterward to clarify, to apologize, because, so far, the pain has subsided, and I have returned to my civilized self.

So I pray: Oh Holy Spirit, please spare me from having paranoia on top of my other problems. Let me never blame someone else because I am in pain. Help me, Source of All Things, deeply to understand the function of pain. I wish to accept it with grace, but, so far, can only wish it away with all my might.

Posted April 10, 2011 by judybloomgardener in Uncategorized

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Thinking about exits   1 comment

Yesterday a volunteer visited to help me update my Advance Directive for Health Care. I had done one about five years ago, but what seemed remote and theoretical then seems very much more real and possibly imminent now, especially when I have trouble breathing.

I have been asking myself and a little bit others too about how we make our exits as, for sure, we all will. It’s such a big thing, letting go of everything. But it’s just on the other side of not being able to take another breath.

I discussed matters with the volunteer but didn’t complete the form. I couldn’t decide, for example, if I was or was not in favor of my doctor’s using intubation to help me breathe. At what point? For how long? There are degrees of discomfort that cause the image of a button, as in on-off button, to come to mind: Ringing pain or discomfort filling my head so much I just want to say STOP. But it’s happened again and again this past year that, as I haven’t had such a button, the moment of anguish would pass and a few hours later something womderful would happen that would make me glad I hadn’t had the opportunity to make a quick exit. It scares me to think of how many more agonizing moments may lie ahead for me. I’m trying, hard, to develop resources for those moments — Buddhist practice seems made for this! The balance keeps shifting: Sometimes life seems so wondrous that I feel I can take the big waves…. But sometimes the waves seem so overwhelming and I feel so small….

Who is This? and What’s Really Going On? Some Efforts to Tell the Complex Truth of my Unfolding Self Experience   2 comments

I prefer to speculate about transformation and recombination, using my favorite body part, my imagination.  But other aspects of my experience insist on intruding forcefully.  The other day, I had a bad experience with the Foley catheter I use because getting up and down constantly to pee with my lymphedema-bloated legs is very problematic.

Mostly, living with the catheter is just one of the countless things one accommodates to.   But on this particular day, unusual circumstances altered the routine, with the consequence that, unbeknownst to me or my caregiver, the hose of the catheter that drains the pee into an external pouch got doubled under me.  It takes a lot of doing, more than 15 pillows carefuly arranged just so, this one here and that one there, each with its name and place (Phyllis and Marie, Bertolucci, Dotty, Howie, Naoko, Michiko, Tadashi, the two Goldie Lockses, etc.), at least twenty minutes worth, at the end of a long and arduous daily treatment process, to get me settled.  Reyna and I both wanted to be done with it already, so I (later realized that I had) suppressed awareness that all was not well.  As Reyna prepared to leave, I began to have spasms — these are like neg-orgasms, in the same region as orgasms, but sensation that is extremely NOT desired.  The yelling these spasms induce is analogous to the outcries famously associated with orgasm itself.

So here I am in my bed with Reyna about to leave after more than five hours, yelling my head off.  With the balcony door open and everyone able to hear.  I’m yelling because I’m in extreme pain but what I think to myself, insofar as there is any thinking at all, is that I have to stop yelling!  STOP YELLING, JUDY!!!  Finally, it is not me but Reyna, who has tears streaming down her face in response to my pain, who starts pulling all the pillows, etc., apart, to discover that, yes, the tube is doubled under me so that the pee can’t get out but is being forced back up into my bladder…. Once she undoes the bed arrangement and is able to unkink the tube, the problem is soon resolved and my parts that felt as if I were being electrocuted calm down.  And then I am stunned at how unfaithful a friend to myself I had been, ignoring the intense pain, definitely 10 on the famous scale of 1-10, because it wasn’t convenient!  Reyna had already been here the full amount of time allotted and I myself didn’t feel like going through all the arrangements again.  Wanted to get on with the day, the part of the day that is “mine,” not lymphedema’s,  when I get to be my mental and social self.  Telling myself the problem was that I couldn’t stop yelling!  Could hardly feel the pain because I so deeply disapproved of my yelling.  Yi yi yi!

I’ve been studying lovingkindness practice, which starts with oneself.  All of oneself.  Bile, blood, bones, bone marrow, and connective tissue, etc.  All those necessary but, I have come to feel, as a result of so much prior conditioning, boring and lesser aspects of my joodyness.  I want to but it’s hard, at this late date, to turn around and acknowledge and give due attention to the co-inhabitants of this fathom-long bag of “flesh.”

Much, much work to be dome in this arena.  I welcome your help.