Pain / by Jacs Fishburne

A couple months ago, I was sitting with a friend. The subject of pain came up and she turned to me, dead faced, and said, “X and I have higher pain tolerances than you because we’re into BDSM.” I think I laughed in her face, but it bugged me, settled under my skin like a government implant. The thing with chronic pain and chronic illness is that you don’t ask for it. Every day you’re in varying levels of pain, some days better and some days will knock you flat on your ass. I’ve blacked out from pain, fainted, and thrown up, only to get back up and have to continue on as if nothing ever happened. There are always things to do and I don’t let things hold me back. My neurological system perpetually feels like I’m holding my body about six inches above an open flame, and the sharp pain in my bones reminds me that the cold is setting in. I can tell it’s going to be a bad winter, my bones and muscles tense and creaking like the stairs in this house I lived in that was a part of the Underground Railroad. I’ve wondered if I could redirect the pain by having someone beat on me the way my friends get in a BSDM scene. I wonder if making a cut or incision will help or if I will just have another pain, this time bleeding, to contend with. I’ve wondered if crashing my car would help, to recreate the original break patterns and see if the impact could piece me back together as it shattered me apart. If somehow that act of external pain will migrate it, direct it into something tangible, something I can show my doctors and say “see?” Truthfully I feel like it won’t even dull the pain; it will just leave a mark and I already have so many that I’m losing count of the stories.

I’ve had doctors say it’s all in my mind. That the breaks and shatters that show up on X-rays are somehow figments of my imagination. I went into a doctor's office yesterday to have a script refilled and try to figure out what is going on health wise. The Lyme test came back negative and she smiled at me like “see nothing else is wrong then right?” The problem was I’ve spent the last month feeling like I have bugs crawling on my skin and have dealt with tension heads and migraines nonstop for two months on top of everything else. She handed me a depression form, making me check these little boxes asking how I felt the last two weeks. The last two weeks were hell between the election and six different people coming to me with suicidal ideations. She guilted me into counseling and the woman told me I should check into a local shelter to get out of the living situation I was in. It angered me, a full on mental pain, sharp and different from the one that lives in my body, because I was only in for a muscle relaxer that I’d been trying for a week to get refilled, the last medication I had left for pain management since going off opiates and pain management in April. My symptoms that could be Lyme and could be Fibromyalgia were yet again ignored and I was sent to counseling where a woman looked at me and I could tell had no idea what exactly to do, while the script was never filled.

I wondered if maybe the war I felt in my body, the symptoms upon symptoms upon symptoms that keep popping up were imaginary kind of like the friends you have as a child. So sometimes I try to wish them away, thinking if it’s simply in my head than I can rewrite the story. There are studies that show how women’s pain is often ignored. We are told the symptoms in our bodies are symptoms of the mind, even by other women. So they grow and begin morphing into something bigger, built upon by years of mistrust and no real help.

I think of sitting on that friend’s couch. “We’re into BDSM. We have higher pain tolerances than you.”