Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Me Generation

Lately, I feel like I have read several articles about how self-obsessed my generation is. That we think our every thought or action is interesting enough to post on Facebook. That we construct entire shrines to ourselves on Myspace.

I have been feeling guiltiest of all for thinking my life is interesting enough to write an entire book about it.

The book has been through many incarnations. I have abandoned my efforts on Authonomy.com since none of the authors who have won the popularity contest have been offered publishing contracts. (For anyone interested... I almost won. I made it to the top 20 before they changed the rules.)

I am (occasionally) working hard on a major re-write. I am trying to make it read more like a novel with dialogue and description. It's hard and slow work, which is why I am rarely motivated to do it.

This is my new introduction. Any thoughts?

Ever since I walked in front of a speeding SUV 20 years ago, I have lived in constant pain. I remember keeping a smile on my face for my fifth grade class picture, even though my leg was on fire. Sashaying at the prom on a bed of red hot nails. Fighting to hear my college professors over my muscles and nerves screaming to be stretched and soothed. I remember neglecting my crying child because I did not have the strength to hold her.
Each day I depleted most of my mental and physical energy in my efforts to bend my life around pain. To make all the complexities of a joyful life fit into the tiny cracks and crevices of my mind and body that were not already filled to brimming with agony. I convinced myself that I was successful. I truly believed that the pain had not stolen my life from me, or turned me into a whisper of the person I should have been.
The brain has the most astounding ability to forget pain. But if it never goes away, you can never forget it. I never thought that pain could be an afterthought rather than the single most important factor in my every choice or action. Lately, I remember compensating for the pain for the last two thirds of my life, but I don't actually remember the burn anymore. I never thought that I could forget it.

I have been to more doctors than I care to admit-- not even asking for a cure, because that seemed impossible. I was just looking for an explanation. Every doctor said something different, but they all came to the same conclusion: there was nothing they could do. After spending two thirds of my life coping with this mysterious pain, I got so desperate, that I was willing to ask anyone for help. So there I was at a salon party, watching my friends sign up for free facials and waxes (Brazilians were extra). I forsook my shabby brows when I saw that I could get a free psychic reading. I thought the option seemed out of place at the salon, and I always try to keep an ear pressed to the door of the Universe, because I'm just positive that she speaks to me. Relax, kids. I don't hear voices, and I'm not crazy (probably not, anyway). Believe me, an occasional conversation with the sticky web of life that connects us all is not the biggest reason I should sport a straight jacket to all public functions-- that would be my mother's fault.
I asked the psychic about the pain. One of my doctors had just explained that genetic deformities in my muscles and bones could be the problem, and getting myself flattened by an SUV only made it worse. In other words, I had just been told that my body was made for pain.
I did my level best to not obsess about the spiritual implications of this theory, but let's face it: once an idea gets my pants all in a bunch, I just can't straighten them back out without some serious thought. I became convinced that I had been saddled with this hair shirt of a body on purpose. I had never, until that moment, felt like I was being punished by this pain. It's a popular question in the mountain of paperwork I always had to fill out at pain clinics:

41. Do you feel abandoned by a higher power? Yes No
42. Do you feel misunderstood by friends and family? Yes No
43. Do you feel that you are being punished? Yes No

I always circled no. The doctors were so impressed with me. I even got a glowing recommendation from a pain psychologist saying that, “she has such a positive attitude,” followed by the equally shiny, “I admire her goals, and her plan to accomplish them.” But suddenly, I had lost that shiny attitude.
The psychic had me cut the deck of cards in her hands, laid them on the table, and then proceeded to tell me loads of generalized nonsense about them. I waited with a pit in my stomach, wondering if I could even say the words out loud, and questioning why I ever thought this was a good idea. When I was positive I couldn't stew any longer, random word soup peppered with “pain, punished, and penance,” came bursting out like emotional projectile vomit.
She took a moment to collect her thoughts. “I really couldn't say why you have suffered all this time.” She seemed to be searching for something helpful to say. And then it hit her. “Maybe you could just ask the Universe if you could be done.”
At first I was offended by the simplicity of her conclusion, but as I previously explained, random thoughts get stuck in my head like a bad song. The longer I chewed on her words, the more I saw wisdom in them.
I had to let it go. I had to take action to find a solution. I had to tell the Universe that I'm done. I embarked on a journey to rid myself of pain, vowing to examine my past, present, and future for clues and a possible solution. Most difficult of all: I vowed to believe that someday I could live without pain. I never dreamed I would be so successful.
But let's start at the beginning.


Tough Cookie said...

Hi! I just bumped into your blog, and I love it! I am a 24 year old grad student with RSD in all four limbs. I hope you will take a look at my journey!

Tough Cookie said...

Oh, also, you will see in my blog that I have convinced my rheumatologist to go off label with Enbrel, the immune suppressant, and treat my RSD as the autoimmune response recent research is proving it to be. I got soooooo lucky finding him. He is young, open-minded, and excited for the breakthrough in treatment this could be!

Lissa said...

Hello! Thanks so much for finding me, I can't wait to read your blog as well. You are so lucky that your Dr. would give you Enbrel. I begged for it, but he "saw no reason for it." I think it makes perfect sense since the immune supressing action of pregnancy helps ease the pain. I also read that it might be the higher levels of the hormone relaxin... who knows. I'm pondering a trip to med school, so I can just figure this out for myself.

thanks again!

Tough Cookie said...

Oh, wow, that is true about pregnancy?! I didn't know that! Well, it seems to me that it is an immune response! My antinuclear antibodies were raised and I am the healthiest little thing there is...100% raw vegan with no other health problems, so it had to be the RSD causing that! I am waiting for updated bloodwork to come back. If they are still raised, the Enbrel is a great go at it. My doc said he will just say that I have RA or something like it so he can secretly go off label with the Enbrel!

ZeroToBoston said...


Thanks for visiting my site and allowing me to poke fun at your marathon sign.

Let me also apologize for the injury rants that can sometimes fill that space. I've spent a bit of time on your blog today, and it's just made me think of, well, what a "me generation" person I'm being when I drone on about my minor injury. I feel like I have no perspective whatsoever.

I'm interested in how things go on the book front. More power to you there. We aspiring authors need to stick together.

- Dean

Lissa said...


Don't worry about perspective. Everyone deals with their own injuries in their own way, and it doesn't make sense to me to compare.

My husband used to run ultra marathons. Between a torn ACL and subsequent surgery, and our tiny baby keeping him up all night, he completely lost the will to run. It is sometimes harder for me to watch him deal with his minor injury since it took so much from him, than it is for me to deal with my own problems.

Good luck, and I hope you make it to Boston!