by Chris Shrewsbury
pain (n): physical suffering or distress, as due to injury, illness, etc.
Rarely has the definition of a word so failed to capture its essence, its flavor. The above definition of “pain” is akin to describing music as a “rhythmic aural construct.”
For most of my 50+ years, pain was an occasional, but bearable, physical nuisance. The rare bump, bruise, or scratch we all accumulate through life. (This was before I’d ever stepped on a Lego block…) Of course, there are also those unseen hurts: heartbreaks, the loss of a loved one, and such. Little did I know how intimately I would come to know both types, the physical and the emotional.
Around the time our son was born, I began experiencing gradually increasing pain in my hands and feet. After a number of physician visits, I was diagnosed with a condition manifesting as progressive neurological weakness and decay. Given the rate and nature of its advance toward major organs and systems, my prognosis was terminal. I was told to expect decreasing function and escalating pain.
So in my late 30s and never having so much as a broken finger, I now had to deal with knowing the rest of my shortened life will be spent not only in constant physical pain and disability, but also the anguish of leaving behind my wife of three years and young son. Nothing prepares you for that scenario, and it’s one that I’d never wish on my worst enemy.
Please believe me when I tell you that my lows have been quite low, indeed. I have had days where I have wept the most bitter of tears, cursing God and at the same time begging Him for relief. And more often than I can say, it was only the image of my wife and son that kept me going. The loss of abilities we all take for granted, numerous hospitalizations, multiple amputations, infections, being confined to bed for months at a time. The inability to be the husband and father my family deserved. All of these and more have conspired to turn my life into the deepest and darkest of nights. (Lego blocks got nothing on this.)
Now this is the part where I’m supposed to tell you how I overcame all of these obstacles and that everything is just fine. And I really wish I could, but I’d be lying. Pain is still my close companion. The truth is that my condition is progressing, and even though I take so many pills each day that I rattle when I walk, my pain levels are high and my prognosis is unchanged. And although my time with my family may be limited, we are firmly dedicated to creating beautiful, meaningful memories and making each day count. And I have found an extremely rewarding effort in sharing my perspective (on everything from disabilities to humor and all things in-between) with others, hoping to encourage, enlighten, and entertain.
I spent quite a while thinking that life would be worthwhile if I could just escape the pain. What I’ve found is that life is what happens through the pain. Some people measure that life in years or milestones. Others may measure it in seasons or sunrises. And oftentimes there are those of us that can simply just count each breath coming in and going out. But regardless your system of measure, I sincerely hope you glimpse life’s beauty through the pain, be it of your body or in your heart. May that beauty give you strength to continue counting breaths, sunrises, and seasons.
About the campaign:
#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.
Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Hope for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors and blog posts, or reach a media contact, go to http://www.HoldOnToTheLight.com and join us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/WeHoldOnToTheLight