Thursday, March 20, 2014

Learning to Live with a New Kind of Pain

It's amazing sometimes what we can learn to live with. Or without.

Most of the time, we could probably rush to a doctor and find a pill to treat whatever the problem was, or at least make living with it more comfortable. After all, there are pills for going to the bathroom too often, or not enough, treatment for low testosterone or low estrogen, erectile dysfunction, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, pain, depression, sleeplessness. You name it, modern medicine can offer a pharmaceutical treatment for it.

It may not always correct it, but it often means we aren't quite so bothered by it.

Or we can learn to live with it.

The thought crossed my mind the other day when a twinge of tendonitis shot out from my elbow as I was undertaking some random chore. "Hey, I hardly notice that any more."

When the tendonitis first came on a couple of years ago, it was debilitating. My elbows ached, especially my right one. I bought a sleeve I could microwave or chill for relief, braces to wear when I was using my arms a lot, pain relieving lotion, and 12-hour arthritis strength pain relievers. I was unable to do things I liked to do because my arms hurt so bad and if it was rest they needed to heal, that wasn't happening. I had small children that needed to be picked up and helped to do things, big dogs who liked to tug on their leashes while being walked.

I was not a weekend athlete who could ice it down and rest it until I needed my elbow again, or even a professional athlete who could get a doctor to give me something to help it heal while I stood on the sidelines. I had a life to live that didn't give me time off to cope, so I just kept on doing what I had to do and after a time, it didn't hurt so badly.

Or if it did, I just ceased to notice.

Except for those random times when I focus on my elbows, use them a certain way, or poke and prod at the tenderness. Then, by gosh, I know it hurts and I may have to take a little time to let the pain ease.

I'm beginning to discover that losing my son is in many ways the same.

I may go days without breaking down and crying for what is gone. Ethan may seem at times unreal, just a name that echoes in my mind and is tattooed on my wrist -- an engraving on a necklace. He becomes as two-dimensional as the photos on my wall, a remembered ache that that happened a long time ago and doesn't really hurt any more.

Then a food, a laugh, a dream, a song happens, memories rush in on a wave of tears and my arms ache with a different kind of pain longing to hold him and my heart feels as though it falters in my chest. Sometimes I can take a few deep breaths and swallow the pain back down and sometimes I can't. Sometimes I have to take time out and poke and prod at the memories, ride the waves of grief and allow myself to be sidelined for a while in the heartbreak.

All in all, however, I'm learning to live without him and with the tears and faltering of my new reality.

I have a life to live, even if he is no longer in it. I don't have time to stop and figure out how to cope, I just have to do it.

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