You may not and will never forget the first time a doctor gave up: when they tell you they don’t know what to do, they don’t even have any more tests to do and there are no more cures to offer – you’re on your own. This has happened to you or someone close to you and it happens to many others with chronic pain!
You may also have experienced that feeling when the pain stabbed you on a certain side of your body. This was followed by a need to take a sedative and then you felt better. However, as the hours passed, the pain turned into a constant nightmare, as if you were in a bad dream, and that sedative didn’t make any difference. However, here he/she passes a night of hallucinogenic insomnia lying in bed, desperately trying to turn off that physical stimulus.
Moreover, here you are at your primary care physician and he reminds you of the possibility of catching a certain disease. Some tests are ordered for you, but they are negative – meaning the diagnosis has not been determined yet – you felt as a patient that something was definitely wrong, but the physician did not find any specific illness or infection! What followed was years of fruitless consultations, the last of which was a description, perhaps for chronic pelvic pain – which means it explains very little – the outlook is discouraging. The condition is poorly understood and there is no reliable treatment. That patient lives with the hum of pain and a noise echo – if I can say – pain after pain that destroys sleep from time to time. What more can be said about the real harm of pain?!
On the other hand, we are all aware that physical pain represents a part of the body that has been damaged or in danger. Nevertheless, the pain can even be deceptive, so it is described with multiple characteristics and words, such as pulsing and burning! Realistically, that pain alerts us that the body is in distress, helps us focus on it and helps us better understand why it’s hurting.
What is more, when you complain about pain – especially chronic – it cannot be ignored and it seems that it has been there forever, as that patient knows deep down that it will never disappear. As such, this leads me to draw an important point in our life: we should focus on the present and not on what is to come in the future. If you can treat the pain as a series of independent episodes, you can reduce its power. You can also enjoy a good day with pelvic pain – for example – as life is just one day after another.
In the end, we often notice and perhaps many of us realise that unfortunately pain is no longer shareable with time. While we bridge the gap now and then to sympathise with ourselves at other times, we must also sympathise with the suffering of others. I believe that there is solace in solidarity – and it should be – in sharing the experience of chronic pain, in the power of compassion to break the boundaries that separate us from others and ourselves!
Dr Yousuf Ali Al Mulla is a physician, medical innovator and writer.