Given the choice between the experience of pain and nothing, I would choose pain.
Had I read that quote while enduring Advanced English Lit in college I would have sworn the bard from Oxford (as in Mississippi) was writing about himself. After all, one can only read so many of Faulkner’s run on, punctuation free sentences before screaming in pain seems the only option. Even so, the quote carries much truth.
Even when noticed, like a shape shifter in some bad Sci-Fi movie, the thing never appeared the same twice.
My diagnosis came to me at a point in life in which I had slipped into an intense period of feeling nothing. Looking back, it is quite possible the illness itself was the cause of my emotional, mental and spiritual fog. Whether the disease was the chicken or the egg of the haze that engulfed me, all I knew for sure was that visibility had reached near zero in every aspect of my life.
One would think the ensuing multiple rounds of visits to specialists, MRIs, numerous intrusive tests, stumbling and falling, adjustment to walking with a cane and too many other odd physical manifestations to bother naming was too much to deal with. But not so! The unbearable thing had already been with me for months if not years. Periods of inexplicable cognitive dysfunction and physical fatigue were followed by refreshing bursts of creativity and accomplishment. All for which there was no good explanation.
Sometimes I ignored it. Sometimes it refused to allow itself to be ignored. But even when noticed, like a shape shifter in some bad Sci-Fi movie, the thing never appeared the same twice. Diagnosis of everything from Meiner’s Disease to Bi-Polar Disorder gave me false labels, and treatments, for this thing that lurked in the shadows and attacked me at my least suspecting moments. And then, one wonderfully horrible day, the monster made a miscalculation and overplayed its hand. It showed itself in the light.
Now doctors could see it. 12 lesions on my brain, more on my spine, and raised levels in something called IgG oligoclonal banding detected in a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) had finally managed to get a photo of the thing that had so skillfully alluded detection. And the thing had a name – Multiple Sclerosis. Now I understood the episodes of mental and physical fog, the intense tinnitus that would not go away and this newest manifestation of the previously invisible monster that left me stumbling like a drunk without the pleasure of a drink. The thing had a name.
Going on three years later the monster is still here. I have lived with constant pain for much of that three years and it looks as though that may never go away. Though the cane is gone, fatigue and occasional mental fog still engulf me at the most inopportune moments. But I now walk, and sometimes stumble, through life with God in charge holding the reigns to this benevolent monster that has changed me in so many ways.
If I had to choose between pain and the nothingness that had crept into my life a few years ago I would choose pain any day.