Pain! It hurts, doesn’t it? Not a nice sensation at all. When you have pain, you will try anything to take your mind off it, but usually without success. I once had sex in the desperate hope of distracting myself from a particularly head-splitting migraine, but all to no avail. Had to give up after a few minutes or risk vomiting on – on um, nope, her name escapes me – the lady I was with at the time and my raised heart rate and blood pressure simply meant the explosions of agony inside my skull were coming with far greater frequency and with considerably increased force. Yes of course I fancy you, love. It’s not you, it’s me. Now please bugger off and leave me to die in peace.
Pain is a good thing, of course. It tells you when you’re ill and makes you ring the doctor, warns you when you’ve twisted your ankle to stop you jogging long enough to bind it up, alerts you to the danger of pressing your face to a dark but scorching hot plate – again – and generally keeps your curious fingers out of lit barbecues and spinning bacon slicers. Pain and fear of pain makes you careful on stairs, keeps your thumbs out of the way of hammers (most of the time), ensures you remain wary of bare wires even when you’ve been assured they’re no longer live; causes you to snivel and creep your way out of the argument with the big guy who would obviously beat you to a pulp if provoked and generally saves your arse in a myriad of ways.
Pain, however, also has this tendency for excess. Take the pain I had a while ago caused by the abscess which suddenly appeared under my tooth. When I woke up in the morning with the entire left side of my face throbbing mercilessly, it told me in no uncertain terms that something was amiss and also motivated me to get to the dentist with all possible haste. Once alerted to the problem and taking appropriate action, however, surely, job done, pain could have taken its foot off the pedal and eased up on me? It bloody well didn’t, though. In fact, despite popping pain killers and antibiotics like they were going out of fashion, it kept getting worse and worse, to the point where my face swelled into something Popeye-esque and apparently in imminent danger of bursting and I spent half the night with a bag of frozen peas clamped to my jaw, pacing my kitchen muttering: please stop, oh please stop, oh please, please, PLEASE…!
Pain, I’m grateful for the warning and for spurring me to seek professional help, but can you tell me what the purpose is of leaving me trapped on my bed in the foetal position, grizzling like a two-year old with colic and desperately praying to God, begging Him to make the agony end? Where is the logic in making me so completely debilitated, I can’t even think straight? Doesn’t that leave me at increased risk of further pain causing accidents, like thoughtlessly setting fire to my face instead of my cigarette, or doing up my fly without getting Percy out of harm‘s way first? Isn’t pain supposed to protect me, not lead me senseless and dribbling into otherwise avoidable danger…
Pain should be on a scale of 1 to 10, not 1 to 10 – plus a triple word score and a bonus of fifty pain points for using all of its letters. In deference to tyrant pain, I was unable to do much of anything for 72 hours, including having a shave or a proper wash. My bedding looked like it had been in a tumble drier, but I couldn’t even think about straightening it up and apart from a tin of tomato soup and two custard tarts, I was barely able to feed myself. The pain killers said take with or after food, but I couldn’t open my mouth wide enough to get any proper food in it and each tentative chewing motion sent a bolt of lightning up through my nose and straight into my brain, which rather takes away all the pleasure from a soft-boiled egg. But no matter, the pain killers failed to kill any of the pain anyway. Didn’t bring it down by one sodding notch, though enough paracetamol was floating around my system to turn my liver into a single lump of scar tissue.
Pain at that level is utterly counter-productive. How are you supposed to escape the croc that just bit your foot off if the initial pain paralyses you? How are you supposed to fight off the bully if his first punch makes you curl up on the floor and weep gentle tears of self-pity? How are you supposed to seek treatment when your broken legs won’t take you anywhere and your smashed hands can’t dial 999? And how are you supposed to brush your teeth and attend to your dental hygiene when your jaw line, stretched to Mini Driver proportions, won’t let you open your mouth wide enough to get the brush in?
Pain, therefore, has a sadistic streak and will pointlessly jack up your torment levels just because it can, watching you miserably squirming for its own warped entertainment. Pain was either invented by Mother Nature who, too busy dragging Father Nature around shoe shops, cares not one jot for the suffering of her creatures, or by a vengeful and spiteful God with a twisted sense of humour, whom I personally wished to have a very stiff word with, but as the only sounds I could squeeze from between my tortured gums were groans and whimpers, I was forced to put His telling off on hold.
Pain begins each paragraph of this essay in order to reflect the rhythmic pulse of raging hurt which, as I wrote this, continued to torture my rearmost molar, as well as my jaw bone, cheek, eye, ear, throat, tongue and the top of my head. What has the top of my head got to do with my frigging tooth? What?
Pain, though it pained me to say it through swollen lips, is quite simply an occasional friend with a permanent mean streak. As for my damaged sciatic nerve, now that really is a pain in the arse.