on-going mostly unedited stream of thoughts

writing honestly about pain

I came across this post, titled “Depressiongrams” and there was an observation:

There is plenty of space in the cultural conversation for stories about what it was like to have been depressed, but there isn’t much space or tolerance for narrating the experience in live time.

It occurred to me that I tend to write most of my experiences after the fact, and there is a reason for that – during depressive episodes, the last thing I want to do is anything, because it feels like all the life has been sucked out of me.

But perhaps right now I think it is worth writing about when I am in the throes but not at the deep end yet. It feels like limbo: I am still unwell, but I have mustered enough energy to write.

I really want to be more real. I have been real enough, but there is still a lot of self-censorship going on. I was afraid that if I am to be more honest than I am already, it would make a lot of people uncomfortable. But this discomfort contributes to a lot of stigma, a lot of misrepresentation and misunderstanding. I cannot direct the narrative of the world, but I have full license over mine. It is entirely up to me how much, how little I want to share.

And I think, do people really want to read how I experience my own demons? I was honestly afraid like most other people out there, to be labelled an over-sharer, or whatever else people say about other people who publish their entire lives online.

Then I realised, have I ever felt that way about another person? A person who shares both her pain and her joy publicly? I have only felt a deep sense of connection and gratitude – thanks for doing this, so it makes it easier for people like us. That is when I knew, we choose the tribes we want to belong to.

So for today, I am going to write about what it feels like for me when things get bad, as well as I can articulate in words:

I have been in Bali for more than two weeks now, and I naively thought by now I would have felt a lot better. But I don’t. I do feel less high strung, which is better than nothing, but the chronic pain is still there.

Today, I woke up with my eyes feeling like they have been secretly punched while I was sleeping. I looked into the mirror and it seems like there are more visible vessels growing over the whites of my eyes. I felt that fear in my stomach. What if I am slowly going blind?

I googled my symptoms, but of course. Obviously googling didn’t make me feel better. It could be anything from computer eye strain to diabetes to eye cancer. I remembered that I had experienced some anxiety before I slept, so suddenly it occurred to me to google for anxiety and dry eyes. It turns out that there is a ton of research done and also a plausible explanation:

Reduced lubrication in the eyes are caused by body fluids being diverted elsewhere in the body during anxiety causing the eyes to feel sore, dry and painful. source

That did make me feel better, because I rather have anxiety-driven dry eyes than eye cancer. But as the afternoon dragged on, the pain in my eyes radiated outwards, and it became a full-blown migraine. (It did provide additional comfort that my painful eyes seems related to an old foe of mine, migraines, instead of being some mysterious isolated symptom.)

My migraines make me feel nauseous, so I had to curl up in bed for a few hours before I could feel remotely better, but for a split-second I remembered why I used to feel so suicidal.

This sort of chronic pain makes me feel like I am dying a slow death. I have no idea when I will get better, how I will get better, what is the true damned cause of my symptoms. Everything is guesswork, anything I do is an experiment. It feels incredibly frustrating that just when I thought I was getting better, my eyes decided to prove me otherwise. Migraines I can live with, because they do eventually go away. Just the mere fact that my eyes are chronically painful is enough to send me into depression – how am I going to live if I can no longer do the things I love?

It makes me understand why people make that choice, because in that moment, that pain is greater than any rational thinking or any possible empathy for the people we are leaving behind.

It is not just physical, but an indescribable emotional and psychic pain.

I have repeatedly assured everybody including myself that I will not do it, because I don’t have it in me to cause my loved ones that much pain for the rest of their lives – but it doesn’t make the actual deep-rooted desire and pain go away.

Being able to write about it, is at least the one thing I can still hold on to.

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