"Some people feel guilty about their anxieties and regard them as a defect of faith,
but they are afflictions not sins.
Like all afflictions, they are, if we can accept them, our share in the passion of life."
— C. S. Lewis —
"Every bad situation is a blues song waiting to happen."
— Amy Winehouse —
"Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."
"A throne is only a bench covered with velvet."
— Napoleon Bonaparte —
[ Pal 229]
It’s now been two years since the original RFA procedure that changed my life forever. You can never really plan a whole life when living under severe chronic pain. Planing ten minutes ahead is hard enough. Two years out, I’m still getting to know myself for (what feels like) the first time. Now when I look in the mirror, I see more than just a pair of pained and screaming black-holes. I am steadily reemerging from 15 years of pain.
Better is different from what I thought it’d be. The world is sharper and full of constant changes that I can now appreciate and run with. Each day isn’t merely based on a series of preset actions coordinated for dragging this body from morning thru to the night and crashing into the medicated state that I called "sleep". Now I can improvise. I don’t need to carry a pharmacy of pills, sharps and palliatives everywhere I go. I have more energy and drive than I ever dreamed I could. I can embrace adventure and feel the true serenity of every quite moment alone without the constant static feedback of pain. A real life waking dream.
Over the past two years I’ve had more accidental milestones than I could keep track of. I dropped almost all of my meds. I lost 70 pounds. I went to the store or a night on the town without pain pills and everything worked out just fine. I fought in my first judo tournament in years. Out of the medical haze, I am able to be much more present with my partner than ever before. Even the smallest of such victories have changed my entire world. And this is where it gets complicated —
Recently I have gotten used to seeing my much happier face in the mirror. But then there are times when, out of nowhere, there descends a dark side to this brilliantly sharper world. I lean in close to my reflection. I look at the scars and missing hair and then suddenly a voice in my head starts going, “Aren’t you all better now? Look at you. You’re a fucking mess. Your dream came true. You’re welcome. Now what? Are you having a pain day? Deal with it. Don’t take the meds. I never got a break. Neither should you…”
“Who the fuck is this?”, I ask.
“Hi. I’m the self-critical delinquent monster of inadequacy and doubt that has been waiting patiently to make you feel terrible about yourself now that you stopped being in constant physical pain. We have some catching up to do.”
"Whoa, dude. Chill the fuck out. Can't you see that I'm busy trying to be awesome. Keep it down."
And so on.
It took a while to recognize that I’ve been going thru a kind of second mental adolescence. I wasn’t emo in middle school. I was in actual pain and unable to share it with others. In some ways I matured very quickly as do most people who have major medical issues from an early age. Other parts of me have barely made themselves heard over the course of my life. I’m still working on processing these emotions and growing from the inside. The big sweeping highs and dark ragged lows of finding out who I am.
• • •
I have the best partner, family and friends in the world. Without them I wouldn’t have made it this far. I look at my reflection and see myself clearer than ever. Thru it all, there glows a brighter light in my eyes; the hunger for being alive. I’m a survivor. This is what surviving looks like.