Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Prone To "Accidents"...Destined To Complain...

I have an "acquaintance" who is prone to accidents.

Now, let me first preface this post with the understanding I PERSONALLY have had my fair share of bizarre/unusual mishaps, and none that I am proud of OR willing to disclose to the general public...you have to know me well for quite some time before one gets to hear my stories of flipping screwdrivers in my eye or being blasted across the room by water pressure from a foiled plumbing repair mishap! And, although not so funny at the time of the "accidents", some of them DO make for great dinner conversations after a few drinks (which I don't imbibe, but when my friends are plied with alcohol, ANYTHING I tell them seems Hi Larry Us!). My "accident" stories are usually only told as a means of humoring myself and any unsuspecting audience around me. I accept my fate and the possible outcomes/pain that have accompanied my "accidents"...and I usually only tell about them once the pain (both physical and psychological) has subsided.


But, back to my "acquaintance"...my loosely described friend is extremely prone to accidents. So much so, that it is expected they (I'll be using the "they" pronoun so as not to disclose the SEX of my "acquaintance" and avoid future lawsuit!) will sustain some sort of "accident" almost every other week, live to tell about it, AND (and here's the main meat of this post) COMPLAIN about the pain incessantly that was seemingly inflicted by their own stupidity!


OK...accidents DO happen on occasion. We've all had them. A car veers out of nowhere and runs over our vehicle hood (ahem..speaking from experience here). We fall. We trip and tumble. We cut ourselves with super sharp cooking knives...ACCIDENTALLY. There is no divine intervention deliberately TARGETING us for these events...hence the word "accident". But the only explanation I can come up with is my "acquaintance" seems to seek out these "accidental" situations. Let's face it...NO ONE CAN BE THAT UNLUCKY OR UNFORTUNATE.


My "acquaintance" appears to be in a constant state of "injury"...there's always some type of prolonged pain from each of these "accidents" that carries them through until the NEXT "accident" occurs. Then a new pain develops or an exacerbation of an old pain resurfaces and I am somehow vicariously FORCED to live through the retelling of the "accident" and the pain descriptions. Worse yet, I am often repeatedly told about "their" pain...the suffering...the excuses for not doing this or that because of some pain from the latest "accident".


I am a nurse (that's previously been established by my frequent reminders that I only play a doctor on the Internet, hence rendering me without any true medical knowledge whatsoever). I have witnessed many people in pain, both physically and psychologically. I would NEVER deny someone their experience of "pain" because it is theirs, not mine, and I really CAN'T know what they feel because it is not happening to me. I have also seen countless others USE descriptions of pain as a means of avoiding certain life activities or to gain something else (such as pain medications because of a raging narcotic addiction). It is very hard to gage another's experience of pain because it is subjectively FELT, not seen. Physical pain is the result of a neurotransmission of signals from an area of the body to the brain and these pathways are invisible to the eye. Psychological pain is quite similar...a result of emotional chemicals transmitting to the brain causing disturbance.


My "acquaintance" appears to be, for all practical purposes, a person who uses their description of pain to avoid (sometimes work or activities) or gain (sometimes benefits of narcotics, time away from work, excuses to not complete tasks, etc.)...I say this based on the frequent patterns of BEHAVIORS I have witnessed surrounding their pain(s). And I have worked in psychiatry too long not to abide by the age-old adage, "If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and swims like a duck, it's probably a duck!" My experiences with my "acquaintance" leads me to believe they ARE a duck, so to speak.


