Although many of the pains I’ve had have gotten better, the two most debilitating pains, in my low back and my right knee, have gotten progressively worse. The amount of time I can stand, walk, and sit without pain have all gotten shorter, and noticing this can scare me, because it’s my inability to do these activities that is the most crippling. It can be quite difficult to live life lying down.
Sometimes I get traumatized by pain, and my fear of it. It tends to happen when I’m already on edge, and I’m in a situation where I feel trapped. It’s happened in an airport security line, on a bus, on a long aimless day in my apartment, in my car. My pain gets tremendous, my nervous system goes on full alert, and I shut down in fear. I cannot hold a conversation. I lose touch with all of my helpful mindfulness tools. And I become very angry, very defended.
“The world crushes the dust under its feet, but the seeker after truth should be so humble that even the dust can crush him.” —Gandhi, The Story of My Experiments With Truth
This morning, I went outside to do my routine. My routine consists of a little bit of six painful activities: sitting, standing, walking, running, squatting, and stairs. For the last two months I have been slowly increasing how much of each I do: one more stair, 15 seconds more walking, like that. This week I had a big flare up of knee pain, so today I could only manage less than half of what I’ve been doing, and even that gave me pain.
It left me frustrated and angry. I came back into the house and just wanted to escape. I scooped brownie ice cream into a mug, pulled a jug of orange juice from the fridge, and sat down in despair to watch Netflix.
No matter how good you become at managing your pain, no matter how much work you put into loving your life, there will probably come a time when you feel absolutely awful and nothing you do lightens your mood. You have a major flare-up, or two or three, and all of life feels dark, hostile, and meaningless. It really does feel that this is the end, that all you have to look forward to is more awfulness, anger, fear, rage, despair, and/or depression, until you die. That’s the story, anyway!