One friend responded that in reading the article detailing the miseries of chronic pain, she kept thinking of Dr. Seuss's classic book Oh, The Places You'll Go!, a treatise on the natural cycles of life. In the book, Seuss described an inevitable unpleasant place, "The Waiting Place", where all of us are doomed to spend time when life is just put on hold and you can't do a thing about it.
I agreed with the observation that this is what having chronic pain is like, but then I also thought: To a chronic pain patient, The Waiting Place means more. It does not just represent a temporary stop now and again; it's a way of life. For when all else fails for a pain patient - when neurology becomes destiny, when pills and powders and positive thinking don't work - waiting is all we have left.
We wait sometimes for an hour to feel better, so we can then finish writing a report. We wait three nights to return a phone call to a friend. We wait a week to get the energy to scour a bathroom tub. We wait an entire summer to withdraw from a powerful drug, meanwhile moving through the edginess and tremors and insomnia and blurred vision that it leaves in its wake. We wait an entire year, pill by pill, to see if a class of drugs will work over time, in higher and higher doses...
In this process of trying to live in the moment, we face constant tensions and contradictions, many all at once: the struggle between pushing through the pain or ministering to it; the struggle to be dependent on others or stand on our own; the struggle to continue an expensive and time-consming treatment or move on; the struggle to accept our disability while not overly identifying with it; the struggle to take responsibility for our health, but then not feeling guilty when the pain persists.
And during this time, here is the real challenge: while we wait for pain to release its grip, we try not to put the rest of our lives on hold, and to manage to participate in other parts of life as best we can.