How We Forget Pain

I have always wondered how mothers, after having gone through the trials of labor once, would venture to give birth a second, third or however many times. It baffled me for a while until I remembered something difficult to forget about being female: menstruation.

There seems to be a lot of hereditary pain in my family. I inherited incapacitating, irregular migraines from my father’s side of the family, and crippling menstrual cramps from my mother’s. When I am under the bondage of one or both of these things, it is as if the world is ending. I feel like I’m dying, like if it goes on any longer, I’ll just faint from the pain and never wake up again. And then it stops. And in no time, I forget, and I think I was just overreacting a couple of days ago, being a drama queen.

When I am painless, I feel like a superhero who can take absolutely anything the world decides to throw my way; like I can deflect life’s painful crap as easily as bullets ricochet off Wonder Woman’s armor. And then the next month arrives, or the next migraine, and I completely forget what comfort feels like. The cycle repeats.

Human beings forget pain. I don’t know how we manage it, but we do.

I look back at myself from as recently as May 2017, and I have to actively fight the urge to scoff at myself. What were you complaining about, kraa? De-what-pressed? How could you have been so unmotivated? How could you have hated life that much? Can you believe that it was all pain you were imagining in your head that stopped you from getting off your bed for several days straight? Drama queen paa nie. What’s wrong with you?

I am shocked by my own thoughts – because, of course, if anyone should know that my pain was real, it should be me. It was me, I experienced it, I wrote through it, as I have done several times before. But these thoughts showed up because there are some kinds of pain that are astonishingly easy to forget. And it’s not because “they weren’t that painful after all.” No. I don’t know what it is that makes them that way, or what it is that makes them different from traumatic pain.

I do fear, though, that just like the cramps and the migraines, once school reopens, after a few weeks, it might return, and I will once again see that I was never overreacting. I am still shadowed by the fear of having to keep repeating the depressive episodes like cycles. I don’t want it. I want another way.

I wonder if this forgetfulness is the reason for our changes as we grow. Is it because our parents can’t go back to the adolescent pain that they end up turning into the things they hated about their parents? I wonder of my generation, currently “the youth”: will we forget our pain and become our parents? How do we keep what our pain taught us, without masochistically clinging to the experiences themselves like we’re embracing cacti? I don’t know.

I do, however, assume that if there were ever any ways of recording the present in an emotive enough way that it can be revisited, writing in the moment, from present, painful experience, would be one of them.


It had always been easier to write about anguish…

It had always been easier to write about anguish. It was the most distinct feeling, even while being the most ambiguous. Either way, it pushed the words out, regardless of whether or not it all even meant anything.

The pain of it was riddling. It always was; impossible to figure out and incapacitating. It came over in waves, and it took only seconds for the tide to reach its peak. There was no warning. There was no solution. There was only emotion, which asked only to ebb and flow as it pleased. Such things could never be controlled.

The beginning of the wave stemmed from the shifting of tectonic plates deep within her heart. The pain was viscous, overwhelming, impossible to swim in. It rose like bile from the chest to the throat, strangling, ready to choke, further up to the nose, which rejected it – and sniffling was the result – and then to the eyes, which watered with emotion, and afterwards, to the head, which frizzled with painful discomfort. Anguish spread like a wave, like a virus. As a wise man said through a wise character, this was the thing about pain: it demanded to be felt.

Those unfamiliar with it would never truly understand how absolutely crippling it was. It required its own space. When her hand eventually cramped up from the writing, the only other options were the foetal position and the “knees-to-chest with arms wrapped around the calves” position. Neither was preferable. Neither was appropriate. But the worst part was the eyes. Those stared clear and true at nothing. Anguish incorporated the art of looking without seeing: of functional blindness. It commanded the monopoly of her senses like an attention-hogging toddler. Pain demanded to be seen, heard, felt, tasted, smelled, stroked, to encompass completely. And she got mad when people did not know how to respect her space.

After writing till the climax where her hand ceased to work, the only remedy was to last it out. On lucky days, sleep claimed her. On others, the only thing to do was to wait for low tide; for the tyrant called pain to release its grips on her heart and promise to be back soon, to relieve her of her well-deserved comfort.


[I wrote this in July of 2015 – for those of you who are ready to begin bombarding my inbox and DMs with “What’s wrong?”s. I’m not ready to start explanations.]