“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”~ Khalil Gibran
For the last couple of weeks I have been experiencing “ice pick” headaches, which are beyond excruciating. These aren’t the same as the cluster-like headaches I sometimes write about. My cluster-like headaches, which are a result of my chronic pain disorder, last much, much longer than “ice pick” headaches(sometimes cluster headaches are referred to as “ice pick” headaches, they have similar symptoms), also a result of this dreadful but non life threatening disorder.
Ice pick headaches last, literally, only a few seconds. But the pain is unbearable or would be if the duration were longer. The pain level is almost to the same excruciating level as my cluster-like headaches are. I call them “cluster-like” because I don’t have Cluster Headache (CH) that I know of but I have a different pain disorder that triggers similar headaches. The ice pick ones don’t feel as much like a burning sensation as the cluster ones.
These ice pick headaches I have been experiencing off and on, I think every single day now for like two weeks, make it feel like someone is slicing through the back of my head with something (probably why they are called what they are called). This isn’t metaphorical/poetic speaking/writing or whatever; it literally feels like an assault on my body.
I don’t even like using the word “literally” much because it has become a trend to use it so loosely or unnecessarily, when things aren’t actually/literally “literal” that it seems, to me, to have lost its meaning or seriousness or its literal-ness. Or something like that.
Many people have developed the habit now of saying/writing things like “I literally spilled my coffee on me today!” “I literally missed the bus!” “I literally can’t live without this new drink I discovered!” “I’m literally going to dye my hair today!” “I literally just can’t even!” lol
I’m so thankful for the word “literally.” The saying “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone” applies here. I can’t say that about everything I have/had. Many things I do know what I have/had before it’s gone but I never realized what an incredible purpose the word “literally” serves (or served) until people started overusing it. Sometimes I’m so frustrated because I can’t seem to get my point across about my pain or convey the true agony or depth of it. And the word “literally” has often saved me, helped it feel that I am in fact getting most of my experience to be understood. “My head literally feels like it’s splitting” or “I feel that it can literally kill me.”
But now the poor word has lost its weight, its ability to be taken seriously and with it goes my sense that I’m getting my true experience out there.
So thanks to all those who “literally” cannot live without coffee and “literally” flew to the bus this morning and still missed it and “literally” jumped out of your skin when something scared you silly, and “literally just can’t even.” Now “literally” and me have lost our voice. Lol Jk I’m not really resentful, I’m actually quite amused. But it’s true that when we use a word so much and out of place or so loosely, it tends to seem to lose its original message. Some words change or have additional definitions after a while and that’s ok. But come on! This isn’t even the case here! This word is being tossed around in a completely nonsensical way. oh, well.
But these ice pick assaults feel as if my head is truly splitting. And it’s like bolts of electricity searing through my face, head, eye, temple without warning. They come on out of nowhere.
I don’t have them frequently each day but they are becoming more frequent, hopefully only temporarily . They are not as traumatic as the cluster-like ones but nearly as painful. Every day now I have them usually on two occasions, usually later in the day, like early evening then again later at night. And on each occasion, I experience usually two or three, one right after the other. Like bolts of electricity or invisible bullets piercing my temple and eyeball and like something sharp plunging into my head, on the top and in the back on one side, the right side. After the barbaric attack ends, I feel physically weak. Sometimes hot or dizzy, and sometimes I have an urge to sob.
When they end I feel like I can pass out and often sit to rest a couple minutes and during the seconds they occur, I feel as if the pain itself can physically kill me. If I did not have the pain disorder or wasn’t diagnosed, I would seriously think I’m dying. I would be convinced. Sometimes I still wonder if I’m dying when it’s happening.
It’s amazing how many thoughts and feelings we can have in a mere few seconds. I never really realized that before these ice pick attacks began everyday like this. It reminds me to watch my thoughts and make sure they are mostly positive and loving. Also, it reminds me how much can happen in a second, how each second truly matters. In a second, my world can crumble on top of me and in a second, hope can creep into my head and lift me and in a second my wisdom can deepen and I can discover and learn and share. In a second I can choose to conquer my pain and in one second I can choose love.
We often seem to think of one second as useless or too fleeting to matter. But this life is made up of one seconds, single breaths, fleeting moments, individual heartbeats. Together we realize how important they are but each one in itself, we seem to tend to forget. I am reminded to cherish each one. Hold each one close to me. Make the most of each & every one.
One thing that I find that helps me cope with severe physical pain and the emotional trauma of it is to accept the pain instead of judging it or wishing it away. Taking deep breaths and allowing the pain to come as it will. This can be extremely difficult but with practice it gets easier.
I have sometimes been angry with the physical agony of my chronic/episodic pain disorder and sometimes even at my body or the part of it responsible for this hell.
I love my body, both the aesthetic beauty of it and what it does for me, allows me to live, to love, to experience, to reach out my hand and help someone or reach out my arms and warmly embrace others.
