In the small predawn hours, sleep was once my lazy lover, ever coaxing me back into the soft embrace of her forgetfulness. Now she shuns me. Awake, unsure where she has fled, my awareness turns to survey my broken body as I lie upon my bed.
Sprawled out, rolled to one side, supported by a strange arrangement of cushions, in my body’s place of ineffective refuge for 22 hours of every day, pillows press against my face. Chains compress the stiff perimeter around the upper mattress edge, pushed against a padded bench on which another stack of cushions rest, forming a forgiving trench that receives my shoulder and arm in an awkward gesture of accommodating grace.
Desperate necessity made me a maestro in the medium of foam. Sharp scissors trimmed and snipped, sculpting a choice block of the upholsterer’s finest into the carefully crafted creation, conforming to the contour of my chest, now holding me in place.
Limp legs hum like a bizarre, bent tuning fork; their tired nerves conduct the marching band of my pain. My lower back, the central instrument at their command, smolders with a quiet roar, like embers from a bonfire burning bright the night before.
The shoulder section plays its part, led by the side that’s now supporting my weary body’s weight on joints not meant for such contorting. Turning to my other side, pain partially recedes, but soon enough, like ocean tide, it will return and break once more, with unseen violence upon a hidden shore.
Spine and neck and hip sections are among the tumult heard, playing their discordant notes, and heedless of their awful sound, my audience assured. Tonight there is a special guest beneath my shoulder blade, invited by my negligence for having layed too long, just wrong, the day before. But always and above it all, compensating with their volume for what they lack in charm, sound the tissues of my lower back’s continual alarm.
As bad as this description sounds, and surely it is bad, with steady concentration I can turn my thoughts away, and though the band keeps marching on, I hardly hear it play. Like soldiers under my command my thoughts ignore the fray, and carry out my orders throughout my war torn day.
Too often come the harder times, when irrationally offended by some minor provocation, my back flares in sustained crescendo to extreme excruciation. A tall tsunami wave of pain emerges from the murky depths, and churned with fear and dread, obliterates all structured thought, as marching band and soldiers alike are swept away, clinging to the flotsam of a thousand anxieties, torn loose from where I had them moored, and carried deep into the scarred valleys of my mind, littering the landscape with their wreckage left behind.
Long weeks of intractable pain follow once the waters crest. Each day a weary battle won, each night a fight for rest. Oftentimes it hurts so bad that all I do is lie, eyes wet with tears of torment, trying not to wonder why. And trying not to wonder what shape I will be in when at last my burned out nerves have done the best they can to return me to whatever new normal is in store, but sadly never better than the one that was before.
Eight long years now I have sojourned through this strange, terrible land of desolation and bodily affliction. Looking back is too depressing, looking forward filled with fear, so I try to focus on today, and live each day that I am here.
Moment: July 15, 2019, 4:00 AM, I contemplate my pain.
In this short description I have tried to distill something of the physical experience of one who suffers with a particular and perhaps unique manifestation of debilitating chronic pain, and for now that’s where I’ll stop. Forgive the incongruous rhyming, but I think I needed it to shield me from the raw horror and despair behind the words.
Although this doesn’t quite fit my original intention for a defining moment, yet upon reflection it is a moment repeated so often that it has served to shape the person I am today as much as many other larger moments in my life, just as the sculptor’s many small chisel strokes are in some ways more significant than the hard strikes that knock away large sections of the marble block.
But one last thing I must confess to you, and this is the most significant aspect – how I cope. Although medically hopeless, I have a real and solid hope. It is a hope more certain than tomorrow’s sunrise, and more refreshing than a desert rain. So close that it shimmers in the summer air, separated by a veil so thin my heart already has its anchor there. It is a certain hope I know will hold me fast and weather every single dismal, dark and stormy blast. A hope not just of healing, but that and so much more. Unending love and mercy, forgiveness full and free, and of a life so wonderful it lasts eternally.
I tell you this so you will know this hope’s not mine alone. It’s a hope I hope that you will also call your own. Regardless of your circumstance, regardless of your past, you can seize upon this hope of mine and know that it will last. My hope is in a person. This person has a name. He’s Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and angels sing his fame. Turn your eyes of faith to him and turn away from sin; he will open up the door to you and welcome you within.
© Craig Sabin 2019 All rights reserved
“Momentous Moments” is a series on the defining moments of the author’s life and their eternal significance. Read more about it here.
2 thoughts on “Inside My Suffering”
The reality of you suffering is so starkly described in your prose. The constant adjustment necessary for life is overwhelming. Gave me a more complete understanding.
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Thanks, it was difficult but therapeutic to describe, but more than that my hope is that it may speak to other sufferers and help others to understand.