Just so you know

All right. I have ideas. I think about stuff. So here is the spot for stuff I'm thinking about and want to be able to share more broadly and possibly promote. Like I have time for this.

Everything is provisional at this point and subject to change in the future - as far as the blog is concerned. In real life some things will remain unchanged.

Also, our children are not really named Lenny and Linus. We are not that cool.

Feel free to share, rant, disagree, but please remember that I'm an actual person who tries to be respectful. I'd love it if you are and do to.

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Pain Monster: The Person I Become When I am in Pain

I might as well try to write a blog post.  The baby is awake anyway.  I was going to try to sleep off this migraine, but then I tried to roll over and lay with my back to the baby and that, I guess, woke him up.  Or maybe he needs to poop or hates me or something.  When he takes naps with his dad he sleeps for two hours.

No, I am not planning to write about sleep.  I am planning to write about pain.  Happy Monday.  Write what you know, they say.  So here it is.  I know about pain.

I don't get migraines as often as I used to.  I've actually only gotten a couple since Linus' birth, which is good, because when I have a migraine and I have to deal with the baby and the five year old I turn into a.... person who uses a not-so-nice voice to request that said five-year-old use the potty - for the third time.  I mean seriously.  Today I apparently used a voice I had "never used before."

So here it is:  what I know about pain.  Maybe you know someone who deals with chronic or even occasional pain.  Here are some thoughts that might help you understand what they're dealing with.  And if you deal with pain maybe it will be helpful to know that you aren't alone.  I'm using short paragraphs because that's all I can manage at the moment.

Pain changes people.  Here's a nice short article about how the way the brain works changes when we are in pain, but changes back when the pain is relieved.  Objectively scientists can see that parts of the brain work harder when we are in pain.  It's harder to pay attention.

Subjectively I can tell you that it's harder to do everything.  Including avoid being a jerk.  When we were getting ready to take Lenny to school today I got his raincoat out for him.  He said, "Well it might not be raining now, but it will be when it's time to come home."

I said, "It is raining now."  I knew because I could see outside.  There was even more discussion about rain, I think.

He didn't really believe me because when we (finally) got outside he said, "Oh, it is raining."

I said, "I'm not crazy, or stupid.  I can tell when it's raining."

He said, "I guess I'm not so good at figuring it out."

I'm a jerk.  I apologized, but I'm still a jerk.

Pain feels like punishment.  That doesn't require a lot of analysis or support, does it?  Pain, or the threat of pain is an effective deterrent for unwanted behavior.   But with something like a migraine I can't figure out what I did wrong or who is trying to get me to change what I'm doing.  I know some of my migraine triggers, but I don't know why these things, which are harmless to most people, are pain inducing for me.  I am inclined to analyze everything I ate and everywhere I've been to try to find the source of the pain and avoid it in the future.  Was it the three hours I spent in the high school auditorium yesterday surrounded by overly perfumed people?  Is it the pressure system that's going through?  Hormones?

Being in pain seems worse when I don't know what to do about it.  Sometimes some pain killers and sleep will get rid of a migraine.  But other times it lasts for days and all I can do is wait.    Helplessness is frustrating.  Negative emotions and physical pain feed into each other in a cycle of misery. I hate it. I hate other parts of life I can't control like the needs of my children that I can only ever meet partially at best.

In fact, when I am in pain I can hardly cope with another person's pain.  I become very self-centered.  Maybe it's because I'm just trying to survive.  I just need everyone to help me. 

Thankfully when we are not in pain we do not have a physical sensation associated with the memory of pain.  I mean when you think back to the worse headache you ever had or that time that your thumb got smashed in the car door you do not actually feel pain.  I think this is how women are able to give birth more than once.  It also means that it can be hard to have sympathy for someone who is behaving in a less than ideal way because he or she is in pain.

So there you have it.  The baby is still awake, obviously tired, but I can't figure out how to get him back to sleep and soon it will be time to pick Lenny up from school and he will mostly likely be unhappy because he knows that life is not very fun with a grouchy mommy.  I guess it builds character.

I should have a take-away here.  All I can say is that if you have someone in your life who frequently deals with pain please be patient.  And if you are dealing with pain try to be gentle with yourself and other people.  Maybe I can too.


  1. As a person who has lived with chronic, pervasive, never ending pain for over a decade, I can attest to the fact that pain changes a person. On one hand, it has made me more sympathetic to the suffering of others. On the other hand, it has fundamentally altered every aspect of my life. I have no choice but to embrace my life as it now is. Good, bad, or indifferent, this is who I am. Like Dexter the serial killer, pain has become my dark passenger.


    1. Hi Bruce! I'm sorry you deal with so much pain. I feel really fortunate that these days the worst of my pain comes and goes. But that must be confusing for my kids who sometimes have a "sunnier" me.

      I agree that it's important to accept changes and figure out how to have a life within new limitations.

  2. How relevant this pain issue is in my life. Good post! We often cannot see when someone is in pain either..its not like every pain is under a bandage, bruise, or break. I also have to learn to be patient with myself and how others veiw my "invisable" pain.
    Thanks for sharing this insight. Dawn

    1. So true, Dawn! The "invisible" part of pain can leave us feeling very isolated. I find it helpful to be open about it - especially with the people who are affected the most. But it can be risky to share since some people will see it as complaining and not be able or willing to offer the support we need.