When I talked about breaking my leg, I eluded to being very sensitive. When I woke up from my 1st surgery, my body was screaming from the intrusion and the normal, cautious increases in dosage dictated by protocol took two days to reach a level and combination that finally controlled my pain. I actually had someone ask me if I abused painkillers – he had in the past but the cocktail I was on after surgery still would have put him on his ass.
It isn’t that I have a high drug tolerance or that I’m “sensitive to pain” – it’s that I feel everything, for better or worse. In the ambulance on the way to the ER, I felt the coolness of the saline flush in my IV. The EMT was astonished because he’d never had anyone notice it before. I had a second surgery in December because I could feel the plate and 7 screws in my leg, despite reassurances from friends that they barely ever noticed their metal implants.
I tear my heart open
I sew myself shut
My weakness is that
I care too much
Our scars remind us
That the past is real
I tear my heart open
Just to feel
The sensations aren’t just physical. My brain creates links between my body and my emotions. Other people have old injuries that flair up with weather, mine tell me what kind of stress I’m under. Relationship stress pulls at my right abductor, grief rears up as an ache in my left knee, work stress creeps up my SCM and spreads through my shoulders. Paraphrasing a friend’s description: The head is a lens for the body, when your mind changes so does your perception. I say the head is more than a lens – we think of the brain as sending out commands (actions) and receiving feedback (sensations). But emotional feedback can become physical sensation as well.
To quote Albus Dumbledore: “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
My body and brain don’t function uniquely, it’s that I notice more of the input and connections. Sensations that would get lost in the white noise of other people’s perceptions are available to me. The stress I was experiencing when an injury originally occurred associate with that pain long after the actual dysfunction has been corrected.
When I received my settlement check for the accident, I had a mixed reaction. The check included “pain and suffering” in addition to expenses. It was, all at once, generous and stingy. I weathered the injury fairly well and my recovery is about as good as you can expect so adding money on top of out of pocket amounts felt unnecessary or generous. At the same time, they put a number on my experience – the stress, pain, the dark days of my recovery – and it felt belittling that they could write off months of my life as simple math.
While my head was wrestling with these conflicting thoughts, my leg began to hurt. Soreness, tightness, renewed sensitivity in the scar. Feeling as though I was on the verge of injury. Along with the physical sensations, grief and sadness began to creep up on me. At first I thought it was because a chapter had officially closed in my life – my leg and the logistics around it were no longer in transition, unsettled. But my thoughts around the insurance payment settled quickly yet the feelings persisted. It wasn’t until a few weeks later that my once-broken leg called attention to my still-broken heart. My grief for Dash – diagnosed with a degenerative disease shortly before I broke my leg and gone shortly after my second surgery – needed to be let out. (See the companion piece on All Around Dogs – Let Grief Out, Let Love In)