Living with Pain
What do you do when your body betrays you? Who do you go to? Unlike when you buy a car or an appliance that stops working, there is no customer service number where you can call and express your grievances and expect them to fix the problem or give you a refund. Can you imagine a conversation which goes something along the lines of,
Customer Service: “Good Morning, this is the “Body Shop” customer service department --- how can I help you?”
Customer: “I was calling to complain about a faulty back, it doesn't seem to work properly. Every now and then it becomes exceedingly painful and occasionally just stops working and requires bed rest.”
Customer Service: “Oh I'm very sorry to hear that have you tried physiotherapy or acupuncture?
Customer: “I have tried everything and there is really no significant improvement”
Customer Service: “In that case please accept our apologies and we will send you a replacement back, free of charge.”
Customer: “Thank you so much, that would be great. In fact while I have you on the line, I was wondering if I could have a pair of replacement lungs as well. The ones I currently have don't actually work at full capacity.”
Customer Service: “That will be no trouble at all please stay on the line while I take your details”...
A very surreal conversation to say the least but I cannot help feeling that it would be rather wonderful if we had that option. Sadly we do not live in a fantasy world but the real world where many people live their daily lives with ailments such as back pains, arthritis, asthma, migraine, gastric pains etc. and although they are not life threatening, they do affect the quality of life of a person. It can be incredibly frustrating when mentally you are geared up to accomplish all sorts of feats but your body prevents you from fulfilling even the simplest of desires. Running the marathon is totally out of the question especially when you can barely run to catch the bus as you feel as if your heart is going to explode and you can barely breathe. Or perhaps wanting to fast during the month of Ramzan but knowing that the detrimental consequences on your health outweigh the desire to do so. Going to work or looking after the children can become a feat of gargantuan proportions.
It goes without saying that pain is very subjective and each person's pain threshold is different. The only person who can understand the extent of discomfort is the person experiencing the pain. But there are times when people do not want to tell their family or friends the extent of pain they endure on a daily basis. Sometimes they feel it is an admission of weakness, or that they are seen to be complaining all the time or even that other people may consider them to be malingerers or hypochondriacs in the making. However, according Dr. Ronald Dubner, a pain expert at the University of Maryland the concept of grinning and bearing it is not always a good thing and he states that ``Chronic pain is a disease in itself. If you don't treat it, and the symptoms continue for too long, you can do some real damage and make the problem worse.'' There are times when it is wiser to listen to what your body is telling you even if it is not something you want to hear or accept and put aside the whole act of bravado.
I myself am a great believer of keeping a stiff upper lip and feel that stoicism is a virtue but what I have also learnt is that it ceases to be a desirable quality especially if it is at the cost of one's health. If there is something wrong, our body will send out the necessary signals and it is imperative that we take these warnings seriously and seek medical help and rectify the problem before it spirals out of control. By not looking after our health, not only do we prolong the pain we are suffering but perpetuate the problem.
People suffering from chronic pain may also experience other adversities that result from their physical symptoms such as depression and anxiety. It can be very difficult to stay positive and look at the bright side of things when you feel that there is no effective treatment or permanent cure for your particular ailment. It is also very common for people to reduce the amount of physical activity on a day to day basis to try and avoid exacerbating the pain. Although it may be extremely difficult, it is important to strike a balance between making a show of ignoring the pain and bringing your life to a halt in fear of increasing the pain. It is necessary to understand the extent of your physical ailment and the degree of pain you are suffering. We should try and take some inspiration from those who are able to overcome their physical impediments and live a relatively fulfilling life.
There are still some people in this world that despite all sorts of illnesses and disabilities have a wonderfully optimistic outlook on life and are almost irrepressible. One person who comes to mind is Jane Tomlinson, a woman who was diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer in 1991 at the age of 26. However, in 2000, she was told that the cancer had spread to her bones, lungs and was given about 12 months to live. I think most people would have given up hope and accepted their fate but Jane did not. Instead of resting and waiting for the inevitable, Tomlinson decided to embark on a series of marathons and athletic challenges to try and raise money for charity. I am in awe of the fact that this woman overcame the unbelievable pain she was enduring and proceeded over the next six years to complete the London Marathon three times, the London Triathlon twice, the New York Marathon once and even managed to cycle across Europe, the United States and Africa. She raised £1.5 million for charity until her death in 2007, aged 43.
The bottom line is that even if there is no permanent cure for any given ailment, it is still possible to improve the quality of our lives by just following certain rules and courses of action and having a positive outlook on life.
Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2007