the first thing they ask you in the emergency room is ‘what is your pain on a scale from 1 to 10?’ the only time i ever said ‘10’ was when my appendix had finally had enough; when it was literally falling into pieces inside of me. not when i had just had my stomach dug into, not after i was wrenching in pain bent over a pail throwing up my guts just waiting for all my stitches to rip out, not when i had a fever of 103*, not when an abscess the size of a lemon was growing in between my organs, not when my back was swelling, not when i lay awake on the operating table while a large needle was shoved into my back, not when i went back to the emergency room for the second time, or the third time, or the fourth time. i don’t know why. i don’t think i was even aware i was doing it. not until my mom and i were sitting in the ER for the fourth time, not until i was laid out on the small sterile bed they had in the small sterile room we had waited to get into for over five hours did it dawn on me. when we first arrived i was at maybe a 4. the tubes coming out of my back and side were giving me some discomfort but it was my back, my swollen and numb back, that was really giving me my pain. by the time i was laying on that bed my pain had doubled. but now it was accompanied by the soul crushing discouragement of not knowing when all of this was ever going to end; the hopelessness, the sheer and utter lack of strength i had to keep fighting to hold it all together. the lack of.. well, just about everything. strength. will. courage. feeling. heart. i wanted to give up. but when the doctor finally came in and asked me to rate my pain i gathered myself and said, ‘7.. maybe an 8.’ he put an IV in, brought me a sandwich, looked at my tubes and left. the second he left i broke down. i couldn’t do it anymore. that was my last ounce of fight. my mom took my hand, wiped the tears from my cheeks and said, ‘why do you do that?’ ‘do what?’, i asked. ‘rate your pain as less than it really is?’ i hadn’t thought of it before. i didn’t want to make a big deal out of things i guess. ‘you’re lying here in extreme pain, crying. but when the doctors ask you the amount of pain you’re in you always down play it. they need to know the degree of pain you are in so they can help you.’
why did i do this? why have i always done this? i’ve been down playing my pain since i could remember. there was always a reason though- it could be worse. it’s not worth the trouble. i don’t want to ask for that much help. i’m inconveniencing people. it’s not ok to be weak. someone else’s pain is worse than mine so this isn’t really that bad. the list goes on. how ridiculous was this on a scale of 1 to 10? probably a 20. what i learned in that month spent in hospital beds is wide and vast, but perhaps one of the most important was this- i couldn’t truly heal until i was really able to accept the degree of pain i was really in.
when the doctor came back in the room i changed my answer to a 10. ‘it’s a 10. i can’t do this anymore.’ that was my last trip to the hospital. i had finally given into the pain. not in the defeating, ‘i give up’ kind of way, but in the ‘this is here to tell me something’ kind of way. listening to my pain took almost as much courage as it did for me to keep fighting to get up and walk a lap around the nurses desk every day. it hurt like hell but it was slowly making me better; stronger. i try not to make less of the pain i feel these days when it comes. i try also not to make less of the happiness i feel in between. and i am finding that the happiness seems to last longer and longer the more i let myself just accept that sometimes i will be broken.