What Never-Ending Pain Reveals to You

A question on Quora got me thinking: “What does one learn by having chronic pain?” Chronic illness turns your world upside down, and it’s impossible to look at it the same way again.

The Fragility of Mankind

I think the biggest realization that dawned on me is how fragile human beings truly are. There is a subtle arrogance when one possesses a body that is free of ailments. You feel invincible; that as long as you have enough willpower, you can conquer the world. That as long as you push yourself hard enough, you will get what you want. That you can fuel your system with caffeine and work round the clock, denying the infirmity of sleep to achieve “success.” I think this arrogance becomes a norm that permeates into every aspect of our lives, from relationships to work. You think you have time, and you have no concept of dependence. What is “the end?” It is incomprehensible when you are feeling so fine. Why would you need help? Ego is a great manager and has everything under control.

When you live with chronic pain, you come face to face with mortality on a daily basis. The end never feels too far away. You will need help in one form or another, whether you like it or not. If not of a physical nature, then moral or financial. You will realize how little it takes to break the human body; yet you will also realize how much life there is in one single breath.

There is No Answer

The idea that “you will never recover” is foreign. When illness or pain wrecks you, you know it will pass. This knowledge grants you some strength and comfort. But chronic pain has no beginning or end; it is part of the world we live in. It runs smoothly in parallel to the world of healthy bodies. Nothing seems amiss at first sight because the world moves too quickly to really see. With all our advances in medicine and technology, we think there’s always a solution. But chronic illness has no answer. It is always lurking somewhere, even while in remission. It breathes with us, eats with us, sleeps with us, to the point where sometimes I think I have even grown attached to its detestable company, simply because it has become familiar. I notice when it is missing. Where could it be? Something is not right with the world. Is it coming back with company?

Perhaps “awareness of our fragility” might not seem like the most important life lesson in the world, but it is the biggest realization for me. I want to write something positive and insightful in conclusion here, but there is nothing more to it. I would like to say that it forces me to examine my mortality such that I can live more purposefully, but in reality, I am just trying to get by like everyone else in this world.

This article was originally published on A Chronic Voice.

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