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Friday, February 1, 2019


A Girl in Pain by Mila Aleksic

Greetings from the basement of Gestapo Headquarters.

When I was a kid, I watched a lot of WW II movies on TV. My dad served in the Pacific Theater and saw heavy combat. My mother was obsessed with Chamberlain's betrayal of her natal country, Czechoslovakia, at the Munich conference. And, of course, my dad's family was from Poland.

WW II movies often included a scene where the good guy was under Nazi control. They were torturing him and the audience wondered if he'd break or not, and reveal the underground's plans. The last time I saw such a scene in a theater, it was in the 2016 movie Anthropoid, about the Czech and Slovak assassination of SS-Obergruppenf├╝hrer Reinhard Heydrich. That film's torture was much more graphic than Hollywood Golden Era, black-and-white films could ever be.

The movie that affected me the most was the 1946 Jimmy Cagney movie, 13 Rue Madeleine. Sharkey (Cagney) knows the date and time of the D-Day invasion. He is captured by Nazis, who torture him to get him to reveal the secret. He doesn't break. The Allies know where Sharkey is being held, and bomb the building, killing both him and his torturers. Sharkey has the last laugh. Before dying, he laughs in his torturer's face.

I used to watch those films and contemplate how rough it would be to be tortured.

A few years back I had to have surgery. One after-effect of this surgery has been pain such as I did not know the human body could feel. I remember the exact day it began. It was just after surgery. I woke up, realized I had to pee, and tried to get out of bed. I could not. I had to crawl.

It isn't constant. Some days are worse than others. The length and intensity of attacks vary greatly. Day before yesterday was hell on earth.

I've been to four different doctors, and I've been given all kinds of tests. They don't know what is causing this pain. They have nothing to treat it. They have thrown any number of drugs at me. None have had any impact.

And that's it.

Why talk about it now. The day before yesterday was really bad and a couple of people were kind enough to notice my absence from Facebook.

Why I don't talk about it. I mentioned it once on Facebook and people did what I hoped they would not. Ask for more clinical details and offer unsolicited advice.

If someone mentions a medical issue to you, and doesn't provide many clinical details, don't ask for them. Many of us don't want to provide you with clinical details. We talk about those with our health-care providers. You are not our health-care provider, and it isn't nice to play doctor. Playing doctor is invasive and dehumanizing. Focus on the human  being, not the symptom.

Too, pain is inappropriate in polite society, just like intercourse and defecation. It's a private thing.

When attacks happen at work, I hide it. One day it was so bad I couldn't hide it. A coworker hovered over me. "What can I get you? Whom can I call?"

I said, "You can't get me anything, and there is no one to phone."

She insisted. "You are obviously in horrible pain. Let me do something."

And I said, "There is nothing you can do." I felt I had answered her question and I wanted her to stop nagging me to provide her with a magic wand I do not own. Eventually she did stop, but it took a while.

When, years ago, I mentioned it on Facebook, someone said, "Is your pain in body part X? I know what that is. This is how you fix it." I can't tell you how utterly unhelpful this comment was. The poster is not a doctor, and her social media diagnosis and prescription was worse than worthless.

Another person said, "They have something for that." I can't say how stupid and mean that comment was. I am careful about using words like "stupid" and "mean." And  yes this is otherwise a nice person.

I'm just saying here why I have not spoken about this much. I do appreciate the folks who noticed my absence and asked why I was not present. Doing so is kind and I appreciate it.

I guess, as ever, I just want to say, you have no idea what is going on in someone else's life. So being kind is a good default position.