Saturday, February 28, 2015

Fifty Shades of Boring

When you are facing some sort of loss, illness, or traumatic treatment to stay alive, you will hear about fatigue and pain. And, as much as you prepare for it, both will still manage to slam into you like a train you never saw coming. Like jumping into a glacier lake in the Antarctic after punching a hole in the ice, you know it will be cold, but once you hit the water you realize you had no idea what cold was. 

The reason you can't prepare for it properly is because before the trauma what you have to compare it to is usually mediocre by comparison.

With pain, you might have cut your finger or broken a bone, and it really hurt, but the pain doesn't deepen and linger, expanding out to affect every other part of you for literally weeks and months on end. Pain that never truly stops, but wildly ebbs and flows dramatically, showing you levels of it you never could have comprehended before. Where literally the air touching your skin can be excruciating while the most basic act of breathing actually hurts. Where it is too painful to scream. (I actually had about five months where the act of crying was so painful the moment I began to tear up my body recoiled so violently I never actually got around to the crying part.) It is the same with emotional pain. It surges and overcomes you relentlessly.

With fatigue, you may have had a hard day at work, or run a marathon, and been tired, but that tired goes away with a good night's sleep and a hot cup of coffee. Traumatic tired would be almost comical if it didn't suck so bad. Seriously, you get dressed once, usually in pajamas, and everyone will see that outfit, because you literally do not have the strength to put on pajamas, remove pajamas, put on regular clothes, take off regular clothes, and get back into pajamas all in the same 24 hour period. You need a nap after getting a glass of water from the other room. (Invest in paper plates, because washing dishes is like an extreme sport. And do whatever you can to have help with laundry, because one load can literally take you days to complete.) Emotional fatigue is equally as debilitating and just plain wipes you out.

So, yes, you will hear about fatigue and pain, a lot. There is a ton of material written about them, doctors with tricks to guide you through them, support groups to help cope with them, and dealing with them will all be a part of your healing survival.

But what no one really talks about or prepares you for in any way is the Boredom. Everything about your fight at one time or another, in one way or another, will bore the hell out of you. It seems hard to believe. This event is life-changing for you, full of anxiety and fear. You are in a battle for your very life. That can not possibly be boring. Guess again. It is like an onion, every level of your treatment and survival will come with a layer of boredom.

Firstly, the obvious comes into play. Doctor's visits, waiting rooms, hospital stays, and long treatment processes. All boring. At some point, no matter how soothing the art they put on the walls is and friendly the nurses can be, you will get sick of looking at them hour after hour, week after week. When you are healing, you will get tired of the view outside your window, no matter how interesting your neighbors or the weather may be.

Secondly, entertainment to kill the time while you heal. You may love movies, or music, or books, or video games. You may like to knit, or quilt, or draw. But hours turning into weeks, then months, of these endeavors will start to make you want to bounce off the walls. (Sadly, the same can be true of people. You love them and need support, but after a while of no time to yourself and needing to suffer privately, you will desperately want them to go away for a bit.)

Thirdly, you will, even if for only briefly, come to loathe your New Superhero Title. We all get one. When you go through a major trauma or fight a disease, you earn this nickname, even if only in the way you feel treated and think people may see you. It becomes your whole life, because it is, so it becomes part of your description: Brain Surgery Girl. Cancer Chick. Chemo Patient. Brave Trooper. We become in one way or another the war we are waging and the tools we are using to fight. People will ask you about it, politely or in earnest. You will want to talk about it on occasion, probably many occasions, because it is so much of who you are in those moments. But, there are only so many ways and times you can answer "How are you feeling?" (especially if the answer is the same, "I hurt. It is hard. I am hanging in there,") before you start to feel like a broken record. You will get bored with the story of you even as you fight to give this part of your story a good ending.

Lastly is the boredom no one believes until they experience it themselves. You will actually be bored by the pain. 

It will go on so long. It will involve so much. It will ache and ache and ache, inside and out. You will shift around for comfortable positions. You will find tricks to ease or move the pain a little bit. You will distract yourself. You will have good days and bad days. You will get frustrated and angry. You will beg for relief. You will wage war within your body and mind trying to win. But, some level of hurt will remain for a very long time. And it will get boring. You will still feel the pain while part of you starts to go numb from enduring it so long. You will want to give up. It is a unique experience. Some people actually reach this point in their pain and do something hurtful to themselves just to feel a different kind of pain which they have control over. (Although not many admit it.) 

I have been known to obsessively chew my fingernails down to the quick at this point. Punch muscles I feel are betraying me. And, although it is not something I am proud of, I have, in the past, cut myself. There is an odd shame in pain as well. You feel like you should be stronger. You should be able to control it better. You even convince yourself you should be healing faster. And, overthinking the pain has its boring moments too.

How to fight the boredom is personal to each of us. The same way that you can not comprehend the boring enough to prepare for it, you will find a way to fight it through trial and error. Change things up whenever you can. 

Wear a strange hat or hello kitty socks to give others something else to talk about, or you something new to stare at, during treatments. Rest with a furry blanket or itchy sweater to have a different texture to run your hands over when you feel the need to grip something during pain. Watch a movie or television show you know you will hate, or read a ridiculous book, just so you can distract yourself with venting at the banality. Talk to someone about something utterly pointless and silly so you laugh for no reason. Even allow yourself to go a little insane for a surreal moment or two. Because, you are not actually going crazy. This is a real thing happening to you.

Do whatever it takes to get from one minute to the next intact. Fight just as hard to not add pain to what already hurts. And, forgive yourself for hurting. There is no shame in your pain. You didn't do anything to deserve it and you are doing the best you can with it. Most importantly, allow yourself to smile at yourself during the boring bits, because the truth of the matter is, if you feel bored, you are still alive, and that is the whole point anyway.

Know a trick? What helped you? Share it.

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