Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Witch of Endo, Pt. 3: The Companionship of Pain

(Ok—look, I’m fine. I had a rough couple of nights and needed to get this out. It’s fairly melodramatic. But I am not alone. Please don’t worry about me.)

Sometimes the pain gets to the point that you cannot sleep. It wants your company and just will not let you be. It’s as if your whole body is on red alert: unresponsive to drugs, deep breathing, visualization exercises or any combination thereof. You toss and turn, or (if it’s really bad), grimly lay as still as possible. You get up, read for a bit (1am) drink soothing teas (2am), go back to bed (3am), check your Facebook (4am), cave in and take more drugs (7am). Go back to bed (9am). Try some more deep breathing. No dice. Your body is convinced there is some sort of immanent crisis and you cannot talk it out of its stubborn and pointless readiness to act. 

Nothing is going to happen. Ever. The pain is just going to go on and on. This is the crisis. At 11am you give up. You get up.

You feel terrible. You feel weak: no one ever died from Endometriosis. People are starving in The Horn of Africa, being shot and killed in the Mid-East. People have Cancer, MS, AIDS. Your pain is inane. It means nothing. It fills the world.

There are all kinds (not just one kind!) of pain. They are distinct characters, and you know them well: their shape and tone. their foibles and preferences. You’ve spent a lot of time with them. They are reliable company.

1. The Drum: This is pain that can creep up on you. It starts out quiet, distant. Sometimes it stays that way, and you only notice it when the wind is right. Sometimes it get closer. It’s still background music but it has a beat and you dance to it. Your body knows the rhythm and you tread carefully. Then you realize you are standing in front of the big speakers and the music is so loud it actually occupies space and shoves you around. People’s lips move but you hear nothing.

2. The Lava: This is pain that oozes tendrils of heat through your pelvis. Sometimes you can feel the point of eruption. It craws and burns and spreads. It is slow but relentless. Everything in its path catches fire.

3. The Seams: These are the places that the pain is dug in. It can feel like seams of a rare mineral running through bedrock, foreign veins burrowing into bones and organs. It is hooked into everything and you imagine if you could ever grasp it and pull it out, your whole bloody dripping pelvis would be dragged along with it. You think it might not be so bad to be rid of the damn thing.

4. The Lighting Storm: This is electric, and comes out of the clear blue nothing. You are going about your day when BOOM! Shots and shards of sensation vibrate through your abdomen. You are wide-eyed, stunned, shivering.

5. The Weasels: You seem to be inhabited by tiny, sharp-toothed rodents with ill intentions. They scarper and claw, around and around and around. They trigger a similar hamster wheel in your brain: around and around and around you go. You get going so fast it’s as if your mind develops a centrifugal force: your pain is the only still point, and everything else is flung out, away from you. Nothing gets through.

6. The Orgasm. I think this is what they call “breakthrough pain.” Other symptoms lead up to it, and at some point you realize that everything else has been foreplay and you are choicelessly headed for something bigger and there is no turning back. It is as encompassing and immediate as a climax. You clutch a pillow and scream. Afterwards, you are left trembling and vulnerable, clinging to whatever flotsam of self you are able to salvage. If you are lucky, the pain rolls off you and leaves you alone for a bit. If you’re not, it’s an all-nighter and that bastard is tireless. You hate every second that he rips into you but there’s no stopping it. You’re his, and you are helpless.

Like sex, you don’t really want the general public to witness this. Any of this. Sure, people know you have it, but that’s no reason to share the reality of the event. It’s too raw, to private. Too revealing. So you take a shower, get dressed, and fake your way through another day. You find a smile that fits. You tell yourself that this does not have to be a bad day. When people (who are not as stupid as you’d like them to be), inevitably ask how you’re feeling, you conjure up something vague, like, “I’m a little worn out.”  You say this as much to fool yourself as to reassure others.

You tell yourself that the work will at least distract you. It doesn’t. You are pissed off—at the pain, your own weakness, everything. Rage keeps you moving when nothing else does; you grit your teeth and think something along the lines of “You might have fucked me all night, but you are not going to fuck up my day.”  You tell yourself this is not the best habit to get into.

When you write about it, you can’t even bring yourself to be you.  You write for the second person, for someone else who is you. You do this because it makes it easier to admit to, but also because the bastard has half convinced you that you are utterly isolated and even when you are writing alone at 11am after two nights of no sleep and giving the pain faintly ridiculous characteristics to somehow break it down into a manageable reality, you mostly write for the second person because you want to believe there is one. You would wish this on no-one. But you don’t want to believe that you are the only one. You don’t want to be alone, with only the pain for company.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

When PEEPS Attack, or, My Visit To The ER

I am typing this one-handed. I tried typing two-handed, while avoiding using my injured left index finger, but ended up typing: So, rrerftg, then screaming: Ouch, FUCK!

