About a year ago, I decided to take some pictures to try to illustrate exactly what my pain disorder would look like if you could see it (for reference, I have Myofascial Pain Syndrome from a car accident in 2008 and another head injury after that). I told this to my therapist at the time and she challenged me, asking does it matter? If I could show someone, it wouldn't necessarily mean they would truly understand it. She also challenged me to get out of bed and push through the pain to get back into life. She pretty much ruled as a therapist. I was still determined to try, though, because it felt important to me. So, I painted my skin red in the areas that hurt all the time and I took some photos. I came across them the other day and I feel like I'm seeing them for the first time. I'm in the same pain shape these days as I was in these pictures, taken the day before the election. Looking back, I was probably begging for a distraction. This time last year was not a happy time for me. Now, I don't know, I just see things so differently today, my pain included. Maybe that's why they seem truer to me today than they have when I've looked at them throughout the last year. When I look at these now, it's like I'm seeing the whole me, as I am now and will be from now on, pain disorder and all. I see a me in the mirror that looks like regular old me, just like everyone else sees, but she isn't a true representation anymore of what I really feel like in my own body. And then I see these and it's like Toto pulled back the friggin' curtain and I'm forced to accept this thing as it is, blatant, naked, there constantly, there always, with me forever. The hardest part about this thing, more than the pain even, is the acceptance it takes to face every day. It takes constant radical acceptance in every moment. Because if you stop and think about it, about how you got here, about how long you've been here, and about how long you will be here, it's enough to drive the sanest person mad. So maybe there is a reason I took these afterall. Maybe it's to show what this feels like, so that others can have some understanding of what invisible pain looks like. By the by, emotional pain is invisible pain, and it's there with all of us all of the time. We carry it with us through the day to day, even after we heal from it. Emotional and physical pain are one in the same, if you ask me. And we carry this stuff around with our regular ol' faces, every day all day. If you don't know how to spot pain, how can you even begin to understand it? So maybe this will help. I don't generally edit my photos or use filters, so these are all raw photos. I narrowed down quite a few to these. My right arm and right leg, either side of my neck, my shoulders. The rest of me when I over do it. Which I did yesterday, so today I am paying for it, so today I am posting this. More text below the gallery.
I painted my pain in red to show you how it feels in my skin every day. The paint came off easily, but the pain doesn't go away easily at all. It only goes from mediocre to worse, then back and forth like that. I spend my days trying to get back to mediocre. Stress makes it worse. When I'm in a flare up and the pain is diffuse, imagine the red is now glowing, lit up brightly, and is all over my whole body. I also have this thing I call cold wet spots. Throughout the day, it will all of a sudden feel like I've had an electrical shock, then as if a cold drop of water is running down whatever part of my body that this occurs (it happens all over, whenever), and when it gets really bad, it feels like it's sprinkling on me, outside or inside, wherever I am at in that moment. Sometimes my teeth hurt badly and are sensitive for a day or two, then totally fine for a few, then back to hurting. Sometimes my scalp hurts badly. These are some of the symptoms I deal with. There are plenty more. I don't think you will get what it's like to be in my skin by looking at these photos. I don't expect you to, in fact, I have no expectations at all from sharing these. But if they help someone in pain feel sane again, or seen, or heard, or understood, then it seems like they were worth sharing after all.