But sometimes when I have been very sick (with kidney stones for example) or in pain, I let my love take the backburner and felt a devastating sense of betrayal. Like my body is betraying me, doing this to me. After all the love I have lavished onto it and express for it. As if my body has consciously chosen to do this to me. Sometimes I have been angry at my jaw, the source of all my pain. This is very rare for me to experience but I have felt it before.
What is more common is for me to become furious with my physical pain itself. I have even felt an urge to seek revenge upon it. It sounds amusing and ridiculous and makes no sense. Pain is not a sentient thing with a choice or consciousness. But I have felt furious and wanted to scream at it and throw and break objects while cursing my pain for destroying me. I have waited for my pain to materialize before me so I can rip it to shreds. Into little pieces, the way I feel that it does to me.
This doesn’t help. Screaming and taking fits while in the midst of a severe flare up of physical pain, fantasizing about seeking revenge on my pain, does nothing to help me. It doesn’t ease my pain or relieve my anger. All it serves to do is worsen it. And it is devastating enough without unnecessarily adding to it.
(It’s interesting to think about this because I don’t hurt or kill humans, animals, insects, any living, sentient beings intentionally ever so I know if my pain really was a sentient thing I can seek revenge on, I wouldn’t.)
Accepting my pain and my body is what helps. And meditating upon all the good my body does for me. I have now learned when I’m in physical agony, even seemingly unbearable physical agony, to ask myself “What is this pain teaching or reminding me?” “How can I use this experience to help inspire or bring a sense of consolation or hope to others?” In the earlier days of my pain disorder, it was rare that I was able do this.
Back then all I was mostly able to do is scream and collapse and writhe on the floor and pace back and forth or crack my head against a wall all night long. Most of my thoughts were frantic and panicked, often despairing. Sometimes they still are and sometimes I still do these things, still get angry but more often now, I am able to consciously allow my pain to strengthen me and teach or remind me, deepen my wisdom and empathy for others in those moments.
As soon as I feel the agony of my disorder flaring up, I am reminded of how I never want anyone to ever feel this way and try to think of ways I can bring even just a fraction of consolation or inspiration to others. I now have the ability to summon loving feelings more often than I used to when I was in severe pain. I am reminded that others are suffering or may be or can later be suffering like me and it deepens my compassion. It reminds me that when I feel like responding to things with unkindness, it’s better to instead respond with compassion. Compassion can ease suffering.
My pain is worth it if I can use it as a catalyst for positive change and if I can allow it to inspire me to reach out and help someone in some way, even if it’s just sharing a positive quote or picture on social media. Or reminding myself to show more compassion even to people acting less than kind, at any moment they can be struck with pain or maybe already are suffering.
One thing I learned that I would have never known if not for my disorder, is the existence of “beyond unbearable pain.” I never knew that physical pain can be beyond severe or beyond unbearable. Now I know. I think life itself is beautiful and while I don’t want to suffer, if I have to its good to let it teach me. Pain to all extents is part of this life. And the more I get to experience of life, the better! Even when it’s not pleasant. I won’t go out looking for pain but if it happens to find me, I will embrace it. I don’t always succeed but that’s ok.
Though it can often feel like it, my pain is not my enemy. It is my teacher, my lessons, my inspiration, my strength. And I am not a victim of my body. My body does all it can to keep me alive even when it’s sick and in pain. It does all it can for me. It doesn’t want to suffer.
When I keep this in mind and focus on this and lavish love onto the places of me that hurt, when I breathe, consciously aware of each breath that goes in and out, and remember I am not my pain, it helps me cope. Pain is separate and I can build an invisible/emotional barrier to distance my body or self and the pain so I won’t identify with the pain.
One of my favorite books is “How to Solve Our Human Problems” by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, meditation master, Buddhist monk, teacher of Buddhism, and one of my favorite authors. In his book he writes:
“The feelings of hurt are inseparably bound up with grasping at I and mine. We strongly feel ‘I am hurt’ or ‘My feelings are hurt.'” (How to Solve Our Human Problems pp. 43)
“There is an enormous difference between the thoughts, ‘I am feeling bad,’ and ‘Unpleasant feelings are arising in my mind.’ When we identify with our feelings, we make them bigger and more solid than they are, and it becomes much more difficult to let the unpleasant feelings go. On the other hand, when we learn to view our feelings in a more detached way, seeing them simply as waves in the ocean of our mind, they become less frightening and much easier to deal with constructively.” (pp. 44)
When I first read this, I laughed hysterically.
“Unpleasant feelings are arising in my mind.”
Sometimes I still do. Who goes around saying “There are unpleasant feelings arising in my mind?” Imagine being pissed at someone and yelling “There are angry feelings arising in my mind at you!!” Lmao I couldn’t say that and keep a straight face. I’m laughing as I’m writing this.
But these words he speaks are true.
Venerable Geshe Kelsang’s point is to dissociate or detach, to not allow our self to identify with our pain. Not ever to repress or deny it but to not be one with it, to distance ourself and our unpleasant emotions or feelings. We are not those painful feelings. We acknowledge them and that they severely affect us. But then we detach and realize they are not inherent in our existence. If something is not me or essential to my very existence, I don’t have to identify with it.
