Not the Revelations Anticipated

For my birthday, I scheduled a float at Metta Relaxation Spa  in Bethlehem- the staff was excellent, the massage I received was excellent, and I fell so deeply asleep in the float room they sent in my husband to wake me.
That is the review I put on their site- 5 stars.  I would do it again, it was pretty great.

I recall observations about the clientele, ourselves included, which looked like characters from a Winston Rowntree comic: Bethlehem is a weird place like that, a steel town that ended up surviving via colleges and music festivals- where everyone is clearly a hipster just by being there, which is sort of comforting in a way. Ed and I dislike the town of Bethlehem, but Bethlehem does not dislike us.  Perhaps, we fit in too well.  In the waiting room I enjoyed tea and coloring in a mandala as I noticed  almost every other client in waiting was on their cell phone, including my husband, despite signs everywhere asking kindly to the contrary.  (Not the staff, though- they were in the present…Although they can’t ban cell phones they did not seem to be the type of people obsessed with them like the rest of our culture.)

There, I swore to myself I would lessen my dependence on my own phone.  I check it less- I see it as an addiction after seeing a room full of people who were seeking some sort of breakthrough, enlightening experience too tethered to their phones to even notice how cool the place really was and how much attention there was to every detail.  The floor was literally made of pennies individually placed, grouted, and lacquered into a neat surface, the sign for the spa was made of perhaps hundreds of small screws drilled in one by one- and the staff was so nice- but I have to wonder out of how many clients they see a day how many people actually appreciate them, and how frustrated I would be if I ran a spa, one that specialized in facilitating life changing experiences to see people day in and day out bring everything that is wrong with modern life, i.e. the constant addiction to technology into the space they so carefully created to be free from such distraction.  I noticed signs to turn off phones, but like any other location where that mandate is in effect (planes, hospitals, therapists offices, funeral homes) it was patently ignored.

I suppose I am a bit of a self righteous hipster myself- I intentionally left my phone in the truck, and I do not own a television.  My laptop was broken for over a month and my brother fixed it for my birthday-  I survived.  In feeling resentment towards other people I swore I was going to cut down on my addictions to technology, and more particularly, the addiction to the constant feed of new information given by social media- the very same source that spreads malcontent by dividing people by faux political divisions, faux news stories, and even more fake lives and lies that people live online but not in real life-  What is it that people are avoiding, including myself to seek such constant distraction?

I went seeking an enlightening experience, and what I found, although enlightening, was not what I anticipated: I am in a great deal of physical pain, all the time.  Like a frog in a pot of slowly heating water I had not realized before how much pain limits my daily activities, and how only when a small amount of that pain is relieved that I could truly actually feel what it is I am experiencing as the backdrop to my everyday life experience:  smoldering pain over most of my body, with concentrations around my neck, shoulders, and parts of my legs.  I have had Lyme’s disease twice, lived most of my adult life (prior to my hysterectomy) with endometriosis, and have had recent-ish operations on my foot and around the hysterectomy site to remove over a pound of excess scar tissue… and realized long ago pain killers only help dull emergent pain, not the sort of pain that encloses a person like a large over-warm fur coat that is too big to remove without assistance, the constant throbbing like techno in the background of every action I do- that keeps me from getting things done to which I had perhaps incorrectly blamed exclusively on my depression.

I recall reading up on floats before hand, on sensory deprivation, and on the great metaphysical insights people received from this experience-  I normally can hear my own heartbeat anyway from tachycardia, and asthma makes my breathing something I pay attention to anyway so the two major points of focus that normally astound people in the silent environment were not new revelations (I thought this meant I could skip ahead to the ‘cool stuff’).  In the tank itself, after I removed my wedding band I realized how badly my finger hurt from wearing a ring that was too small even when we first bought it,  giving my hand an hour of relief made it impossible to put back on without breaking my finger further (funny story, I broke my finger with my own wedding ring 5 years ago, I went to a doctor, nothing happened except “Hey, that is a stress fracture.”) and realized my finger never got better.  I now have it on a necklace I wear when I go out.  Days after removing it, I notice the finger still hurts like crazy.

In the tank, I realized “Wow, I fucking hurt all the time….and I only just noticed it in floating in water when I have no distractions.  I wonder if anyone else ever came to this realization as well?”

When I was getting my massage I indicated my neck is always stiff-  I was strangled a couple of times as a child and it deformed my vertebrae, and I thought about how many times over the years I glossed over that fact non-nonchalantly. “Yeah, hello- my neck hurts, but that’s normal… I was strangled repeatedly as a child.  I just live with it.”

That is not cool.  Why did I think I should be cool with that?

Thinking to when I had excellent insurance where a weekly massage was covered by my premiums and how even then going to a chiropractor made it worse except for the massage at the end- how the doofus with his two year degree who called himself “doctor” explained some wacky new age bullshit about some cult leader who created chiropractic medicine out of snake oil, bullshit, making joints create popping noises, and nice massages- but fully believing it.

Chiropractic medicine, to me, is the accidental alcohol distilled from bullshit.  Alcohol can relieve symptoms of pain and give a sense of well being no matter what the source of the initial fermentation.  Just because “it works” for some people does not make it any more of a valid practice than Scientologists making you hold the bars of an E-reader checking for “thetans” as the imaginary source to all the ills of humanity.

