It was just another Friday night.
I had just got off work and was heading to my friend’s house to hang out. It was relatively late, so we all just laid around and watched stand up comedy on Netflix.
I remember how warm my chest felt from laughing so hard at the jokes on the show, but my laughter subsided quickly as a sudden pain struck my pelvic area and back.
It was mild and I passed it off for a typical stomach cramp, but the pain only continued to get worse.
I bite my tongue until the night was nearing an end – my friends gave me a concerned look as I stood in discomfort before hugging them goodbye.
I just claimed my stomach was bothering me, and that I’d be fine.
Or so I thought.
Then I left.
After I got home, I washed up and went to bed – was still in mild pain, but thought nothing of it (it was around 1 a.m).
Then I was awoken at 5 a.m. by a type of pain I’ve never experienced before. Initially, the cramps were on both sides of my body, but now, the pain radiated from my right side, starting at my pelvis and running up the front of my ribs and spiraling around to my back.
I remember pulling myself out of bed, hardly able to lift my right leg because of how excruciating the pain was. I found myself in the bathroom, hobbling over to the bathtub and running cold water. I hopped in the bath, hoping it would relieve my pain, and cease the flash sweats that had come on from my misery.
I felt some relief, but in moments, I was scrambling to the toilet, my insides heaving forward and out in response to the pain.
Afterwards, I curled up on the tile floor, feeling the cold against my body as an intense stabbing sensation found its way in between each and every one of my ribs. I felt like someone had taken a baseball bat to my side, leaving me bruised and broken, all while a knife was being jabbed into me over and over, endlessly, without resolve.
I couldn’t even cry – I could only lay and breathe in agony, my mind trying to answer every possible question as to what was happening to me. I had no idea. It must be related to my cycle, or maybe it was something I ate…or maybe I have the flu – I…I just don’t know.
After dealing with the pain for two days, I was brought to the Emergency Room, marking my first time I’ve ever been in the hospital.
Now that was an experience all in itself, because hospitals (along with needles, blood pressure machines, and illness in general) don’t sit well with me. I was stabbed probably 6 times just to get my blood drawn/have an IV put in, and ended up spending the entire day there with my sister (who I was very grateful to have with me, or else I would have lost every ounce of my sanity.)
By the end of my visit, I had a CT scan, blood tests, urine tests, the whole nine yards. At first, my symptoms seemed like a mystery to the doctor, but after receiving my scan and test results, it turned out I had a kidney stone (which runs in my family) coupled with a urinary tract infection (alongside a possible cyst on my ovary, yay me).
I remember the doctor’s amused look when she gave me the results – “Well, I initially thought you were one thing, but turns out you were all three! Lucky you…” she said dryly.
I was overwhelmed with dread, knowing I’d have to miss more work in the upcoming days, considering these fuckers can stay in you for up to a week (or more) depending on the size.
But, I was also grateful to hear that I only had 3mm stone (which is small enough for my body to process and pass on its own), and that I only had one (thank God).
I was sent home from the hospital in the evening, drugged, hydrated, and with medication in hand.
But the fun didn’t stop there.
My pain continued – some hours I would be perfectly fine, and my right side would hum with idle aches here and there, but in the next moment, I’d be on the floor again, my body preparing to “give birth” to the stone inside me (I say ‘give birth’ because the pain of a kidney stone is supposedly comparable to giving birth to a child, who knew!)
I’m still dealing with my little stone who’s decided to put up shop in my ureter, but I’m finally having more periods of relief now than periods of pain, which makes me hopeful, because it can only go up (well…down, if ya know what I’m mean) from here.
I wanted to take time to write about this experience because this is something I’ve never dealt with before in my life – it’s really made me come to realize how much pain can affect your…well, everything.
Not only am I frantic about going back to work, but I’m also forcing water down every second I can, I’m making sure I’m not putting too much pressure on my right side, I’m adjusting my schedule to more easily monitor when I’m in pain/when I need to take medication, I’m making sure I’m straining my urine to catch any stones to bring to the doctor, and I’m doing everything in my power to stay distracted, all while trying to be a functional human being.
Being in this type of “crisis mode” (when it comes to severe physical pain) is something I’ve only had to deal with for four days, but I feel like I’ve been hurting for years.
Severe physical pain rewires you – it takes control and forces every part of you into submission, all while society is looming above you, reminding you that being in severe pain is hardly an excuse to rest.
Because you must continue forward, you can never stop.
You have to go back to work. You have to put a smile on your face. You must be functional. Although I’m grateful for the rest I’ve been able to get, I’ve come to realize how much everything is still buzzing around me, reminding me that I’m here, a 21-year old writer, artist, college student, woman, who is an endlessly passionate, hopeless romantic shadowed by physical pain. I’m not ‘here’ but I’m still me. Or am I just my pain?
I’m slowly coming back to my senses now, but at the start of this experience, my life became my pain. It was all I could think about, all I could feel, all I was – all of these things feel scarily familar to how I felt when I was severely depressed, but this is on a whole new scale, a different planet in the same universe.
This experience, one that I’m continuing to have, has given me so much more appreciation for those who experience physical pain chronically. And while this pain I’m having isn’t chronic, I’ve had a little snapshot of how much it can impact a person’s life, and how this pain may affect my life in the future.
It also has reminded me that I’m not invincible – not that I ever thought I was, but at my age, you try not to think about the longevity of your internal organs…you just live, which is terrifying, quite honestly.
Think about it – our society has us wired in a way where we cannot reliably stop. We hardly get the chance to think about the lives going on inside us. Our organs are those lives, lives which are endlessly functioning while we often tend to neglect and poison ourselves by lack of care or awareness. Now, my condition is something that I have very little control over, but I’m looking at this bigger picture here.
So what? You can keep going, you’re young, just keep working two jobs, while going to school, having a social life, and managing severe anxiety – you’ll be fiiine.
No. I don’t want to live in a world where I have to throw my health, whether it’s physical or mental, down the drain, just because of this ridiculous societal standard that I have to uphold.
And now I’m rambling (which I have for half this post…props to you if you made it this far.)
In the end, please, take care of yourself. If you’re hurting, physically or mentally, give yourself a break. If you deal with chronic physical pain (or mental pain), I salute you, because I know how hard it can be to keep going, when all you want to do is stop, to breathe, to be relieved – But I’m proud of you – I’m proud of your ability to keep functioning, because that’s all we can do.
So let’s function together in hopeless but courageous strides – the pain will continue to mold us and build us through endless experience.
EDIT: I went pee this morning (the day after writing this post)…and heard a little *boop* in the water – my stone came out. I am so so relieved – I’m finally free.
What experiences with pain do you have? Share in the comments below!
With everlasting encouragement,