I couldn’t see exactly how this can work but I love Geshe-la and while I don’t agree with all his views, I trust his word. His practical tips are extremely helpful and his love and wisdom run deep.
One night, somewhat recently, I woke up in excruciating physical pain which triggered fear. People often say emotional pain is worse than physical. I can’t completely agree. Both can be agonizing and it’s dependent upon the one experiencing the pain and the situation, the degree of pain…
To me, severe physical pain is harder to deal with than severe emotional pain. And I have felt both horrific physical and emotional pain.
So that night I was horrified and in unimaginable physical agony, beyond belief. My head was throbbing, aching, burning…
And I remembered his words.
And I thought to myself “There is physical pain arising in my head” while taking deep deliberate breaths. I meditated upon the fact that pain and me are separate even when it feels I am consumed by it. Even when it feels I am one with it. Even when I don’t know where pain ends and I begin. I am not pain. I am not fear. Pain and fear are not inherent in me. I couldn’t believe the effect it had on me. Even though I did not completely grasp the concept. It calmed my fear and helped me cope. I felt my pain becoming more distant. Not going away, not necessarily even lessening but my self becoming less identified with it. This way I have a less negative emotional reaction to the physical pain.
This detachment can work for both physical & emotional pain. We are not our painful thoughts, our grief, our sadness or depression or anxiety. We are not our anger or our jealousy. These things arise in our body/mind but they are not us.
Instead of thinking I am in pain or my head hurts or I am scared, I detach, distance myself, dissociate. I don’t allow concepts of me or my body or I to be in the same breath as pain or fear. Fear & pain arise in my body but they are not me. They are not my body, not my mind, not my essence. They are separate. And by carefully selecting my choice of words, my thoughts, I can emphasize this and cope better with pain and fear.
My body does hurt.
My head really hurts.
I am scared.
I am in pain.
These are all the truth.
But these sentences do not always serve me well. They bring my body, me, my mind together with pain, allowing pain and fear to collide with me. Our choice of words and our thoughts have an effect either positive or negative and there are choices we can make to help us in painful situations.
Again, it’s not about denying or repressing but detaching. I can have something, admit that I have it but not identify with it. This even goes for positive things like money or a great job. I have those things if I do but they are not me. And I can separate my self and them. Then when I lose them I still will not be lost or diminished.
Also, laughter always helps. And it’s hard not to laugh when I think this way. Lol It sounds ridiculous. Who talks this way?! ;-D
But it really does help me.
(This is the back of the book. It just has a blur effect I put on because it looks prettier that way. The original picture looks kind of plain. This has a dreamy effect.)
I also would love to share some quotes and these songs for anyone in need or anyone who may be inspired or uplifted or just curious or entertained by them.
“I choose to FIGHT BACK! I choose to RISE, not fall! I choose to LIVE, not die! And I know, I know that what’s within me is also WITHIN YOU.” (Mayor Pappas, “City Hall” movie quote)
“Pain is no evil, unless it conquers us.” ~ Charles Kingsley
And we don’t have to let it conquer us.
“Pain can be endured and defeated only if it is embraced. Denied or feared, it grows.” ~ Dean Koontz
“While there’s life, there’s hope.” ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero
“Today I will see something positive in all situations.”
“You can be greater than anything that can happen to you.” ~ Norman Vincent Peale
“I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe.” ~ Dalai Lama
“When you come close to sellin’ out,
Reconsider” ~ LeeAnn Womack
“Take that first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.”
“Some people see a hopeless end, others see an endless hope.” ~ Unknown
“I will keep a smile on my face and in my heart even when it hurts today.” — Og Mandino
“And you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth
That a hero lies in you” ~ Mariah Carey
When I was in college, in one of my psychology classes, our professor, a clinical psychologist and very loving woman, would play this song for us and for our homework assignment, we had to print out the lyrics and were told to always keep them and look to them for inspiration. We were also required, for an exam, to fill in the blank part of the lyrics. It really is a beautiful song, isn’t it? Very inspiring and comforting and her voice, so soothing. ❤
“Embrace your challenges with an open heart because through every challenge, strength forms.”
“You are not the victim of your body. ” ~ Dr. Christiane Northrup
“We must free ourselves of the hope that the sea will ever rest. We must learn to sail in high winds.” ~ Aristotle Onassis
Our pain may not end or not end soon but we can still be happy, peaceful, live in love. It's all about conquering the pain and dancing in the rain & storms, sailing in the winds.
“You could go the distance, you could run the mile, you could walk straight through Hell with a smile.” ~ The Script
“To embrace all things means first that one holds no anger or resistance toward any idea or thing, living or dead, formed or formless. Acceptance is the very essence of the Tao.”
“If you're going through hell, keep going.” -Winston Churchill
This is for everyone in pain of any sort whether physical or emotional or with any problem. There’s always someone, somewhere who understands. There’s always hope as long as there is life.
❤ ❤ ❤ 😀
Lots of love to you!! 😀