Monday, August 6, 2012

Coping with Pain

I remember this time long long ago, when I was probably 8 or 10 (random guess, I don't really know). It was a Sunday and mom was harnessing all the manpower she could lay her hands upon (read: me, sister and dad) into cleaning up the house, every nook and cranny. I'm talking about the days when we didn't have a housekeeper/maid and had no need for one either. Now I have never been a hard-worker or a cleanliness-freak, and I would do anything to not have to encounter dust as it gives me a highly irritating allergy. So I was kind of slacking in my job of dusting dad's medicine rack. Did I also ever mention how I have always been afraid of scoldings and anyone yelling at me? It frightens me to the extent that I start keeping a distance from the person who yells at me or fights with me.


Anyway, mom caught me slacking and gave me a piece of her mind; I panicked and the medicine bottle went crashing from my hand onto the floor. Glass pieces scattered all over. Another piece of her mind followed. Anyhow she cleaned up the mess and we resumed our respective tasks, this time my making sure I didn't become lax. In the meantime a mean little shard of glass that might have been left out got embedded into my heel. I felt the pinch but was too scared to stop working and risk another scolding and thus went about my work with a slight limp. Now I am a pro at hiding my feelings, especially pain. So no one discovered my limp or the injury for a long time, how long I fail to recall now. The glass obviously went deeper and caused more pain as time went by.

In a few days I guess, one of our beloved uncles visited us. He used to be a total child-pleaser, playing with us, giving us mock plane rides and recounting educative animal stories. And as fate would have it, he noticed my limp when no one else at home did. He asked about it and I came out with the truth. People got worried, analyzed the wound, plucked the glass out somehow and administered required first aid. End of story. I remember no more.

Now the reason why this memory keeps coming back is that I am in pain. And it reminds me of how long and silently I can cope with it. Though I'd consider it a good trait, but it isn't something my mother is proud of. She still almost cries on recalling this incident and laments that I should voice my feelings more; should tell them when I am in pain, so that they do not unknowingly subject me to more suffering and can take necessary action to ease my pain. If only I could do that. But it just isn't me. I wouldn't utter a sound until the pain gets too impossible to bear. Let's just say my body is wired that way. Its threshold of tolerance to pain is a couple of notches higher than any average person like me. I've had multiple ear piercings done at an age when they hurt a lot, eye syringing (read: medical procedure done by inserting a needle into the nictitating membrane of the eye to check if the nasal passage is blocked) done three times, had my left foot sprained about 11-12 times in the last 4 years and undergone a lot more painful stuff I cannot keep track of. I do feel pain, it isn't like I don't. I just don't like to make a show of it, I don't know why. It feels so much more awesome if someone expresses concern on seeing me all bandaged up, and I smile and say "I'm fine". Okay, that may not be the real reason. But I have no answer to why I hide my pain. I was just made that way, much to everyone's chagrin, either by life or by my very own nature and temperament.

But this is why I no longer have leverage with my family and friends as someone who is truly suffering an ordeal. Since I always grin and bear it, over the years they have started assuming that I am fine, so they've dropped the niceties, stopped running errands for me and even asking about my health, even though I am as much in pain as ever. I don't know how I can change that. It's human tendency - we all evolve and adapt. So I've adapted to the indifferent treatment and learnt to fend for myself even in sickness and pain.

But I had this terrible fall yesterday, very similar to the one I had a few years ago, the fateful fall that kick-started all these foot instability issues I have today. It sends chills down my spine to even remember that day...it has shaped my life in more ways than I can count. Though it's the other foot today - the right one. All the more reason to panic, since I don't want it to have the same fate as the left had. Amen.

So the fall yesterday was so bad, I couldn't move my foot at all. I somehow found my way home, slumped down on the sofa right in front of the main door and couldn't get off it for hours. I lay there quiet all day long, hoping that I'd be able to stand up soon enough. But finally when it was time to shift into the neighboring room, I couldn't even touch my foot to the ground without excruciating pain. But I had to move nevertheless, so I managed to play langdi-taang, or to put it in better words, hopped on one foot until the next room. I lay down on the bed there and cried for the next 20 minutes. Yeah, I cried, and I cried very hard. It pained so bad I just could not control myself. Those few meters of hopping felt like my entire foot was being ripped apart and burnt. My mother would surely have been surprised to see me cry, though I could hardly see her through all those tears. She consoled me tenderly and I felt warm, something I haven't experienced in a very long time. She sat by my side for a while, dialing up the doctor's to consult, bringing me various necessities and asking whether I needed anything else. It was when she left that strangely I burst out crying again, realizing that I hadn't had so much care showered upon me in a long long time. It felt...strange. Nice surely...but strange. Was it because of the crying? Probably yes. But it taught me a big lesson. If you expect care or concern, you must let your feelings be known and ask for it yourself. No point expecting anyone to care for you of their own accord. In today's busy time, no one would bother unless you show them that you need them. Alas, I am so used to coping with pain now that I don't feel the need of anyone's care anymore. And that is where I lose every time...

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