Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I'm Thankful For The Pain

My legs are killing me today. Not literally, I hasten to add. It’s not as if they’ve approached me with a blunt object and are taking mad swipes at my head, nor are they putting poison in my water. That would just be weird. But the pain . . . OMG. (I can say OMG and you know what I mean, right?)

They’ve been like that lately, off and on, some days so annoyingly painful that I just want to smack them around and tell them to get with the program, to shape up or ship out, that we’ve no time for that sort of nonsense around here. Instead, I coddle them. Whatever legs want, legs get. “You want to be up and sit in front of the fire, painful legs?” Then we’ll do exactly that. I’m sure they’re appreciative of my efforts to make them happy, though you wouldn’t know it by the way they treat me back, which is to say, they DON’T stop being the source of pain.

But hey, things could be worse, right? And this is why I’m thankful I’m in pain. Here’s a few reasons I’m thankful:

1.  I’m thankful the pain isn’t more widespread. I could be having pain throughout my entire body, and not just my legs.

2.  I’m thankful my fibromyalgia has mostly been absent for years now, and that it only causes me, currently, pain in my legs. Occasionally it appears to be all over, but even that can be dealt with.

3.  I’m thankful I have a giant ottoman in front of a roaring fire that never goes out to put my legs up on. (The ottoman, not the fire. It sounds as if I put my legs on the fire, but no, I do not. There are multiple reasons for that, most of which should be obvious.)

4.  I’m thankful I work at home, and that I answer to no boss but me, and while I can be a stern taskmaster (and a total beeyotch, if I don’t mind saying so about myself), at least I let myself have a break when the pain is bad.

5.  I’m thankful the pain is physical and not emotional. I’ve had both. I’ve seen both in action. I’ll take physical pain over emotional pain anytime, anyplace.

Number 5 is probably the number 1 reason I’m thankful for the pain. I should have perhaps put it at the top then, but I was working up to it. I have seen the toll mental illness and depression can take on a person, and there’s so much pain that I don’t know how some people bear it. And some of them don’t. They can’t. Whether it’s teenagers or military members or someone who lives next door, suicide is far more common than it should be. I understand the pain, the feeling that this, whatever this may be, won’t get any better, and that there’s no other way out.

I understand the pain and the depression. I am not without my own demons, though they’ve been mostly exorcised. (Imagine me taking a pack of demons for a run along the Appalachian Trail, running day after day until the demons, one by one, dropped out, falling over and out in exhaustion, until, at the end, there I was, exhausted myself, barely able to stand, but with most of the demons gone, except a couple of hardy demons who, though finishers, were forever weakened by the effort. Yes. I know I said exorcised and not exercised, but all the same, it’s a good metaphor, don’t you think?)

I understand it and I saw it in my good friend Stew, who suffered from mental illness and depression and had an entire host of demons. His were in many cases real demons, demons he could see and hear, demons who would threaten his life, and tell him to harm himself. And he did. Not fatally, it was the cancer that got him in the end, after he’d fought off the demons rather successfully and was beginning to find a life with less emotional pain.

Cancer is another sort of demon we can talk about another day.

But until you’ve had the emotional pain of depression and mental illness, you can’t know how painful it is. Take my word for it: it hurts like hell. It wants to own you, to take you away from you, and it will do anything it can to destroy you and take your life.

Please be vigilant. Please be kind to yourself, and to the people around you. You can’t always tell who’s suffering until it’s too late. “We never suspected,” people say, and that’s true, you may not ever suspect a thing. But still, watch for changes in the behavior of people you love. Notice if they say things that don’t sound like them. Pay attention to subtle clues, like suddenly being withdrawn. Pay attention to larger clues, like someone putting their affairs in order. But mostly, just listen to what those close to you say, whether it’s verbal or not.

These things build. It starts slowly, and it builds until the pain is unbearable. We have time to notice it, and to help.

And now, I’m going to talk to my legs about keeping the noise down. They’re whiny and painful but they’re mine and I love them.

Sort of.

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