Monday, September 15, 2014


I remember when I used to accompany Rick to his medical appointments. I got to know the inside of waiting rooms intimately. Team Bair was present, ready to lay it all out for the professionals. Sleep problems, depression, myofascial pain, nerve pain, mouth pain, spine pain, hip pain, foot pain, head pain, arthritis, alcohol abuse, brain fog, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, etc. These were the words that populated our appointments.

This time last year, I got a look at the packet of paperwork a pain center sent my husband prior to his appointment as a “new” client.  He was a patient many years ago there, so for all intents and purposes, was considered “new” even though his pain had followed him through life. The comprehensive, thick packet of stapled papers was lying nonchalantly on Rick’s desk, but when I flipped through it, this is what I saw.

Asked to illustrate where he had pain by coloring a part (or parts) of the human body, Rick had obliged.

Looking at the image, I was filled with sadness. He colored nearly the whole damn thing. I was struck by how accurate and telling the image would be for any professional who would see it. He even colored one side darker to indicate that his left side was worse than his right. The graphic told me so much about my husband. He told it like it was. He didn’t make you guess. He didn’t hold back. And he didn’t create intricate explanations or excuses for his actions.

I used to try to explain Rick’s pain to other people at times…and it just didn't work well. I couldn't feel it, so I couldn't describe it. I will never know what percentages of Rick's pain were emotional, physiological, mental, psychological, however you want to categorize it. A woman of many words, I searched for the best ways in which to tell his tale of indescribable pain. I had a difficult time making others understand how serious it was, regardless of the origin or cause, and how drastic his attempts at relief had become.

Rick's colored image was the best explanation. No fancy language. No confusing terms. Just Rick telling it like it was. You see the picture. In the simplest terms: HE WAS FULL OF PAIN.

It doesn't matter what kind of pain. He felt it. It was real and it was constant.

The same day he colored the above image, he also filled out this portion of the medical packet:

In addition to "regular" forms of pain all happening at once (burning, shooting, sharp, dull/aching, pins and needles, tingling, pressure-like), Rick felt like he was being electrocuted. AND like he was getting hit in the face with a baseball bat. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Seeing his no-nonsense words so plainly describing his indescribable pain was just heart-breaking. It had become so matter-of-fact to him.

There was a time I couldn't see an end in sight for the emotional and physical pain my husband experienced. But now, I know how the story ends. I can be sad that I can't hold him or talk to him or laugh with him, but he is no longer in pain. I don't have to be sad for him anymore.

Suicide is no solution, ever. But I am relieved that for the first time ever, I can actually imagine Rick completely free of pain. I did not know what that was like. I do not have memories of a pain-free Rick. Not one.

Now, in grief, when the deep sadness swirls around me, I can also let the relief slip in. Rick is not in pain. I don't know what that looks like, because Rick in pain was all I knew. But I imagine it looks something like this:

outdoors, relaxed, and smiling just like before the pain began.

1 comment:

  1. I think that understand the pain another person feels is one of the hardest things ever, because pain is an emotion, and therefore it’s felt by those who live it, it’s in the heart and not the head, so it’s impossible to explain it in words. If you have not tried on your skin that kind of pain, it’s impossible to understand it.

    But I also think that Rick was perfectly aware that you couldn’t understand his pain, and that it wasn’t understanding what he expected from you. I believe that Rick had “simply” the need of your support while he was living his pain, and you gave your support to him. That’s what matters the most.

    Because sometimes having someone who is near and is rooting for you, it’s more important than to have someone who understand your kind of pain.


Help me feel less alone.