Monday, August 27, 2007

Chronic Pain, Sweet Partners, and Body Memory

Last night I stayed up until 4:00am talking with a new friend about a link we unfortunately shared – chronic pain. Hers was from a botched surgery and mine, well mine was of mysterious origins that no specialist or seer could explain. The conversation followed a track similar to others I’ve had with female chronic pain sufferers. We started by talking about symptom patterns. Sharp, dull, constant, intermittent. Like a giant, eruptive fist clenched in the belly. Like a sandpaper snake crawling around the pelvis. As if all the organs are hanks of raw meat hanging on the outside. The descriptions became more beastly, and poetic, as we spoke.

We then moved on to the litany of remedies we had tried. My condition had seniority so my list was longer – homeopathy, acupuncture, yoga, chi gong, neuropathic meds, pet therapy, meditation, vitamins, etc. etc.

We then talked about our partners and how they grew into the role of remaining spouse while acting as caretaker. We appreciated each other’s luck in having such sweeties on our side. When the pain roared, Richard would stroke my brow, chant meditation instructions in a hypnotic tone, buy treats to stimulate my appetite, play funny clips from You Tube, read The Hobbit aloud. He would reason with me when the quicksand of despair was pulling me under; and if I were too submerged to absorb his words, he would sit by my side as I disappeared; waiting for me to would find my way back again, as I had so many other times before. My demon was the pain. His was his helplessness to make it go away. I’m not sure whose was worse.

Eventually she and I got around to talking about why we thought we carried such massive pain in the space bounded by right and left hips and waist and top of the legs. An area smaller than a loaf of bread. And why we each knew so many women who felt pain in the same small geography. The pain went by many names – endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, Crohn’s disease, fibroids, interstitial cystitis. Mine was tagged neuropathic pain – for lack of a more specific diagnosis.

Another thing this new friend (along with many of us who have had the pain conversation) and I discovered we have in common is that somewhere the story of our lives had been hijacked by violence. The violence may have been singular or repeated; sexual, physical, or emotional; perpetrated by stranger, relative, or friend; remembered or shadowed.

Is this a coincidence or a pattern? Does violence engrave itself onto our bones and membranes? Does the body keep a record of emotional wounds as it does with physical wounds? Can violence create a kind of festering scar tissue that one day latches onto vulnerable organs and entwines them in its cruel grip?

Many New Age thinkers, along with some well reputed, board certified medical and psychological researchers would answer that body memory is real and that a past experience of abuse can indeed be part of the profile of a chronic pain sufferer.

Here's what Wikipedia has to say:

Tell me, what do you believe?


Lucy said...

Good for people to know.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I believe that the body "does keep the score" and that there are different therapies to help the body "change" the score. Dan Siegal has interesting thoughts and a compelling argument for somatic experiencing to help the body heal.