Knowledge is power.
Chronic pain is usually something which is causing you far more discomfort than it is any threat to your person. Acute pain usually (but not always) means something pretty major is happening, that either your life or part of your body is in some danger or else something extraordinary is happening, such as that another, somewhat smaller, human being is emerging from your insides. Acute pain is actually quite useful. More useful when you know that it will soon end, when you have the opportunity to escape the cause of pain or seek medical intervention, of course.
Chronic pain isn’t very useful. In some cases, it can prevent you causing further damage to a part of you which is already damaged or otherwise struggling to function, but only in so far that it stops you moving about in a certain way. Chronic pain is of no use to you at all when you are at rest and yet prevented from getting any peace from it.
But knowledge is power.
Unfortunately, neat explanations for chronic pain are often lacking. Where doctors know exactly what is going on and why, they can often do something about it. Most chronic pain conditions are just a little bit mysterious. Some are completely baffling.
At first, it is very frightening not knowing what is happening to your body. You imagine all the things that might be happening or might be going to happen. You consider the most sinister possibilities. You even consider impossibilities; you fear that you might explode, break in half or shatter or else some part of you might spontaneously fall off.
It is also very frightening not knowing when or indeed if this is ever going to stop.
Because knowledge is power. Lack of knowedge is powerlessness.
In time, you learn things. You learn that since nothing dramatic has happened so far, nothing dramatic is likely to happen. You learn that you’re not dying. Or even if you are, it isn’t happening very quickly. You learn the patterns. You learn about the worst that can happen.
You learn the tricks the brain plays when it comes to discomfort. You have been learning this all your life. As a child, you remember trying to be brave. You remember managing not to cry at any injury until you saw the blood, and then not being able to help it. The sight of blood somehow made it hurt more. You remember sustaining black eyes without shedding a tear because you didn’t want to seem like a Girl. And it didn’t hurt, not nearly as much as it would look like it ought to have hurt a day or two later.
You learnt the intense pain your particular organs endured in order to menstruate (the sight of blood somehow made you throw up) and how much easier it became, once in perspective. You saw your womb on a screen, just a tiny wee pocket at the bottom of your tummy, with two rosebuds growing out of it on curling stalks. You were amazed at how pretty it was, but it also made you realise that the pain which was felt throughout your entire abdomen was an illusion. The problem was only in that one little place, congested with blood. And all you needed to do is to draw the blood, or the consumption of your thoughts, away from that place.
Chronic pain is often an illusion. Not something you dreamed up yourself, but a trick of the nervous system. If it was real, a real problem that hurt that much for this long, then you would explode, break in half or shatter, or else some part of your body would spontaneously fall off. Something in your body is telling a lie.
Knowledge of this is your power.
Not that there is any malice in these lies; it is just a technical error, perhaps, quite literally, an electrical fault. There is no force of darkness you get to battle against and overcome.
You learn that God was a cowboy electrician. Much better at plumbing, and miles better at aesthetic design; landscaping, sculpture, that kind of thing. Not a very technical mind, you see. The margins of His physics books are filled with doodles of flowers, trees and birds.
You learn that there are things you can do to distract yourself from that erroneous message, to disconnect parts of your mind from that circuit and occasionally, to place yourself in a state where the message becomes a quiet whimper on the edge of your consciousness. You learn how to do these things when the pain is stable.
Because it’s all just a lot of tiny neurons, a lot of buzzing wires.
And knowing that’s all it is, makes it much less painful.