Wednesday, May 9, 2012

In the Pain Cave

There is a time between sleep and waking, when the early morning sun streams in the skylights, when I don't remember. This would be a good day for a run, I think. Or I could backpack in the canyon this weekend. Then I move and I know: things are different now.

Today though I got the first glimmer of hope. It reminded me of when I used to explore caves, back in the Nevada days. John-Be-Free (used to be Woodyard, but he changed his name when he moved to the commune down the road) and I would rappel into the caves in the Grey Cliffs, our destination the fabled Moon Dome, a room of exquisite beauty. We never found the Moon Dome, but that wasn't really the point. We spent hours in the place past the twilight zone, a place where your eyes will never adjust because there is no light. We chimneyed above deep pits, one false step away from a certain death below. We crawled on our bellies, hoping for walking passage. Finally we would spot a distant glimmer, the sign that there was another opening we could walk out of and back into the world.

I feel that way today. The doctor called and said my Xray was normal. That means no compression fracture, no torn muscle. Most likely it is a severely bruised muscle, she thinks, although nobody could ever be sure. There could still be something serious lurking in my bones, but I choose to believe otherwise. The world is a little brighter today.

Pain has been my constant companion for a week now. I've had plantar fasciitis, knee issues, and other bruises and scrapes, but this level of pain is consuming. It is always there, a constant hum in the background, occasionally erupting into a breathtaking explosion. I can't pick up things from the floor. I can't lie down because getting up is the worst. Because of the drugs my appetite is completely gone--I haven't felt hungry for a week. But also because of the drugs, my body is fiercely holding on to water, and I wince as I step on the scale. I can only wear dresses because putting on pants is unthinkable. It involves too many actions that cause pain.

I never understood chronic pain until now. I never realized how crazy it can make a person. I feel irrational hatred of people I see running by. I sob. I know deep inside that others are facing much worse things than this. Some of my friends are battling cancer. Others have lost the battle. They would love to have this minor inconvenience. However, it is my own pain and my own battle and it's hard to see beyond that sometimes.

I know I am lucky. I could have broken my back that day. This is a big wakeup call for me. I need to exercise smarter. Two falls while trail running in the last two months shows that. I need to stay on the easier trails, the smoother ones, the ones that don't go straight up. Because I believe I will run again.

I don't believe that everything happens for a reason. I think that is what people want to believe because it takes randomness out of the equation. It gives them an out--if something bad happens, they had no control over it and there is some big cosmic lesson to be learned. But the truth is, life is random and unfair and terrible sometimes. It's amazing and fabulous too.


  1. I'm bummed to hear you're going through this. You're right that things in life can flip like a switch, but you seem to have the right attitude about it. That others have tougher challenges to face doesn't minimize your difficulties. It's fair to feel frustrated. Get well soon.

  2. I am so with you about things happening for a reason. I think the only time they have a reason is if we can find some meaning in what is happening, otherwise they are just a waste of our frustrations.
    I hope your pain will go away soon. Feel free to email me, chat, or call if you need to bitch to somebody about it.

  3. Sucky. I have been there before and I'm sorry. :( I sometimes wish I could be okay with being a couch potato, injuries could be easier to deal with. How did the bike riding go? Keep looking, you'll find something that you can do that isn't excruciating and will take some of the stir-crazy away.

    Until then, you've got Vicodin, right?

  4. Oh, honey, hope you feel better soon. And yeah, I've been there, felt that pain, though I must admit that I didn't handle it as well, and wisely, as you.
    Hang in there! Watch a bunch of movies or read some good books and zone out on your meds, 'kay?
    Take care,

  5. I'm sorry to read about your condition. :\ The harder the struggle, the bigger the payoff once you're well again right? These are just words, and can't mean much coming from a total stranger with virtually no grasp on what you're experiencing, but c'est la vie. I hope you feel better soon!

  6. Can't help in the daily struggle but just want you to know I love you and I hope you can be out of the pain cave soon. Love, Ant

  7. Thanks everyone for the inspiring and thoughtful comments. I turned a corner today and feel hopeful.

  8. Yup chronic pain.. funny how when I used to hear people talk about pain in their backs I was like.. whatever. GEEZ!!!!!! I'm so happy for you that its not broken!!

  9. That intense unrelenting pain is the worst. It wears you down, and I was amazed (for myself) at how quickly it did it's work in that regard. I fully understood why people would give up the fight who had to deal with long term pain like that.
    But you will heal, and you WILL be more careful in future ;-p
    and it's not raining!


Hello out there. If you liked this post, please leave a comment so I keep writing!