Monday, January 11, 2016

A Week in Pain

I just spent a week in pain, discomfort and delusion. I learned what it means to reach "the breaking point."

I'm not trying to be dramatic. In fact, sadly, I am being quite literal with all of the above. 

One night, during Christmas break, I felt a familiar pain in my back: kidney stone. I'd had one before. Last time, I went to the emergency room, got some pain meds and "passed" the thing the next day. So, although it is the worst pain I've ever felt  (or am ever likely to feel), I sort of blithely went off to begin the process. No biggie. Right?

Wrong. This time, the pain continued for about five more days. Five days of a kind of pain that I have heard several women say is worse than labor pain. On or about the fifth day, I was "at my breaking point." Really. Quite simply, I could not stand it any longer. During one particularly strong attack, I felt my throat muscles contracting -- that pre-cry feeling. It wasn't that I was going to cry because of the pain, itself -- I'd already dealt with if for almost a week -- but because my mental strength was giving out; there was a crack in the damn and it was going to blow. Back to the hospital.

This time, I was admitted. Pain medication was administered and the pain disappeared, but after several doses of the narcotic meds, and after a few nights in the surreal atmosphere of a hospital room, I started to feel reality unravel. I literally thought my intravenous pump was talking to me. I began dreaming before falling asleep and would wake myself completely up as I drifted off by answering, out loud, the people who were talking to me in the dreams. I did not sleep at all for two nights. I tried to wedge reason in by stopping myself from responding to my dream figures. I even succeeded a few times. But the drugs were too powerful. 

After a procedure to remove the culprit, I awoke in the recovery room, literally punching at the male nurse (so glad it was a guy...) who I was convinced was trying to turn me into some kind of cyborg. It took three people to hold me down. I feel badly about this, but...I was just full of narcotics... A glance at my hospital bracelet brought is back and I realized where I was. And I was not happy about it. 

The whole point of writing about this is not just to recount a weird and unpleasant experience, but to explore my failure. On the night after the surgery, I was miserable. I had spend the better part of a year advising my father to try to accept his plight -- when in the hospital, just accept it. It is what it is; you will go home; what cannot change must be endured, etc. But I could not follow my own advice. I was ready to chew my way through the mattress, down to the first floor and out the door. Nothing appeased me. Nothing was interesting to me ("this most excellent canopy the air...this brave o'er hanging firmament, this majestical roof, fretted with golden fire: why, it appeareth no other thing to me, than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours..."). Nothing entertained me. I did not want to smile. I did not want to talk. 

I lost. Reason did not defeat emotion as I believe it always can. The fog of anger was thickened with the smog of medication and sleep deprivation... So, there's a kind of excuse. But it can't be. In the end, I just lost. I let the situation beat me. 

Next time I will do better. 


  1. Been there, does make me wonder how the heck people get hooked on narcotics...I never saw a minute's joy or wonder in my experiences with them. Why do they want to take more and them nore? Glad you are finally coming up for air.

    1. Thanks, Sharyn. Yeah, I could not wait to just get the drumgs out of my system. Even turned down a prescription for Percocet, for home. It was certainly a relief from the pain, but the side-effects were not pleasant.