The human mind is an amazing machine. It has the ability to switch on, and switch off at any given moment; whether you’re unfortunately third-wheeling and being part of a boring, mundane conversation or you are trying to suppress a memory or a thought… or better yet, the pain you feel when you’re on your last set of a heavy lift.
Pain. It’s a pesky four-letter word that each and everyone one of us will feel in our lifetime – some more than others. It can be physical, emotional and also psychological; and at times they all co-exist and feed off one another, creating a mass of energy that can be unbearable and unmanageable for some. It can drive you over the edge (literally), it can influence your decisions and take over your life. It can also be fatal, tragic and downright debilitating.
This is a topic I never talk to anyone about; my own pain and my ability to completely eradicate any memory or feeling of it with a single switch-off. I have lived with chronic pain, day-in and day-out for almost ten years, since I first fell ill with Salmonella. In the early days, for the first two years, prior to diagnosis I would compare it to a constant stabbing pain. Picture having your intestines clenched with an iron fist and not letting go; and if it did, it would only grasp again with more force and power behind it. Doubled-over in pain, with your spine being completely rounded daily and unable to stand upright without having tears well up in your eyes. I have felt the absolute anguish of my body deteriorating and giving up on me; however, mentally I was able to continue to carry myself and continue to push on.
I was a chronic user of Valium/Diazepam, which is part of the ‘opiate family’ of painkillers likened to heroin. I took it every day for possibly a year and a half even when I was attending school – I don’t think I could’ve made it through the day without it. I was high as a kite most days, or very quiet and subdued. I would go from giggling uncontrollably at myself tripping up the stairs during school mass, to being the most placid and calm person in the back of the room not saying a word – my emotions, needless to say where all over the place. However, I never felt any pain. My mind was clear and I was able to make it through the day without having dark thoughts or wanting to gouge my stomach out.
I felt free. Alive. Human.
I guess I formed an addiction, or a reliance rather on them. I became dependant. The very thought of not popping a pill every day would cause me anxiety. It was the only thing keeping me mentally sane. Looking back, I know it wasn’t the best thing for me; but at the same time I think it is a large part of why I am here today. It helped strengthen my mind, learn to block-out pain as I became used to the ‘clouded’ airy-fairy feeling. The day I stopped taking them was not by choice. It was the day I had my permanent Chait Caecostomy surgery.
A lady from the Drug & Alcoholic Association visited me as I woke up from surgery and had asked for a valium. After violently throwing up waking up from surgery, sheets absolutely saturated in blood and feeling like my whole right side was on fire I just wanted to block out the pain like I always have. She gave me a counselling session as I was trying to wake up, all groggy and trying to absorb what had just happened to my body. She took the valium away from me and said I will never be needing this again. She probably saved me from a permanent addiction – but I did hate her for a good solid fortnight before I got over it!
When I had my surgery and was told I would no longer have my miracle drug, I decided to go cold-turkey. I had no painkillers whatsoever post-surgery; not even an aspirin. I told myself that then and there would be the time that I turn my life around. I gave myself a good, hard talking to and from then on I became the master of suppressing emotions and pain.There would be no more hurt, both physically and emotionally. I would no longer rely on medication to heal myself. I would do it on my own through sheer willpower, and a mind over matter approach.
When you feel like it’s all too much, like you can no longer continue to push on through whatever you’re going through I want you to remember that you are a lot more capable than what you think you are. The mind is there to be utilised to your advantage. It can be moulded, shaped and used as a tool to block-out demons and all that do you harm.