This is the week I have lots of doctors’ visits lined up, trying to explain to all the various specialists what my choices are in the matter of fertility, why I’ve made my choices, and above all trying to figure out what the next step is. Because the pain is beginning, again. It seems like every cycle, the pain starts earlier. This is the part that will challenge the decisions we’ve made: will I still be certain that this is the right choice, when I’m actually IN pain?
I’m afraid of pain. I talk about courage and resolve and endurance; I can argue eloquently about persevering through pain; I can run philosophical circles around anyone who tries to convince me otherwise. (The blessing and cursed of PhD work: it’s basically extended training in arguments!) But all the philosophizing the world still doesn’t erase my fear of it.
I think that part of the fear comes from the memories of nine years ago, when I broke my back. (I fell off a horse….ridiculous cause!) That was pain beyond pain…..I still have nightmares about it, every detail of that day is burned into my brain. I remember the shock of the initial pain. I lay on the ground, screaming uncontrollably. I remember unsuccessfully willing myself to stop screaming. I wasn’t in control of my voice; for what seemed like forever (but was probably only ten minutes), I physically could not suppress the screams of pain. I remember my husband’s terrified face as he called for an ambulance, and I remember every bump the ambulance hit as it inched its way across the fields back to the main road. It took an hour for the ambulance to reach me after I fell; it took another two hours for the ambulance to get me to the hospital; and it was nearly an hour after that before I was given pain medication that actually worked. The ER staff immediately started me on morphine, and kept giving me more, but it wasn’t working. Eventually they gave me a stronger drug, and I remember with crystal clarity the moment the drug took effect and started to relieve the pain. I kept wondering why – with such intense pain – I was still conscious. But like my inability to stop screaming, willing something to happen doesn’t always work!
I know how incredibly fortunate I was not to be paralyzed, nor to have – physically, at least – long-term permanent damage. The psychological trauma of pain, however, has popped up unexpectedly in relation to infertility and dysmenorrhea. It’s an entrenched response: all pain reminds me of breaking my back. So in addition cringing away from the physical pain itself, I’m cringing away from the memories of trauma as well.
This all sounds rather like I’m indulging in a large-scale pity party! In fact it’s just helping me work through all the negative emotions that have accompanied the last year or more of attempts to diagnose infertility, severe menstrual pain, and vestibular migraines. Most of the time these days I feel like I’m one bundle of exposed nerves: no matter what anyone says or does, it will hurt me. I’m trying to untangle all of these nerves from each other, so that I can deal with one at a time, without the contemplation of one problem triggering a domino effect of self-pity and depression It’s also helping me cope better with my deep sense of invisibility. When it feels that no one in my life really sees me, it helps to have even this anonymous platform for exploring the whys and wherefores of this journey through infertility, hearing loss, and pain. So….as this new round of pain begins again, I’m going to try to separate my current experience from my memories of past trauma, in the hopes that untying the Gordian knot will bring some mental relief.