I’m just curious…
When I was around 10, through a weird series of circumstances involving a very unusual fall, doctors discovered that there was something amiss with my muscles. In order to narrow down what it was they did a test that involved sticking needles deep into my muscle tissue, moving them around, and listening to the sounds the tissue made as it tore.
Sounds painful, right? …it was.
Now, the test didn’t really yield any results, I was borderline abnormal, so they basically told me I have a minor muscle disorder that somewhat limits the amount of physical activity I can engage in… but that’s it really.
When I was 20, my mother talked me into having the test done again, just to see what was happening. (My mother tends to always see the worst case scenario, and had somehow convinced herself that the doctors had told her I had a degenerative disorder, which frightened me a little because up until then, no one had said anything like that to me at all.) So, I went in for the test again. This time, though, I knew what I was in for… I knew that they would be jabbing needles deep into my calf muscles and purposely tearing my muscle tissue. I spent the days leading up to it trying very hard not to think about it, but… well, that’s like trying not to think about ... oh, I don't know... ice cream. See... you’re thinking about ice cream now, aren’t you? It doesn’t work.
So when the day of the test came, I went in and the doctors could tell I was nervous and they asked me why, so I told them… They assured me that it wouldn’t be that bad, I had been a little kid when I got the test the first time, so my memory of the pain was probably worse than it actually was, and besides, this was 10 years later, the needles would be smaller, the test would be shorter… it would be better. They promised.
So I tried to relax as they dug the needles into my muscles, took some deep breaths, thought calm thoughts… and then the needles began to move and it was… horrible. Worse than I remembered it being the first time. I lay there, on the bed, trying not to cry, and somehow feeling both the pain I was actually feeling, and the pain I had felt as a little girl getting this test.
You’d think that would be it, right? I got the results, they were the same as before so why on earth would I ever go through that again?
Well, once again it was my mother, and once again it was her weird tendency to always see the worst possible outcome. She had been with me for both of these tests and had listened as the doctors explained the results, and yet once again, about 10 years later, she was absolutely convinced that the doctors believed I had something that would land me in a wheelchair at some point. In fact, this time she had the names of various disorders that she believed the doctors had been hinting at. The fact that the second round of testing had occurred when I was legally an adult meant that no doctor should have said anything to my mother without me being there to hear it… but if you have read anything about my mother here (or have any personal knowledge of her) you can probably already guess what I’m about to say… it has happened to me on numerous occasions that my mother has somehow gotten access to information she shouldn’t have. Doctors have given my mom my medical records (this has happened more than once since I have been an adult), banks have given my mom my financial information, and lawyers have discussed the details of our meetings with her… I don’t know how she does it, she just somehow convinces people to tell her things that they aren’t supposed to about me. So… her absolute certainty about my medical situation after a while began to get to me. Had the doctors told her something that they hadn’t told me? After a few years of badgering I agreed to get the test again.
The problem was, of course, that I now had been through it twice and so I knew exactly how painful it was going to be, so once again I tried very hard not to think about it and once again I was completely unsuccessful. The doctors once again tried to calm me down, but this time… I couldn’t stop myself from crying out in pain every time the needles moved. It was so bad that the doctor actually refused to complete the test, saying he couldn’t continue torturing me for something that was basically a diagnostic test for a condition that wasn’t really all that bad and that there was no cure for so, yeah… that was the end of that.
Now, the medical part of this is not at all the point of why I am writing this down, but in case you are curious, my mother was wrong. The third doctor took the time to go over all my medical records with me and yeah, it’s exactly what the first doctors said, a minor muscle disorder that limits me somewhat. That’s all. It won’t put me in a wheelchair, it’s not degenerative, it might be hereditary so if I ever have kids, I should probably have a biopsy… that’s it.
So, why did I write all that out? Well, I’ve just been thinking about the nature of pain, both physical and emotional pain. Something happened recently that hurt me. Badly. Something I had entirely anticipated, it was in no way a shock, and it was not a new experience, but the intensity of the pain I felt did shock me. I had known it was coming, but I had not expected to be completely knocked on my ass by it. I’m somewhat recovered from, but I have started wondering if maybe the level of pain I felt was worsened by the fact that I knew it was coming, and that I knew what it was going to feel like.
And well, that has also gotten me thinking about pleasure, and how that seems to work in the exact opposite way. The most wonderful experiences are almost always surprises. The first time I tasted Earl Grey Crème Brulee, my first glimpse of a canal in Venice, the first time my little sister said my name… the explosion of joy in those new experiences, can it be felt again? Pleasure often seems to actually diminish the more an experience is repeated.
Or… well, this is what I’m curious about… is it just me? Is there something in me that magnifies pain and diminishes pleasure?