Sympathy Pain

Sometimes I say things flippantly and it takes a moment for it to set in and I realize how profound I can be when I'm not trying.  I jus...

Sometimes I say things flippantly and it takes a moment for it to set in and I realize how profound I can be when I'm not trying.  I just tweeted about how I'm in pain right now:



I realized two things in this moment.  

First, though I know my body is physically connected to each other as a dynamic machine, but I never paused to consider that my body parts may be emotionally connected to each other.  That some deep part of my reptilian brain (the one that says stop, relax, heal) is trying to override my hominid brain (keep moving and rehabbing).  

Second, I quite often say "Until you understand, you don't understand back pain. And I wouldn't want you to understand."  Part of me realizes how shitty this is -- that I'm limiting other peoples' ability to relate to me and to my injury.  The other part feels that it's completely legit.  Spine pain is kinda unlike any other physical injury--it doesn't localize itself.  

When my neck was really bad, my left arm got the worst of it.  I'm still dealing with the continual tinnitus.  I was constantly dropping things (I sometimes still do on days when I'm tired and not paying attention to my posture). With my lower back, I can feel the heat of inflammation over L3-4, L4-L5, L5-S1.  But I also feel it in my hip.  I feel it down my legs.  I'm quite often unsteady in certain positions (like when in the shower washing anything below my hips, or flipping my hair over so I can put it in a towel), sitting becomes painful at work (it's impossible to make my desk a standing desk without losing all my working space b/c it's a circular cockpit). when at the kitchen sink washing dishes, etc. 

I realized that I identify more with people who have full body injuries, diseases, and chronic pain, than people who, for example, just sprained an ankle or dislocated a shoulder. When I talk to people with chronic pain, chronic diseases and injuries, there's this pause of recognition where we just understand there's the pain of the injury/disease and the pain the injury/disease causes. 

In the discussion that Janet and I led at Fitbloggin (Living with Pain:  A Survival Guide), we had two posters:  one of a really badly drawn (mea culpa) body for corporeal/visible pain and the other one a list of "invisible pain" (I would share photos, but we had people put their names on them--so it's not for me to share really).   When we were talking about visible and invisible injuries, there was almost this collective sigh of relief when we could say to each other that we were depressed, anxious, scared, embarrassed, disappointed, and just plain exhausted.  

What a beautiful release to not have to be strong and perfect. 
What a beautiful expression of grace to be able to hold each other in our hearts for just an hour. 

(now that I'm in full on tangent mode....) I think that's what sympathy pain is really about -- the ability to allow someone to be in pain and be in their presence and not try to fix them, to cultivate empathy in your body and your mind and be able to shoulder their pain for a short time. 

Maybe my body is trying to spread my pain in a thin layer, rather than a big glob of pain right over my back. Maybe my legs are saying "we're strong enough to take some of this."  Or maybe it's my back saying "I can't handle all of this." 

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