Looking forward to pain, suffering, and stupidity
I wrote previously that I am looking forward to my bionic future. Sadly, that's not all I am looking forward to. On the way, I'm going to experience some serious pain and likely suffering and stupidity. It's front of me, and there's no avoiding it. So I can either look forward to it or not look. I choose to look.
For perspective, remember a time that you got a really solid whack in some bone. Maybe a time when you got hit in the knee, or shin. Maybe the time that your bone smacked against the edge of a table. Hits protected by flesh don't count. It's got to be thing-on-bone. And remember that you can't really remember pain. You're remembering the idea of pain, not the pain itself.
Now look at the video of total knee replacement online and imagine it's you. Drag the slider to maybe 10:04. Look! The doctor is using a drill to make a hole in your knee. Drag it to 10:34. That's a saw slicing off a hunk of a femur. Yours. Move the slider around and see more, or go back to the start and let it play. Here's a fun one: at 16:39, nails are being hammered directly into freshly cut bone. So many experiences to look forward to.
Of course, the guy in the movie has a nerve block or is out under general anesthetic. So he's literally feeling no pain. But anesthesia is not forever. Eventually, it wears off, and when anesthesia goes pain arrives. Yes, there will be some compensatory pain killers, but the strongest pain killers don't actually kill the pain. They just interfere and alter your perception of it. They interfere with some of the pain signals and they change your brain so you're not quite as aware of it, and so that you give less of a fuck. In other words, they make you stupid. Weaker painkillers, Ibuprofen, Aspirin, and others in the NSAID family, inhibit the low-level chemistry of pain. But they are limited in their effect. When someone has drilled and sawed and hammered spikes into your bones, you need the big guns.
Two years ago I did something very bad to my back and ended up going to the ER twice in a month for pain--something I'd never done before. I discovered that the drugs I got for pain made me stupid and so did the pain without drugs. I made some bad decisions that delayed my recovery until finally, I got smart enough to realize I was being stupid and started being excessively cautious.
Pain and suffering are related, but pain is a set of physical sensations due to something happening in the body and suffering is a mental response due to the story you tell yourself. Pain does not necessarily cause suffering, and suffering is possible even in the absence of pain. As the saying goes: "Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional." And it's particularly true in this case. Given drills and saws and hammers and nails there's no way to avoid pain. But the suffering of a prepared mind might not be proportional to the pain. At least that's what I'm hoping.
I go into this new experience prepared for more pain than ever before and therefore more stupidity. I realize that I need to make any decision about my recovery slowly, carefully, and not by myself. I'm planning on keeping a journal to keep me from making half-thought-through decisions. Maybe preparing myself for unimaginable pain and stupidity will leave me at least a little smart.
Maybe a Future Me, in agonizing pain, will remember that Past Me wrote this for him, will read it, and takes some comfort. Maybe friends who read this will remind a pained and stupid Future Me that a loving and wiser Past Me wrote this to help it. Maybe Future Me will find a way to use the pain and stupidity to create, create, create, and even find a way to be grateful for it.