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! ...