Now, back to me...the all important piece of this story. LOL Anyone who has followed my antics here on CHEESE is aware I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis because of PAIN...horrible neurological pain in my left arm. I continue to experience PAIN in varying levels of discomfort because of my MS...whether it is due to spasticity in my lower legs, banding around my torso, stiffness in my joints, etc. PAIN is a constant part of my every day life. And I will often write about my experiences with PAIN here on BrainCheese--not to complain about it--but to share my EXPERIENCE with it. Because I fully believe in using this blog as a means of sharing and talking about my experiences with MS as a way to educate, corroborate, and hopefully provide information that might assist another with MS as well as letting others know (with similar experiences) that they are not alone. I am not, by nature, someone who readily discloses any of my physical discomforts to the general public in conversation however, unless invited to do so by a caring or concerned friend. I don't like "whiners" and I would hate to think I am/will become one. I DO believe what we focus on BECOMES our focus and I would rather not INVITE more physical pain into my life.


Often times when friends tell me about their pains (both physical and psychological) I am apt to want to help them in some way...offer any medical/nursing advice I think might provide relief...but mainly LISTEN to their experience. I feel badly for them and I also feel NO NEED to try to "one up" them with some sort of a "well you think THAT is bad, I have **blank**". I genuinely feel badly they are in discomfort.


But when my "acquaintance" begins to lament about a new pain? Well...frankly, I want to scream at "them". I have visions of throwing "them" down a flight of stairs just so I can be certain any new pain "they" feel a need to tell me about will be real! I loathe listening to "them" tell about their latest pain. I feel angry. I feel entitled. I want to yell, "I have MS, dayumit! You have no excuse for your alleged pain!" I want to justify my pain by providing a description to "them" just how bad pain really is...and so on. I have a visceral response to my "acquaintance" and "their" constant pain complaints.


Now, trust me. I have tried all of the typical psychologically *healthy* responses to my "acquaintance"...I have tried reflection, redirection, deflection, deep breathing, compassionate listening, yadda yadda...this is what I am TRAINED to do. I have even tried the not so *healthy* responses of avoidance, ignoring, confrontation, blatant requests to NOT talk to me or mention "their" pain in my presence, MS guilt responses, etc. I imagine my gut reaction to this "acquaintance" talking about "their" pain is similar to an MSer with severe fatigue having to listen to someone without MS talk about how tired they feel. IT'S NOT THE SAME, IDIOT!


Life circumstances require me to continue to be in the presence of my "acquaintance"...there is no possibility of avoiding "them" entirely. And I am working on understanding the part of me that cannot accept my OWN symptoms because they are not visual like a broken bone or a cancer...the part of me that frequently questions if my MS is real because I can't SEE it...the part of me who still believes on some level, if I only PUSH myself harder, I can overcome this...the side of me that can fall into beating myself up with a mental stick because I am being "lazy" instead of experiencing symptoms of MS...the part of me that cannot medically understand how several blown out lesions in my brain could POSSIBLY cause the amount and frequency of pain I experience on a daily basis...the part of me that feels inadequate or flawed BECAUSE of my MS and experiences guilt for not being "enough"--for not being stronger...the part of me who secretly WANTS someone to acknowledge my pain without me having to declare it. THE PART OF ME THAT WANTS SOMEONE TO FIX THIS AND FEELS FRIGHTENED I CAN NEVER BE REPAIRED.


So, my question to YOU, dear CHEESE-ERS is this: How do YOU handle balancing your own experiences (whether with fatigue, pain, ambulation, level of disability, etc.) without comparing the experiences to others in a negative way? In what ways do YOU respond to seemingly unfair circumstances in your life, both helpful/healthy and unhealthy? And of course, I welcome any OTHER comments you may have related to my rambling topic above, too! ...

13 comments:

Sharon said...

Right now there is one person at my church and every Sunday it seems she finds me just to complain about her health. I have to admit I try to avoid her because if I don't my mouth will open and nothing nice will come out. Honestly I think it is what phase of my ms I am in that makes all the difference. Sometimes I can handle those kind of people & sometimes not.

Cat1848 said...

Hi, I've been a lurker for awhile, and I really like your blog (and I worked in the mental health/addiction field for 7 years so I get that part too).

