Last night I hit the wall. It’s a marathoner term, from what I know about it. Sometime during the race the runner hits the wall and it is a tremendous struggle for them to overcome it, but when they do they are golden for another 5K.
There is a wall for Chronic Pain sufferers, and you hit it at your breaking point, when the pain is just too damn much, and you don’t know how to approach it any longer.
I hit the wall this morning at around 4:00 when I still hadn’t fallen asleep and was both exhausted, alert, and more than anything else, in pain.
There was no reason to hit the wall this morning. My pain was at an 8, fairly average for me, but there was a sensation of discomfort that accompanied it that was far more unfamiliar to me. I felt as if my sides were being squeezed by an ill prepared black market organ dealer who figured my kidneys were just the best. The pressure in my lower spine was amazing. Not like “Wow, you just ate that entire cow in one sitting” amazing. More like “Wow, so this is what insanity feels like balloon animal pillow salt” amazing.
I should have figured I was approaching the wall. The last two weeks have been awful for pain. I haven’t been sleeping and my morphine intake has increased to a level that would impress even the most troubled 1950’s Hollywood Starlet. Despite that the pain has remained, and it’s been a struggle to make sense of it.
When I hit the wall at around 4:00 a.m. I knew that I had a decision to make. You see, the wall is almost wholly psychological. Oh sure, it’s a product of chronic pain and from the impact that has pain has on your psyche, but the wall isn’t there just because of the pain. The wall exists because the CP sufferer has hit their capacity for indulging this annoying aspect of their life. It is like a fork in the road. You can either go down the left path which may or may not consist of trees made out of scorpions, or you can go down the right path. There is nothing down the right path. It is unwritten, not yet drawn. The smart thing to do when you hit that wall or that fork, whichever metaphor you prefer, is to take the right path. The right path takes you back a few feet, to a part of your journey in suffering that you’ve already experienced.
Because, despite what you are told, that’s what chronic pain is like. It’s cyclical. Unlike the circle of poverty or violence or drug abuse, there is no way out of the circle of chronic pain. You get trapped in it, and when you reach what you think is your breaking point you make the decision to go back and start the cycle again because, quite frankly, chronic pain is still better than scorpion trees.
But make no mistake about it, repeating the cycle is hard. That wall that you hit is looming over you, threatening to tip and crush you at a moments notice. At least that’s how I felt. You cry about, and feel sorry for yourself. You wish life was better, than you had the energy to do the things you loved because that’s what you were taught. That’s how you get ahead in the circle, by living life on your terms. You hit that wall and suddenly you’re zapped of all energy, hope, and resilience. All you have is your useless body, constantly betraying you as neurons fire off and make you feel as if you are hardly human.
I mean, shit, the wall is total balls. If I were to describe the wall in several words I can guarantee you there would be a hell of a lot of swears included.
Fuck the wall. And, heck, just to make it clear, screw you, chronic pain, you ass hat.
So, what do you do when the wall is looming over you?
You cry. You pity yourself for a little bit. You take a couple days even though you have things to do and assignments to hand in and expectations are weighing heavy over you. That’s all.
I didn’t go to school today even though I had a presentation in art. I couldn’t. Usually Alex can convince me to get out of bed, but the pain and the sadness and this strange sense of hopelessness was too much. I don’t care much for it, but I also know that this whole Polly Anna attitude isn’t sustainable. Even Polly Anna had a bad day every so often. She had her own walls to face.
Tomorrow will be a better day, but for now I’m just going to lean against this wall and let myself rest.