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  • tessmartinelli

15 Minutes in the Quiet of Chronic Pain

The stillness of the room around me bore a thick air of heaviness. The hum of silence tingled my ears like static buzz. I immediately noticed the hollowness of the room around me. It felt strange being the only living, breathing thing in the small box that I occupied. I think it’s because I spent the last hour on my phone, absolutely mindlessly. I didn't feel alone then; yet, suddenly, in the same space I had been sitting in, I felt completely dull, isolated, and odd.


After my initial discomforts subsided, I noticed that I was in pain. It’s constant and something I deal with every moment. But not having any distractions forced me to tune into it. With every inhale I felt an uncomfortable pressure on my abdomen and chest followed by a shooting pain during the exhale. It repeated. Why did it have to repeat?


The rhythmic nature of the pain was slightly tortuous. It felt like a clock ticking so loud that I couldn’t hear anything else. I couldn’t get it to stop. I scanned my body and realized that my spine was curled and my shoulders were pressed up toward my ears, as though I was bracing for impact. I tried to relax, I really did. But it felt scary not to be holding myself.


I got frustrated and I just wanted to cry. But, I couldn’t. The stillness of the room mocked my weakness. I shot up out of my chair and fell disjointedly onto my bed because the pain was too much sitting up. I felt weak. I spend a lot of time laying because of the pain but this felt different. I noticed how inescapable the sensations of my body were. Usually, I can pretend it is something beyond myself that I must manage. But, as I let everything go around me such as my phone, music, and people, this was the thing that stayed. It was numbing. So, I tried to disappear in thought. I started thinking about my to-do list for the rest of the weekend. I started a mental checklist which was quickly derailed by the pains’ cry for attention. Then, I returned to the to-do, never quite getting to the bottom of the list. I tried to stop myself, but it was distressing to not have everything mentally sorted out. If I couldn’t control how I felt physically, I needed to control something.

I tried to center myself in the present. I took a deep breath, the kind a yoga instructor would extend an excited brava to. But, the air quickly escaped my body, as though it knew it was not a friendly place to stay. Desperate for some semblance of control, I mentally drafted this essay. What would I write about, I thought. Then I was thinking about how I was going to write about how I was thinking about what I was going to write about. Then, I thought that that was a silly thought and I would make sure to note how silly I thought it was. Chaos. My brain had turned into chaos. The chaos was always there, but external stimuli seemed to pacify it. In this moment, all semblance of order washed away and I was left with the unfiltered nature of my mind. Not only did it hurt physically, it hurt mentally too. I wondered if the chairs felt the same.




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