I am honestly writing this post to organized my thoughts in what I what to speak to my therapist, and likely my doctor about later this week.
I realize I have a pattern with pain,  I reach my threshold, go to a doctor, they give me painkillers I seldom take as the real cause is unknown, I am sent to specialists who either do not believe me and misdiagnose me a few times, then the next thing I know I am in the prep area for yet another necessary surgery if I ever want to live/walk/exist in any state resembling normalcy.

I do not believe my body has fully recovered from most of what I have surgically experienced.   I do not want to see a chiropractor- but I am unaware of what sort of doctor I need that is scientifically sound and can figure out what it means to have this insanely high pain tolerance, and more importantly, how can it be possible to live a life that relieves this physical pain significantly if not completely?
I recall my shrink telling me about his intensely busy schedule in our first session- how after his therapy job, he had to teach a few classes at the college, then he needed to weed the garden, stain his staircase, and play his guitar for two hours on top of that- when any one of those things would knock me out for an entire day.

The float tank experience has forced me to consider this:  Am I depressed because I am in constant, mind numbing pain, or am I in pain because I am depressed?

Where do I go from here?

As far as Gods go…I did feel a bit connected to Rán.  A Goddess I never thought much about prior, as I tried (and succeeded) in relaxing in the tank… In the sense I did not wish to leave the water.  But then, most of my life has been using water in some way or another to sooth myself- hot showers, cold baths, immersing myself in the stream running through my yard on hot days, pools, hot tubs, oceans I have lived near, lakes and ponds in which I (illegally) swam with friends, and realized my attraction to water is that it relieves the pain I live with and try not to admit to myself…mostly, because I hate painkillers: they make me itchy, bitchy, and cruel as a person.

I am wondering how much of my psychological distress is caused by pain, and how much pain I have caused myself because of psychological distress.  I do not believe my mental health and physical health exists in separate spheres that only tangentially connect;  I wish I were wealthy enough to afford the type of care in the US which other countries I have lived in take for granted.  Where the doctor doesn’t thrust more pills, but rather finds the root cause, treats that with whatever the body needs to heal if it is a deficiency or overabundance and you get to enjoy life again.

The only times I am not in physical pain are when I am in water.  As I am writing this post at this moment I am aware of shooting pain in my right upper arm,  painful pressure on my neck and back, my ankle aches from a sprain several months back, and I have the ever-present headache that never “quite” goes away but I also never really talk about, either.

It is very fucking distracting.  Then, add to the mix the kidney stone, phantom pain from my prior surgeries, and that I am light sensitive.  Instead of dealing with any of the overreaching “Everything hurts, all the time” I only see doctors for breakthrough pain…and when pain breaks though, there is always something massively wrong with me- which is another reason why I just do not go unless it is unbearable. I get very large tattoos for the endorphin rush.  I have said it many times before but never thought about it.  I get tattoos to relieve both psychological as well as physical pain.  (which sounds counter intuitive unless the pain experienced is greater than the tattoo…which for me, it always has been.)

Kidney stones?  Last time I called my urologist with a flare up and they asked me what it felt like I replied “Worse than being stabbed, but not so bad as my hysterectomy.” the nurse on the phone said I must have lived a fascinating life.

As for Rán,  other than totally digging her name, perhaps she might be one of the Goddesses that has cared for me in my life- in the relief that water provides me without my conscious awareness…  she carries a net, drags people to their deaths, has a sort of strange frenemy sort of relationship with Loki, is technically a Jotun, married to Aegir, have 9 daughters, coincidentally as Heimdallr has 9 mothers it is implied she is the grandmother to the guardian of bifrost, the most Aesic of the Aesir himself.  She represents something primordial, instinctive, and deeper than our common modern experience.  Water as rage, mercurial, and destructive.  Water that can destroy or facilitate change.

As far as analogies go: Rán is the perfect symbolism for what in this stage of my life needs attention.  Unless I can somehow suspend myself in fluid 24/7, I am going to have to face my doctors and actually get this shit worked out.  As far as floating in a sensory deprivation tank goes?  As much as I wish I had the enlightening “I am one with the universe” experience instead of “Every time I am not in water I am in pain” experience I did have, I am going to have actually fix this somehow.

Although the easy answer is “Just take the fucking pain killers”- it solves nothing.  As much as I do not want to think there is some overreaching medical condition that flows through all other medical conditions I have experienced, like water, I need to sit down with someone, compile everything I have experienced in 35 years of pretty awful surgeries and present it all to someone competent saying

“Look, this is not normal.  There has to be a common thread here, why does my body keep creating horrendously painful issues that require surgery?  What is causing all of this?  Can we treat that?”

Wish me luck.  I have fear this will get worse before it gets better.

ran-vikings-cc

Art by Elisabeth Alba: source

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4 Responses to “Not the Revelations Anticipated”

  1. I do wish you luck. More, I wish you success.

  2. Good luck in finding your answers.
    One of my friends has Fibromalgia. He was spry in body and mind and the pain has basically turned his body weak like that of a very elderly man before its time, some days unable to get out of bed for the pain, some days are copeable with. Constantly takes whatever pain killers have the less nasty side effects. But worse for him was the uncertainty of not knowing what was happening.

    • Tyrienne Says:

      I am in my therapist office right this moment. Hopefully he can help me navigate the other medical stuff

  3. Pisces. A fish out of water.

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