“You know that pain and guilt can’t be taken away with a wave of a magic wand. They’re the things we carry with us, the things that make us who we are. If we lose them, we lose ourselves. I don’t want my pain taken away. I need my pain!” Captain James T Kirk
I always loved that Star Trek scene and often find myself repeating the last two lines of it. Somewhere long ago in a galaxy far away I started down the path of chronic pain with a too-boring-to-mention accompaniment of neurological symptoms. At first it was intermittent but it slowly became a part of my daily life and very much a part of me. I have chased its cause and cure and wanted to know its name. Eventually I opted to stop chasing the beast. I decided to take a “fake it until I make it” approach to my own health. Hundreds of tiny decisions a day were started with the mental question “what would a fit person do?”.
After years of MRI’s, lab work, tests and trials I had grown so weary of doctor’s. Each “near” diagnosis of everything from multiple sclerosis and lupus to fibromyalgia left me feeling on the verge of disability. As each one was ruled out I would grow discouraged to the point were I was actually wishing I had something; truly a sign of growing madness. I decided to stop it all and didn’t see a doctor for over five years. No more medications, no more tests and no more anxious waiting. Did my experiment of positive thinking and no physicians result in the pain dissipating? No, but I sure felt happier. I was excellent at putting on a smile and beaming healthfulness to the point that I believed it myself.
This whole allusion of health was rudely interrupted by my very progressive workplace. Health screenings became mandatory for everyone with a focus on prevention. Under the guise of caring for the employees attempts were made to curb the sky rocketing costs of increasing health insurance claims. My screening pointed out that when I stopped all meds, I should have reconsidered the statin. My cholesterol was sky-high in spite of the fact that I’m a slender vegan; stupid genetics. So I found myself back at my family doctor like it or not. This lead to annual visits where, of course, things could be discovered.
Adding to my -ologist collection that already consisted of neurologist, rheumatologist, dermatologist was now a cardiologist and pulmonologist. Great. My GP who is the “conductor of the orchestra of my health” noted casually “you know that these conditions are often a part of an autoimmune connective tissue disorder which I have always suspected even though we haven’t been able to definitively diagnosis it”. There it was, in a few seconds my facade of health and vitality fell to the ground and I was once again face-to-face with the beast.
Now I feel I am faced with a decision much like Captain Kirk. Do I chase the beast again to give it a name and corresponding treatment or just let it be a part of me. After two decades it has truly played a role in who I am today. I go a little slower therefore see a bit more and appreciate things from a whole new perspective. I have a level of gratitude for being able to walk, talk, eat and breath that some people never need achieve. Maybe knowing its name won’t make it leave but will make me feel less able. Maybe I don’t want my pain taken away. Maybe I need my pain. Maybe I need to defy its existence and rebuild the facade. Maybe I just need to stop living my life based on Star Trek philosophies.