The Mighty Logo

What the Middle of a Pain Flare Is Really Like

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

I am currently coming out of a 48 hour pain flare. It is humbling to be in so much pain that you can’t consider doing anything. Leaving these four walls becomes seemingly impossible, and every small task feels like a mountain you must climb.

When the pain is so bad that lying perfectly still doesn’t help. Sitting up doesn’t either. Moving around, I feel a pulsating through my neck and body that brings nausea in some strange, indescribably painful way. The strong painkillers, which I had to jump through hoops to be prescribed, do not help in these moments.

What can you do in that situation? You go into survival mode. You shut down. You distract yourself with anything you can — scrolling through Facebook, TV, music, anything.

Then after a while you remember this will only make it worse. So you meditate on the pain. You purposely feel the pain. (How meta is that?) You tell yourself, “This is just a sensation. I am safe. This will pass.” Maybe someday you’ll believe it.

Well-meaning people ask if you’ve called the doctor. They are in the healthy person bubble. The doctors can fix you. That’s their job after all, right? What they don’t know is when you aren’t easily fixable, the doctors kind of give up on you. After all, there are all of these other people in need of attention, people that can be fixed. What happens when you’re too broken to be pieced back together? The answer: they sweep you to the side. Next!

Even before that, pre-diagnosis, when I would go to the doctors with my unexplainable pains, they told me it was in my head. (You weren’t wrong there, docs. All those lesions on my brain are certainly the cause.)

So through my pain, I chuckle to myself. No, I did not call the doctor. The doctor knows all about this pain. I already had to plead my case to a medical professional who was only half listening to get the meds that keep me from having this pain all day every day. A couple of times a month, the pain pushes through and here we are.

I am not bitter. I just know the reality.

I used to feel guilty dropping out of the world in these moments. I honestly used to distract myself with work on days when I was suffering like this. “Just keep going” was was my mantra then.

I look back and no longer see strength in that action. Strength is valuing my body. Remembering how much it does for me, in spite of all its challenges. Strength is honoring my body when I want to rage against it. It is an imperfect vessel, but it is mine. For all the pain, it has carried me to some beautiful places in space and time.

I try to view these days as lessons to be learned now. This flare has again taught me again to pace myself. To honor myself always. To just be, and make peace with whatever situation I am in.

I am safe.

This will pass.

Unsplash photo by Vladislav Muslakov

Originally published: October 11, 2019
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home