My Relationship with Pain

When I was little; say five or six, or maybe older; but definitely in Primary school, I had a belly ache. It wasn’t a belly ache that went away. It stayed for years. It was a pain situated around my navel. I remember a gnawing pain that seemed to draw my navel inwards till I doubled over; or curled into a ball.

My poor mother, who had way more than her fair share of ill children, had to take me from hospital to hospital; General hospitals where we sat with hundreds of other ailing people on hard benches; to private hospitals where I stared at the fishes in the aquarium.We did urine tests; we did scans; we prayed; we cried.

I don’t remember when the belly ache went away but one morning, I remembered I once had a belly ache. 

I’m a little dramatic; maybe very melodramatic. 

For example, I cried and wailed when I heard a crush of mine had kissed some other girl who I thought wore too much make-up at a party that I refused to attend. I sat on my narrow bed in the darkness, clutching my wrapper to my chest and just.. wept; ‘sobs racking my frame’ as I swayed back and forth.

Histrionic maybe?

Now, my ‘relationship’ with pain might have taken on this dimension in these recent years. Perhaps my subconscious had wired a missive to the rest of my body; perhaps I just have a hyper imagination. Either way, I started having very painful cramps. So bad that you want to curse the earth gods and strangle whoever decided you should be woman. I would roll on the ground and heave and fling my clothes at the innocent wall. 

All very classy, I assure you.

Sometime last year, I helped a couple of friends move house. We were in a foreign city and hiring a van was too much for our wallets; so we lifted and dragged and pulled till we were done. Some weeks after, I had to go visit the doctor for the ridiculous pain in my chest that had caused my tutor go red with fear that I would die in her class. The doctor says: “You’ve sprained your sternum. Nothing to worry about. Pop these anti-inflammatory pills.. It’s all musculature. You’ll be fine.”

Seven-odd months and three other doctors after, I’m still not fine. You know how you complain so much that your legit complaints become a trite disturbance to those who mean well? I passed that two months ago. 

Now, the funny part is: I like this pain. It’s like a stray dog you keep trying to get rid of. It lingers and takes up home in the corner of your room. Then after a few weeks, you appreciate its presence during the lonely dark nights. 

I will be the first to admit that I’m being melodramatic here too. Like the frail English women in my historic novels who faint and have to be brought to with smelling salts. I can clutch my chest and say “Ouuuch; woe is me! The pain! Oh, the pain!”

But seeing this pain is here to stay awhile, am I allowed to romanticize it a little bit? Can I pet it and move my shoulder a little as if to ask in a whisper: “Hey buddy; you still there?”

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