So, as y’all know, I have been gone most of the summer, and barely seen Urban. This is the first weekend we have really had together at home, so we decided to stay in and relax. It was lovely last night, cool and breezy, and we wanted to enjoy the fine weather on our little farm.

We have this magnificent fire-pit:


We also had Halloween Marshmallow Peeps (Peeps are shapely marshmallows coated in sugar. When you roast them over a fire, the sugar caramelizes. It’s delicious):

The ghost did it

We didn’t think that putting the two together would land me in the Emergency Room at 1am. I mean, we’ve done stuff like this at our house without it resulting in the filling-out-of-forms:

flaming sword
This is a trained professional!


Saum breathes fire 1
This is just me

We settled in at the fire-pit for the evening. I really enjoy circling and poking at a fire, getting the logs just right for maximum temperature and aesthetic affect. After some satisfactory shifting and adjusting, I finally sat down next to Urban. The dogs lolled about, now and then furtively gnawing on a bit of stick from the woodpile. The only sounds were the bustling fire-noise, the breeze, crickets, and the occasional, faint mooooo from the cows over at Cow Pond. Farm sounds. I felt myself relaxing… the last three months of stressful school, travel and work slipping away into the Midwestern night. Urban & I talked and laughed as we happily began roasting Peeps.

I like my marshmallows done properly: they should be gooey on the inside and crisp on the outside. They must be cooked evenly. The innards should not be so underdone that they separate from the outer melty part and adhere in a sad, cold lump to the end of the stick (the shame!). The exterior should not be blackened or burnt, but carefully roasted to a rich, toasty golden-brown. Now and then I’d pull mine out of the fire and peer at it. I couldn’t see the little ghostly dude clearly, so I stuck my finger in it to see if it was done.

Sugar starts to caramelize around 320 degrees Fahrenheit. When marshmallows melt, they get sticky. The burning hot sugar-and-marshmallow-goop adhered to my finger.

I wiped it off. It felt like I wiped most of my actual finger off with it.

At first I was, like, oh wow, that one hurt. Urban, being the thinking one in our marriage, wanted me to go inside immediately and check out the damage in adequate lighting. I am the stubborn one. After some ceremonial fussing, delay and denial, I complied. It really did hurt. In we went, trailing Peeps, marshmallow sticks, blankies and dogs behind us. By then I was starting to feel sort of weird, like I might puke and/or pass out (not necessarily in that order). The tip and pad of my finger was dark red, blistered and swollen.  For such a tiny area, it seemed to be generating an excessive amount of sensation. I stuck it under cold water and took lots of deep breaths.

Urban wanted to take me to the ER. I was, like: Don’t be ridiculous, it’s not that bad; I’ll be fine in a minute. He gave me the look (you know the one) and pointed out –-rather unnecessarily, I thought— that when I sheared a sizeable hunk of bone off of my femur a few years ago, I said the same thing (I didn’t realize it was broken, ok? I thought it was just a bad sprain).

After a few minutes, even I had to admit that all was not well in Saum’s-index-finger-land. My protests began to sound whiny and half-hearted. Urban bundled me into the car, and off to the ER we went. I felt foolish, convinced the ER people would ignore and/or mock me. It wasn’t a very impressive-looking injury.

The ER folks at Maple Grove were wonderful. By the time we got there I was feeling shaky and ill. The pain was astonishing.

Tearing off a hunk of femur: 7. Dime-sized 2nd degree burn on tip of index finger: 9.

ER Doc: We can give you something for the pain right away, either as a shot or a pill.
Me: No needles. I have a thing about needles.
ER Doc: The pill will take awhile to work. The injection will help immediately.
Me: I’ll take the shot.

Our Lady of Morphine copy
Our Lady Of Morphine. 2002

They gave me a shot, bandaged up my finger, shared some sympathetic don’t-feel-dumb,-marshmallow-injuries-are-more-common-than-you-realize stories, and sent us on our way.

On our way out, we got to stop by the fascinating magical narcotics-dispensing machine. I was delighted.

This is really a thing!

So that was our adventure. I’m fine, or at least I will be in a few days. Urban is taking care of me (as usual). I’m happy it’s my left hand. And I’m happy that it’s raining today so I’m not missing out on riding or anything.

Oh, and by the way? Before Urban dragged me from the firepit back into the house, I finished roasting my Peep and ate the damn thing. It was perfect.

when peeps attack