There have been various possibilities and arguments for the increase in pain I feel physically over the last year or so. The GP says fibromyalgia, which a lot of abuse survivors appear to have, and mostly I tick the boxes. I tried to ignore the fact this was an incurable disease and just focus on when I wasn’t having a flare up.
My therapist wondered if it was definitely fibro, but we didn’t discuss it further, initially. I didn’t need to. The pain in flare ups could be debilitating but it wasn’t constant enough for me to worry. I still felt young and active, and the concept of walking 3 miles causing extreme pain was something faraway and unknown.
I am now in constant pain, and after discussion with my therapist and also my counsellor, I’m beginning to wonder if it is entirely fibro…or even fibro at all. I am becoming less dissociated by the day – the entire numbness and disconnect I lived in, in order to survive and function through 20 years of torture, is no longer needed. I am no longer at risk of being tortured. I am no longer having to find ways to cope with being tied up and abused with objects, or my ribs being kicked and stamped on, etc. The need for dissociation is fading, and I want this. I want it to go away. I want to become fully human, to explore the wonder and terror of emotions, to taste the beauty of truly living, instead of existing. With each day I feel more alive, like I’m emerging from some dark hole I wasn’t even aware of. But with each day, the level of pain increases.
When people break their arm, it can ache even years later in the cold. Some kinds of damage never stop hurting.
I’m slowly beginning to accept, with great emotional reluctance and heartache, that the pain I’m in was always there. It’s not new pain, it’s just I’m able to feel it now I’m not as dissociated. It’s not that my pain threshold was on a permanent high, which is how I could hurt myself and not even flicker sometimes (much to some friend’s bewilderment), it was just that my ability to feel pain was turned down very low. That kept me alive; it stopped my body going into extreme shock when I was tortured, and stopped my mind from being overwhelmed. That’s not to say I didn’t feel the torture – I did. I have memories of extreme pain and screaming and passing out….but it was still dissociated. I could live through horrific torture and be walking again the next day. That isn’t because I was able to cope with the damage. It was because I didn’t feel it.
The last week or so there has been an increase in the pain around my ribcage, sternum, and back. If I cough, sometimes it makes me tear up. I laughed earlier and had to hold my ribs, press them in to cope with the pain. Sneezing is now something I fear. It shouldn’t surprise me. My ribs went through hell, I know they did, my therapist knows they did.
My hips throb too, but again, that shouldn’t surprise me. Childbirth too young, too many times…rape literally thousands of times, being stamped on, being kicked….
My body is very damaged, and I was silly to think the torture wouldn’t have an impact. The fact is, I was put through long-term extreme pain and that isn’t going to fade overnight.
The only saving grace is that as I dissociate less I am more aware of my body, and more aware of its limits. I pushed it a lot without knowing, because I couldn’t feel when it was too much. Now I know to be careful when I lift things, to hug myself when I cough, and not to walk too far. There is nerve damage in my face, and therefore a constant buzzing/burning sensation running down it and across my scalp. I know if I rest my head on my hand when working, to leave that side of my face well alone. I know my back is damaged, and to look after it properly. I only know all of this because I am in pain. For once in my life, I can be in pain from torture, and be free enough to look after it. My body can actually be heard, and better still…can be responded to.
But it is still incredibly hard. I’m scared. I know I’m not fully associated yet; how bad will this get? Will it fade, and if so how long until it does? My wrists ache, of course they do, they’ve been through hell too…whether wrestling against cable ties tying me to a bed, or being twisted and bent as an act of torture, or in attempts to defend myself against abusers, etc. How much more pain is my body heroically carrying by itself and not being soothed for? I have felt my mood slip significantly as the pain has worsened. I keep trying to tell myself you’re alive at least. And it’s true. I am, and everyday feels like a blessing and still unreal, and I still question my right to it. But I am still alive. Should I complain about pain? Do I even have a right? I don’t know. But the pain is extreme, and affecting me greatly, and I keep pretending it isn’t, but my close friends and partner know how much it is. And pain is depressing. And pain that is a direct effect of being tortured for years is even more depressing. I am in permanent pain – it doesn’t ever stop. And each second of pain reminds me of what I have suffered, but also of what I have survived. Each second of pain reminds me of the hell I lived through, and that even now they are impacting on my life.
I know there are a lot of ritual abuse and torture survivors who read this blog, as I am constantly touched and moved by your comments and messages. If any of you have/are experiencing pain like this, can you help me? How can I manage this? How do I cope, are there ways I can look at it differently, are there things I can do to better control the pain? I take some pain relief, though still am wary of drugs and find it difficult to take medication unless I’m at complete breaking point (so it’s quite telling how much pain relief I’ve been taking), and I’ve tried warmth and comforting things. I’m thinking of starting swimming once I have more time. I take it as easy as I can do. But my poor body is wrecked and severely damaged after so much torture, of course it is…but I feel so overwhelmed with the pain and no idea how to manage it. Today I just wanted to lie down and sob just from the pain, except sobbing will hurt my ribs, so I just rested my head on the desk and wept quietly instead.
It sounds ridiculous after surviving so much pain, but I don’t know if I can cope with the physical aftermath. And I said this before, that I survived the events but don’t know if I could survive the memories (but I did), and didn’t know if I could survive the emotions (but I have, and am doing) so deep down I know absolutely that I can cope with this pain. But right now, I feel fragile and hurting beyond words, and frightened by the pain, and upset that they damaged my body so much.
Any advice or tips welcome….