Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Swing Shift

Survivors deal with unique types of pain in the form of pain that overreacts, underreacts, compounds upon itself, or comes from an alternative source.

In a past conversation with a cancer survivor, we talked about how hard it was to explain or even rationalize at times these alternate pains. One of the strange truths of surviving is that when a body endures extreme pain it can reset your pain receptacles. This resetting can cause everything to get out of whack, as if the body no longer knows how to properly process pain signals, either emotional or physical.

You can swing from one extreme to the other with no warning or way to prepare. 

Crying hysterically over nothing one minute, then barely react at all to something much larger and far more painful. Have a severe wound that you hardly register, but suffer immensely from something as insignificant as a scrunchie worn in your hair too long. 

You can be someone who successfully endures heavy pain for long periods, who begins to falter intensely over every minor injury. You can exercise and have strength, but then have difficulty picking up a can of soda or walking ten feet. 

Manage to heal deep gashes and suture areas, then be destroyed by a bruise the size of a quarter. Find you are able to exist with a pain level now that would have sidelined you before, while also find yourself unable to handle the pain from the most simple of tasks.

Bodies and minds are both amazingly resilient and unbelievably fragile. Pain has a strange way of giving strength and sapping it away. It is like riding a roller coaster in the dark, you have no idea when the twists and turns will happen, can't see what is coming, and can't get off until the ride is over.

It is easy to become frustrated or disheartened when swinging between the extremes. You tense up. It can create both an irrational dread and a true fear of simple things. You will find yourself over-thinking activities and basic tasks. It is frankly exhausting. Sadly, the stress and anxiety it creates can wear you down into an even more vulnerable state.

You may not bounce back as quickly as you once did and that may be the case for a very long time. You may suddenly find you bounce in a different direction from alternate sources. 

Try to remain calm and process the sensations as they occur. Allow yourself the moment, but once you ride them out, shake them off. Don't let them have power over you. You can't avoid life while waiting for something that can strike with no warning. You can not prepare for something you can not see coming.

Have hope, because just as surely as you overreact and feel alternate pain, there will be things that evolve to no longer hurt and are easier to bear. Over time the resetting can reset again. You will heal.

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