Sunday, December 20, 2015

On pain and judgment

Years ago, I read an article that described the controversy surrounding aspirin and the relief of pain. The argument went roughly like this:

Pain is from God, especially for women in childbirth, so to alleviate pain is to go against God’s will.

I tried to find that article this morning but my Google-fu let me down. I did find articles that specifically mentioned childbirth, and also the use of pain as a diagnostic tool, but wasn’t able to find the bit about any pain relief being in opposition to God’s will.

I mention all of that because I’ve heard from more than a few people that they don’t ever take anything for pain. You’ve probably met people like that yourself (or maybe you are one)—there’s a sense of pride that the pain is just endured, almost like it’s a virtue to suffer. God knows I’ve done plenty of that myself, no doubt some remnant of my own upbringing.

But the thing is, pain is also exhausting and can interfere with recovery.

Case in point—I had an appendectomy when I was 19. My appendix wasn’t actually where it was supposed to be so I ended up with a seven-inch incision and my small intestine was compromised. Because I hate needles so much and also thought in my twisted way that I was demonstrating some sort of fortitude, I refused all pain relief post-op. I went on to do the same thing with my first C-section, but by the time I had my second C-section, I was tired of being so exhausted after surgery, and also cranky from the pain. So I endured the shots and got some relief.

And another case in point—2006 was a very tough year. I had ongoing, never ending pain after my sixth major abdominal surgery and was put on a pain management system. Since most prescription pain medication makes me incredibly nauseous, I took half the prescribed dose. As you might expect, I didn’t get much relief plus I had horrid nausea. I ended up having my seventh major abdominal surgery in August that year. The surgeon repaired an incisional hernia from all the previous surgeries, and also cleared out what he called a lot of scar tissue. If I’d been clearer about the amount of pain I was in after my sixth surgery, I might have had that seventh surgery sooner. But no, I was being all tough.

I’ve come to realize (finally) that there’s no virtue in enduring something that can be alleviated or relieved. So I am writing this post after having had sinus surgery on Friday and I’m definitely taking the pain meds (along with some strong anti-nausea meds). I want to recover quickly and I want to be able to sleep.


Stacy McCollum said...

I hope you recover quickly and get the much needed rest you deserve!

Anonymous said...


Kerry DeBauge said...

First of all, as long as I've known you you've always been tough (and sometimes stubborn). I waffle on the use of meds for pain management but only because the meds make me foggy. I also worried about using them when I gave birth, but for the safety of the baby. I've never associated taking relief of pain as going against God. The thing is, when used right, they can help with recovery. Sleep, rest, laughter and a good diet are super important factors to healing. If you are suffering chronic pain, a good attitude and rest may never come, and certainly delay healing. Forget that. I say hurry to get back to being your best self and doing God's work, not suffering more than necessary.