Fixing It

Drawing of a uterus, including an angry face and text "FU!" on the inside of it.
Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong.

I’ve heard this hundreds of times over the years, and yep, I think it’s basically true. Certainly, the “something” may be far more physically complicated than the specific location experiencing the pain (e.g., experiencing low back pain because of a neurological issue) and may not be entirely physical at all. But generally speaking, pain feels unpleasant (specific sensory play experiences being one notable exception), so it’s fairly easy to get on board the train of “pain equals something wrong.”

But I also sometimes hear a variant that troubles me:

Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong so you can fix it.

Because, well, I’ve sort of given up pinning hope on the idea that what’s causing me pain (which, to the extent that can be determined, is a combination of active endometriosis, nerve damage, pelvic floor tension, scar tissue, and adhesions, with maybe some Crohn’s disease thrown in) is ever going to be fully “fixed.” Whether they phrase it as “gosh, we’ve never seen this before” or “yeah, these kinds of cases are always tough,” it’s pretty clear that specialists are at a loss for good alternatives regarding “what to do with [me].” At times, I feel I’ve disappointed them because my body didn’t give them the chance to show their awesome fixing skills, but whatever.

To be clear, I would be ecstatic if I suddenly found myself facing pain-free days. But in terms of actively pursuing different and new permanent (or relatively so) pain relief strategies — taking time, energy, and attention away from the rest of my life — I can’t keep doing that, you know? So I’m learning to let go of the desire that I will ever be “fixed.”

In that light, the purpose of pain being “so you can fix” what’s wrong rings hollow, even alien, to me. In fact, so does the concept of a purpose for pain at all. Because of this, it’s troubling when pain is approached solely from a framework of “fixing” — because it’s a framework that fails me.

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I'm here. I like stuff. Some other stuff, I like less.

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Posted in ahimsa, MenstroMonster, non-asana, swadyaya
12 comments on “Fixing It
  1. ninjanurse says:

    medicine fails many people who live with chronic pain.

  2. CaitieCat says:

    Heard, totally. There is no “fix” for my back. I have to wait until it stops hurting; the usual course is that the pain runs for 25-30 years from onset, and my onset was about fifteen years ago. Nothing I do can make it better; the only things I can do are to look after my pain with meds, and to keep my weight to what it is (mechanically, more weight equals more pain for me). So I take a shitload of pain meds, and I use another herbal remedy to control the nausea that the pain brings, and I play soccer and work out to keep my weight where it is. Both of which mean more pain pills, and more anti-nauseant. But there it is.

    In return, since I can manage to lumber around a field with twenty other over-40 women once a week, I’m officially “not disabled enough” to be on disability. Cause clearly my abiity to dope myself up and work out is exactly analogous to my ability to endure 40-hour work weeks.

    • Tori says:

      Yeah. I came across something in my Tumblr feed (just want to make sure I’m doing my best to credit the original-ish source) that noted that for the significant majority of chronic pain conditions/chronic illnesses, there is no medication or other treatment that cures (or “fixes”) the condition.

      There are medications that slow or prevent death.

      There are medications that can reduce flare ups or otherwise try to manage the condition.

      And there are medications that mask symptoms.

      But no actual fixes.

      As for disability, I’m fortunate that I probably legitimately don’t qualify for it right now. Meaning that with the accommodations my employer provides and the number of pain-manageable days I do have, my ability to perform the functions of my job is not significantly impeded. (Though I make no such claim for my doped up typing/spelling ability!)

  3. I’ve always preferred something my mom said to me: “Pain is your body’s way of asking you to take care of it.” Whether that’s going to the doctor to be “fixed” or something as simple as making tea to make yourself feel even that teensie bit better, it’s all self-care – which is not necessarily “fixing” and often is management. Also, I think “asking you to take care of it” is a great phrase because it reminds me of all the great things my body DOES do – and that I need to…I want to say “pay it back” but without the transactional connotations…support it in turn, I suppose.

    • Tori says:

      At the same time, though, there are a lot of days when I do everything “right” in terms of self-care — exercise, rest, diet, non-medicines, medicines — and my pain flares anyway. Sometimes, I think that pain is my body’s way of saying, “Screw you!” :P

      • That may be so. I prefer to think of it as the body being that whiny toddler who you give a blanket and a toy and a cookie and a funny movie and hir temper tantrum just won’t stop. Only, you know…painful. I had some weird pain in my hip for a few months last year, and that’s how I came to think of it – the toddler in the corner, pitching hir fit while I got on with life as best I could. I can’t imagine what it must be like to live with that all the time though.

        On a side note, I hadn’t read your blog for a while before I posted this comment, but since then I’ve just had yoga on the brain!! Found some beginner lessons that look interesting, so! Especially as I just got my period, which means my back is in total spasm and needs lengthening/relaxation poses, and my internal organs can really use the massaging poses. So thanks!

        • do they make yoga lessons geared towards menstrual relief, by the way? this sounds like a thing that might exist, or should exist…

          • Tori says:

            I’m not sure of any for-purchase DVDs, but YouTube includes some short segments:

            Yogatic offers 2 of them: here and here. Esther’s instruction is pretty solid, so they’re likely worth trying.

            Also a 24 minute sequence called Yoga for Your Cycle that I admittedly have neither viewed nor tried.

            That said, I get the most therapeutic relief from this DVD. There’s a lot of instruction on pelvic alignment in some common postures (including low lunge and warrior 1), along with some nice twists that end up relieving tension in my back.

        • Tori says:

          With respect to terminology, I think it’s almost always true that pain is a factor that needs to be taken into consideration. Sometimes actively addressed (e.g., pain relievers, massage, entering specific asanas that might be therapeutic for the pain, etc.), sometimes accommodated (e.g., “allowing” oneself to go to bed early, even if there are tasks that still need to be accomplished; forgiving oneself for declining a social invitation, avoiding specific asanas or a style of practice that might tax one’s reserves, etc.), sometimes a combination of the two. I don’t ever think I’m in a situation that I can fully ignore pain I’m feeling. But, at least as applied to my life, considering pain (which sort of assumes it’s a more or less permanent fixture) is fundamentally different from hoping I can fix it.

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