This is how I deal with the pain I get at the nexus of skull and neck on the left hand side. It’s this or a baseball bat. It’s a bit like turning your computer on and off again – you already have a pain, which laughs in the face of Analgesia*, so if you cause another, ‘real’ pain**, it may re-boot your nerves and feelings. This is certainly what happens when I use acupressure. I was taught to use acupressure on myself by a chiropractor and a physiotherapist, and it works for me. I have very pointy fingers and thumbs – I can ‘cut through’ (press through) my skin, fat and muscle to get to the bone on my legs, feet etc. I can give myself a goodly Vulcan Death Grip, but I can’t salve the neck problem. The more pressure I put on my neck, the weaker my grip gets: as it should. So, instead, I do my stretches, take pills, lie on the cold floor, and visualise someone thwacking me on the base of the noggin until my neck reacts by making me floppy. I know that’s not what would really happen, but if nothing else, this fantasy violence helps with my frustration. And it plays nicely into my habit of self harm. Do not get me wrong. I do not get off on pain. But I have found that causing myself a prick of pain can help calm me, and also help with my real, nagging, unending pains.
My neck and shoulders have – generally- been ‘better’ in recent years. They were at their worst when I had my car accident in 2002, during my final year at university and during my last job in 2007. That job broke me. I over-used my arms too much while being incredibly stressed. I’d damaged my shoulders and back at Uni the years before (I had big, rock hard biceps), but that last year 2006-7 was awful. I had massive Trapezius and Sternocleidomastoid Muscles that were rock hard and constantly sore to the touch. They are still sore and hard but no longer enormous. I get ‘episodes’ or pain ‘crises’ irregularly rather than at least bi-weekly – though since my Mother got sick, they’ve become more regular (every 2 months). But I have forgotten my coping mechanisms – beyond pills. I forgot how I used to watch hours of music television or costume dramas. Hours listening to music. Looking through books. Anything to take my brain away from the pain that is so close to it and so powerful.
I’ve have this pain for 4 days now. Today is the first day since Thursday that I managed to get vertical for long enough to get dressed and leave the house. I was out of it for less than 3 hours and that included 45 minutes sitting in a cafe with my Dad where I quaffed coffee and scoffed Diazepam in an attempt to get this pain to fuck off. I’ve eaten, filled out a Sympathy card for my neighbour***, changed into my night attire, watched lots of crap TV. But the pain is still there. And now I’m visualising someone using my External Occipital Protuberance for batting practice.
*I really wish this word didn’t have ‘Anal’ in it, makes me feel wrong.
**Let’s be clear, I know Chronic Pain is ‘Real’ because I have it, I use the term here as pain I could explain away, clearly, to a 10 year old or a sceptic GP. ‘Look here is the wound that caused the pain, here’s the brick that made the wound that caused the pain…’.
***I totally failed at Father’s Day because I couldn’t leave the house because I was too fatigued and pained. Last night my neighbour Eileen died. She was 80+ and had always been kind to me. My Dad is not very good at Sympathy Cards, so it was my job. I also had to get a card to congratulate my Cousin on her MA Graduation (tomorrow) and also a Thank You card for my Dad for taking me away from London.
‘Ecorche’ – anatomical illustration of flayed body displaying muscles of neck, arm and back. Pencil and pastel/ chalk on Paper, 1810’s. Copyright The Wellcome Collection.