Sunday, May 04, 2008

Pain and the Seeds of Compassion

There comes a time in life when one decides to surrender to what is, to acknowledge that one has hit a wall. I have arrived at just such an impasse, and while it's not an easy thing to do, I finally have to admit that I feel powerless over my pain.

Having worked with patients with chronic illness----including chronic pain---for years, I never saw myself as someone with chronic illness. People with intractable pain and multiple diagnoses were always separate from me, living in a world which I did not inhabit.

Now, having quit my job due to the ravages of stress and chronic illness, I admit that I am---at least for the moment---struggling with chronic illness, and that its effect on my life is global and overwhelming.

Up until now, I have consistently said that pain would not limit what I do, that I would not allow the pain to intrude upon my daily activities. However, I am moved to report that I have indeed surrendered some aspects of my life to the cruel fingers of pain, and I no longer do many of the things that I used to. Pain has insidiously begun a campaign of contraction aimed at my life, and I have weakened under the onslaught.

Despite the fact that I have not found a single modality or treatment that assuages my symptoms enough to remark about, I do hold out hope that somewhere, somehow, there will be an answer. Whether it is complete cessation of pain or just better control, I have to feel that there is still possibility and potential.

Nursing brings one into contact with people in all stages of health and illness. I have seen people ravaged by cancer and AIDS. I have dressed enormous physical wounds that would not heal, and I've witnessed the torture of psychological wounds that fester for a lifetime.

I myself now long for cessation of my own suffering, and in my role as a nurse I want my personal experience of suffering to inform and empower my interactions with patients and others who hurt. Shared experience breeds compassion and understanding. May my own experience further nurture the seeds of compassion in me.
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