I was born hurtin’; sometime between ages 2 and 3, my memories of pain in my ankles and head start. Layer upon layer of physical pain has been laid down, like streaks of stone in the geological record. Also held within the strata, like the imprints of fossils, is my life-long chronic depression. While I own my chronic physical pain and it doesn’t own me, the ownership of my psychological pain can shift. I am at its mercy more than I really want to admit.
During the penultimate battle in 2011, mental illness had me pinned to the floor in a Sumo wrestler’s death grip. I’ve been scrambling ever since; sometimes running away, sometimes towards. Cognitive behavioral therapy in 2013 (the first mental health professional who fit the health insurer, my criteria and was willing to take me on) has given me the tools to stand my ground a bit firmer, but the fight isn’t over yet.
My husband has known me for 30+ years. During this time, he never doubted the depth and width of my chronic pain. He watched me suffer; struggle to keep a “normal” life while pain tried to rip it away from me. He was as relieved as I was when my atypical facial pain was diagnosed as referred pain due to nerve damage in my neck, and I finally got something for the pain that wasn’t codeine or opiate-based.
He struggles harder to understand my unresolved mental disorders of the last decade and my seeming inability to get beyond them. He wants the other half of me back; the half that could tune out the chronic depression to be creative; the half who had a memory; the half that finished what she started; the half that was focused not distracted. The other half of me I’ve been trying to get at least of piece or two of back. I needed to come up with an analogy so he could understand how strong and overwhelming my mental health issues were.
So, I asked him to remember how much I had to struggle to own my pain. How much pain I was already in when we met and all the layers hadn’t yet been added. How much my face hurt for five years before prescription pain medication. Magnify and multiple that physical pain and place it inside my mind, my brain. A chronic brain pain to go with my chronic depression and chronic physical pain. That’s why, even though I knew they wouldn’t work, I kept trying different combinations of antidepressants. How I try every day to fight my demons: regret; remorse; self-recrimination and guilt. How I struggle against forgetfulness, confusion, anxiety and inertia. How easily I become too distracted or too depressed to finish even the simplest of tasks. That made what I’m still going through more comprehensible. And, that there was no easy fix, no quick resolution.
I’ll never get back all I’ve lost mentally, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually and physically. Right now my brain pain owns me, but not without a struggle. Someday I plan on owing ALL of my pains.
In November, I challenged myself to change; to really work towards that ownership. I’ve let myself, as usual, be distracted and overwhelmed. I have pages of handwritten notes, diagrams, and flow charts. I have plans, goals, and achievements all mapped out. I lost the map. Now I have to go off and search for it.
My search will bring me meandering back here, just as my writing has meandered here. I may end up somewhere else in the cyberverse. Maybe I’ll send along the link. Maybe I’ll emerge from my challenge to change stronger, mentally and physically. But, for me to go back to something I’ve left undone owes a giant hug to the folks who read my wanderings and to my cognitive behavioral therapist who listened more than she trained because listening was what I needed most from her.
So here’s a toast to friends well met, writing challenges/prompts well imagined, and that there might still be possibilities. To not just knowing, or thinking, but actually doing!