Fifty shades of Pain
People tried to describe pain for centuries, never reaching a final -complete- definition to be linked directly and globally to what causes pain, and to be explained in details by those in pain. The need to explain this “feeling” without any prerogative nor shades of meaning still exists. To me, pain is that emotion -or feeling– that makes you hurt; it makes you cry, it makes you feel powerless and weak, and you almost feel like you cannot control yourself anymore when you are fully in pain. Oscar Wilde said “where the pain is, something sacred lies“, along with “big pains make you dumb“. In a certain way that is exactly how I felt. Dumb. I would never tell anyone about my feelings in that very heavy moment, but I will try to talk about someone who helps you handle your pain, without even knowing it.
Being a huge fan of everything that shapes your soul and that leaves scars which cannot be seen, I had to do something “painful”, a little bit linked to sadism I would say, as instead of waiting for better moments to come to face the heavy consequences of a surgery, I just went all in. “You need surgery” they said, and I answered “okay! Just do it as soon as possible“. (My friends from facciunsalto.it wanted to support me and they sent me something I had been waiting to have for a long, long time. I never had the chance to get it because I was waiting for the right time to come. That was the right time, and it was a book that I needed the most. A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis. I really could not ask for more. Thank you all.)
Reading through Lewis’ few pages, I decided to write some lines about this “thing” called pain and to break the silence.
I went down to the OR and I was feeling calm; it was partially due to the valium drops, but mostly because the eventuality of something bad happening was not scaring me, not anymore at least. It had been a while since I could feel fine because those past few months were spent digesting thoughts soaked with fears, hopelessness, after being fed by words I never wanted to hear. This is the reason why imagining no light, no awakening after the surgery was not even distressing me. I was not afraid, like I never am for many other situations that for other people are terrifying. There were friends and family- very few ones- going with me through the hall of the hospital, while I was escorted down to the OR and all I could see was their chins, because I was lying in my bed on wheels. I could hear them repeat “do not worry! Everything will be okay” as if they needed to comfort themselves before comforting me, and I said “yes, I know“, because no matter what happens, I will be fine.
While getting ready for the anesthetic to work on my organism, I had many people around me, taking care of this young woman who happens to be the daughter of one of their colleagues. Everyone was nice and kind, and so was my surgeon. He came to see me right in time to make me feel even more relaxed before they cut my skin, opened my leg muscles, dislocated my hips and then put it back in place, drilling holes and sticking screws on my bones, leaving an indelible long scar.
The anesthesiologist will report, once the surgery is over, that I went to sleep smiling and woke up with that same smile, confirming my reputation of “the girl who always smiles” which is hunting me since when I was a child.
I think I had a dream while they were working on my femur to get it back to its original shape. When I heard them calling my name as the surgery was over, I was definitely dreaming of something, but those “medications in a cocktail” are used to make you forget … kind of everything! I woke up with the tube still inside my throat, and I almost felt like choking for a couple of seconds. Everyone cheered at me when they saw me awake and alive. I felt a little weird, but it was time to go back to my room upstairs.
The day after I felt more than okay. The cocktail was working on me. The second day of my recovery though, I was feeling mashed by a truck for at least a thousand times. I knew I could not let myself down, but being a moody person did not really help. In addition, I was coming from a time of emptiness and hollow which was dragging me down whenever my mother -who was always there caring for me- took a break for a short while. When she left, it was my time to let myself go and cry. I felt like a prime number although the patient who was located next to me, started calling me “the lioness” because she said that I had the strength of a devil. I think Lucifer has its down moments too, every once in a while! I tried to help myself by putting headphones in my ears listening to rock music. Those days Korn was the band that I listened to the most, and I do not even know why I picked them, in the specific.
All the doctors from my surgical team came to see me almost every day. They wanted to be sure I was recovering well, and that their job was done properly. Being an introvert -no one would say it- the only thing I said, when they asked me how I was feeling, was “I am okay thank you“. To compensate to this, I tried to make funny jokes and to look happy.
Differently from many other young people with my pathology, I recovered fast. Daniele, a 14-year-old boy who went under surgery right before me, heard that there was another one in his situation in the hospital (me!), and he came to meet me. He saw and felt that I was strong, and he looked up to me to recover as fast.
When my time in the hospital was almost over and I had to go home because of an appointment that I could not miss, something happened. While trying to sit on the couch in my living room I heard and felt a crack inside my leg. I almost started crying, but I did not. I was mad. Believing that I broke something, I felt stupid because I always want to do things even when people tell me not to. We ran back to the hospital, they did some x-rays, and even if I was still in pain, nothing was broken. I felt relieved. The idea of having destroyed my surgeon’s job was eating me alive, until I saw… him. My surgeon. He told me not to worry, and to just take care of myself without exaggerating. He always came at the right time, like on my third day of recovery when I was having a really bad day. He walked into the room with the whole team, when they saw me crying. He told the nurses to put me on a wheelchair and to take me where I needed to go. I felt better every day since then.
He could heal my pain. It was his tender voice and his patience helping with my suffering; he was like a father to me and to all the other patients. He definitely is a great person, not only a professional. His humanity filled the gap that someone else left inside my soul.
I had six weeks of recovery. I was stuck in a bed before I could be infused by the sense of wellness and serenity again. A sense that this orthopedic wizard, specialized in the conservative surgery of the hip, gives out with his professionalism which is almost close to perfection. I waited patiently, trying to elaborate the pain day by day following Schopenhauer‘s thought: “pain is the purifying process of human beings“. Then it happened again. After seven months, I was back in the hospital to fix the other leg. This time it was all so smooth and fast that people kept on saying that it looked like as if I did not undergo surgery at all.
It was because my soul was healed. My body remembered everything I felt before and I was ready to repair every single cell of my body. Doctors and nurses were joking with me, saying they just drew a line on my thigh pretending they operated, that they did not touch any bone or muscle, because I kept on telling them I could see the cut, feel the scar with my fingertips, but I was feeling nothing. No pain. Nothing.
The dismantling process I went through for months made me so strong that I became invulnerable. The scariest part is that I might have become insensitive to all other feelings as well. But that is another story. Now I am going through those days of sleepless nights, my cells are getting back to be reactive and they hurt. I cannot lie in bed, I cannot stand, I cannot sit. I toss and turn until I am devastated sleepy and I let myself go. I am not a lioness now, I am a Phoenix. I just have to wait for the last cell to be burned, ashes collected, and then I will rise again. Free.