Re Pain: That's how I was dx too. I'm in a lot of pain much of the time. When most people complain about their pain, I am sympathetic and I listen. The exception is my mom. There's nothing wrong with her, and when I mention how I'm feeling, after she asks, she ALWAYS has to one-up me. So now I just say I'm feeling fine, even when I feel like there's a red hot poker being stabbed into various body parts. What are you gonna do?

Diane J Standiford said...

AARRGGH--what is i about my comments on your blog, I just, oh heck with it. I get bumped off by my wifi after I'm done. Dagnabit.
This is ral helpful.

Diane J Standiford said...

Now THAT goes through. ARRGGGH. Maybe I yammer to long. I got lots to say! Sue me! (I'm yelling at the wifi connection, not you.)
To begin again: Funny you should mention his, I am having a similar situation with a friend.

Diane J Standiford said...

She calls me and starts with a sigh and yawn, woe is she; she has a handsoe, sweet, husband, two wonderful boys, a great house, but alsways woe is she. Last evening she calls during dinner time and begins and when she gets to "How are you?" I reply "Fine." So, that made her mad. (She wants me to join in with te complaining an I WON'T. I am not that guy.

Diane J Standiford said...

So, her call was on speakker, and patner heard it all and ten shecalls partner on her cell, leaves msg complaining about me, ow cold I was and what is wrong with me and, "Oh, yawnnnn, DiaNNNe is just being Diane." Now partner is mad, and they have been meeting for breakfast monthly, but again it is the friend complaining about her life and especially husband.

Diane J Standiford said...

I feel sorry for her, it is her mother and she is projecting on ME. I am not going to enable her and if she can't be a friend that is her choice not mine. She takes antidpressants/sees a therapist..she LOVES (yet she is more miserable than ever). Back to YOU--when I worked 18yrs w/MS,cancer, people often wanted to talk about their aches, etc., and I just empathized, figuring they felt I would understand. Never bothered me.

Diane J Standiford said...

Matter of fact this behaviour neve bothered me until I hired caregivers WHO DID THE SAME THING! That was too much. That i when I got a 'tude and would say, "At least you can walk, huh?" or such things. And I HATED having to go there, but GIMME A BREAK. So, my advice is take till you have to fake it, depending on how high road you want to go. At some point a well-worded, "I pray you never feel MS pain." I often wonder where these people COME from? I NEVER would say such things to a sick person (even now)...good grief.

Bubbie said...

I have come to the conclusion that when most people ask me how I am, they really don't care about the answer, it's just an opening for them to tell their woes and ills. The fact that they know I have MS, I think, gives them a free pass to dump on me, one up me, whatever.
My answer now is "I'm fine/great/really well/fabulous (obviously lol)".
My answer to them and their list of woes, "that's to bad/sorry you are feeling that way" with no elaboration or feigned interest.
My mantra is: IT IS WHAT IT IS. or They are who they are, and I seem to attract less and less of them thank baby Jesus. lol

harkoo said...

People seem to complain alot. I find I have to control my breathing alot when I am around them..On a good day, I will come up with a sarcastic quip;on a bad day, I stay silent because I am afraid of my anger...

Sara said...

I agree with Bubbie, people only ask you how you're doing so they can cut you off half way through your reply to tell you how they're doing.
I think the you should try throwing this "acquaintance" down the stairs, if that doesn't stop their pain, at least it will give them something real to complain about (evil 1/2 of sara)
I guess the other option is to agree with their "pain" and try to change the subject really fast, ie "that's too bad, so I hear the dollar is getting stronger against the pound" . . . cause we all know every one is interested in things about England (lol not so evil 1/2 sara)

Suzy said...

People don't get it. It makes me crazy....crazy, crazy, crazy, I tell you!!!!

Ok.

There, I'm done now.

I'm not coping well lately...can you tell?

Jim said...

I could complain about my problems but I don't. Why? I hear people complain and I think to myself... geeze... I am not the only one with problems so I keep my problems to myself and God and move on :) Of course.. there's blogging which helps alot :)