Wednesday Word: Pain


Pain is something that I've become very accustomed to over the past two months. I've had to deal with the pain of the initial injury, both the ensuing nerve pain and numbness in my forearm and hand, and the chronic shoulder pain. In the immediate aftermath of the accident I was unable to use my right arm and hand. This necessitated using my left arm and hand, as well as making other bodily adjustments. Those adjustments led to their own type of pain in my back and (no pun intended) neck.

I have been attending physical therapy sessions for a few weeks now. Some of that pain has disappeared, some has lessened, and some still reminds me that I am dealing with a major injury.

During my PT sessions I have had some interesting conversations with the people in the office, a lot of which have been religious in nature. My therapist told me a story about a missionary in India who worked with a leper colony. Because this disease attacks the nerves (among other things), the people would often reach into an open fire to retrieve a piece of food that had fallen. While there was physical damage to the hand, the person was not able to feel it.

The point,” he said, “was that pain is useful.”

The pain in my shoulder is constant. But there is also additional pain when I try to move it too far or do too much. Both types of pain are useful. The first in that I am reminded I need to heal. The second to remind me to be patient and not do more than I should during my recovery.

But we also need to realize that not all pain is useful. While my shoulder pain is telling me how far I can go, my chronic back pain has no such useful benefits other than reminding me that my back is somehow defective. The pain of a breakup, the death of a loved one, or the loss of a job, to name a few, are painful experiences that seem to be of no use other than providing a certain type of pain.

The pain of family and friends of mass shootings, or any shooting for that matter, may not seem to be useful in the least. But there have been new calls for a new way to talk about our country's idolization and fetishization of firearms. So maybe that recent pain will provide useful after all.

We all experience pain in one form or another in our lives. Hopefully we can find a way to see what that pain might be telling us. Or, short of that, be able to have some kind of assistance while we experience it.

But no matter what type of pain you may be experiencing, I hope you don't have to go through it alone.



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