I know that patience is one of my Big Lessons, and I’ve accepted my Crohn’s disease as one of my major teachers. What’s been strange about this year, my fourth since onset, is how shockingly intolerant I’ve been of my sketchy health all of a sudden, after four years of putting up with its vagaries fairly well.
My beloved shrink gave me some good insight into this today. In general, she said, we humans tend to grow more and more intolerant of pain as time goes by. (I realize that this might sound absurdly “duh, hey!”, but bear with me.)
You would think, or I thought, anyway, that the longer you’d lived with pain, the more inured to it you’d become. But now I wonder if most of what we get used to is the idea of the pain. With my Crohn’s, for example, I long ago got down with the limitations and the grossness from an intellectual perspective: I suffer from exhaustion, weakness and gastrointestinal distress (and my loved ones suffer, too, from the contact high) more than your average, non-Crohn’s-afflicted person.
But understanding something and getting down with it are two different things. Pain makes you a little crazy, I’m discovering, pain in all of its forms.
When it’s pain that can be allieviated by a change in circumstances, pain can be good; a little mounting pain might finally impel you to get that physical or bolt from a bad relationship just like an accumulation of heat from a flame impels you to pull away your hand.
When it’s a pain that’s chronic, the process is the same, the pain becomes less and less tolerable with each recurrence, but there’s no relief, no escape: just more pain.
There’s no real answer to this, but there may be an upside: just knowing how chronic (repeated, unavoidable) pain works on the psyche might help me to be more tolerant and understanding of other people enmeshed in their own version of Crohn’s disease. And I’m not just getting all Pollyanna in your face about this: I’ll take any help I can get handling road-raged psychos and the rest of the urban-afflicted who seem to be more and more in my face every day.
Who knows? Maybe I can even extend a little of that kindness and understanding towards myself…