Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A Shy Bald Buddhist

Just as Mellowlee predicted in the comments to my post about my freak dancing accident, I have bursitis in my hip, a nasty but temporary inflamation of the bursa. What's a bursa, you're asking? Well, it's this little pad of fat that sits over your hip joint and protects the muscles in and around your hip--if the bursa wasn't there, by the time you were 25, the friction of bone against muscle every time you took a step would have sawn every last muscle around that joint right in two, and we'd all be crippled.

Doctors and such don't know why something can upset and inflame a bursa, but sometimes something does. And when a bursa gets upset, it can get REALLY freakin' upset.

Yesterday, after reading a few blogs and commenting here, I went to eat breakfast. I was suffering simultaneously from great hunger and a lack of appetite: my stomach was as empty as a promise from George Bush, but all I felt when I thought of eating most things was mild revulsion. I finally made a bowl of oatmeal but could hardly choke it down. I thought, "What's going on? I don't have food poisoning again. I didn't drink last night, so I'm not hung over. What's wrong?" And at that point I realized that I was nauseated by pain. And I decided that if something hurt badly enough to prevent me from eating, I might want to discuss the matter with a medical professional. So I called my doctor's office, spoke to a nurse who scheduled me an appointment a few hours later, and then I burst into tears.

People whose jobs involve hurting me--massage therapists, orthodontists, etc--have often commented on how remarkably high is my tolerance for pain. Although I was not stoic enough to satisfy my mother, I was still more stoic than most other kids. I am really good at telling myself that although something is so painful it's darn near debilitating, the solution is to just buck up and bear it. Unless a particular pain A) is completely mysterious in origin or B) seems to indicate some acute condition with far-reaching consequences (say, for instance, that I had pain and tingling down my left arm and thought I might be getting ready to have a heart attack) or C), is, to quote "Stop Me If You Think That You've Heard This One Before" by the Smiths, "enough to make a shy, bald Buddhist reflect and plan a mass murder," I usually try to live with it, especially if I know it will pass if I just wait long enough.

But there are times when I am forced to relinquish my stoicism and admit that something hurts too much even for me, and that I am scared. There's this book I keep trying to read but have never managed to finish, called The Body in Pain by Elaine Scarry–it's all about torture and pain and the way that pain "unmakes" us. (I've never finished it because it just upsets me too much. Reading accounts of other people's pain sometimes bothers me more than experiencing my own pain, because I can do things to manage my own pain, and I know it rather than imagine it. There's a purity to how I experience it that doesn't happen when I read about someone else in pain: when I read about or watch a movie in which someone is in agony, I sort of feel it in my own body, but I feel it outside of my body too. I don't quite know how to explain it. But it's why I can't watch slasher movies and the like.) Being sick, being in pain, brings you right back into your body and reminds you how much your body IS you, not something separate from your consciousness or soul. It's an interesting moment.

This is not at all the post I intended to write. I was mostly just going to say that the doctor figured I had bursitis, and prescribed x-rays, physical therapy and lots of ibuprofen. I was also going to say that I was lucky enough to walk into the physical therapist's office (he's right next door to the doctor) at just the moment when he'd had a cancellation, so he did some diagnostic stuff, then gave me some very simple exercises to help heal the injury, and hooked me up to some machine that stimulated my muscles so they'd expel liquid and regenerate more quickly etc etc–it was uncomfortable but as I say I'm stoic and the one kind of pain I always make myself endure is the therapeutic kind.

And I'm much better today. That's the main thing I was going to say.

9 Comments:

Blogger SlayGirl said...

Glad to hear that you went to get help and are feeling better.

1:50 PM  
Blogger mellowlee said...

omg, I tried to comment on this post earlier today but blogger kept eating my comments. I hope you feel better soon Holly! I feel nauseated at the memory of being sick with pain.

3:56 PM  
Blogger spike said...

Being sick, being in pain, brings you right back into your body and reminds you how much your body IS you, not something separate from your consciousness or soul. It's an interesting moment.

Yes, very well explained! This is part of what I've been trying to figure out. There is a related, conventional issue: why do we suppose that the mind is resident in the brain? Of course the brain does a lot of the physical work involved in thinking but the nervous system runs throughout your body. The ancient Greeks apparently believed that the mind resided in the heart; would we think differently -- or at least think about our bodies differently -- if it felt like thought was happening in our chest? Or, as you show us, in our hip?

I'm glad you feel better. I think we need you to be dancing/thinking.

4:34 PM  
Blogger Dale said...

I want you to get better soon too. At least your posts aren't suffering.

And speaking of Shy Bald Buddhists, did you ever get the Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins cd? Just wondering what you thought if you did.

7:48 PM  
Blogger Bored Dominatrix said...

Hi Slaygirl--thanks for dropping by to wish me well.

Ditto to you, Mellowlee, and thanks again for giving me the first inkling of what was really wrong with me! And yeah, blogger was totally freaked yesterday--I finally gave up even trying to READ blogs.

Spike, you ask, would we think differently -- or at least think about our bodies differently -- if it felt like thought was happening in our chest? Or, as you show us, in our hip?

I actually believe that my toes are particularly astute and talk to them regularly. They always tell me interesting things.

Dale--I remember when I resolved to buy that album; I don't remember why I didn't. But you speak of it with such praise that I must check it out soon.

6:32 AM  
Blogger spike said...

I actually believe that my toes are particularly astute and talk to them regularly. They always tell me interesting things.

I remember as a kid thinking "how weird is that" when we learned about those dinosaurs that had a second brain in their tail. How would they deal with disagreements? But the question is put wrong. The tail would tell interesting things to a brain located at the other end of the creature. And it would also have interesting things to tell the pancreas, and the pads of the feet would pay close attention to whatever the eyes are seeing. The brain might be a big swtiching room, working pretty hard just to facilitate these complex communications. And historically, it appears only to be a convention that we decide that consciousness is seated there and not elsewhere -- or worse than convention, it's an attempt to police all of the other notes that have to be passed under the classroom tables.

Just picked up Scarry. Unfortunately, I'm not certain yet where it will end up on my list this summer. There are a few other pressing matters at hand -- or so my hands are telling me.

8:55 AM  
Blogger Bored Dominatrix said...

And historically, it appears only to be a convention that we decide that consciousness is seated there and not elsewhere -- or worse than convention, it's an attempt to police all of the other notes that have to be passed under the classroom tables.

That is a wonderful metaphor! I'm going to be thinking about that one--with my brain, and who knows what else--for a while.

9:06 AM  
Blogger Bored Dominatrix said...

p.s. Of course one reason I like the whole chakra system is that it teaches you to pay attention to the consciousness located in different parts of your body--and slightly beyond your body. My left hip has actually bothered me slightly for years, and I would explain its weirdness to chiropractors and massage therapists and such by saying, "It's angry about something, though I don't know precisely what."

but all that is a little weird for many people.

9:08 AM  
Blogger Dale said...

My brain is telling me to shave my head until you buy it. I'll let you know how that works out. I remain, weirdly, me.

11:14 AM  

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