PAIN

It appears that I have managed to mess up my shoulder again. 

I had been doing physio for it during the summer, and until a few days ago it had been feeling fine. Then I had to help set up scaffolding in the church so the AV guys could set up the new projector. Yesterday I helped a friend move as well. Needless to say I’m paying for it because I overdid it. 

I managed to get into the massage therapist today, and despite the pain inflicted during the poking and prodding, the range of motion is better, but my neck and shoulder still ache like hell. 

Physical pain lets you know when you have overdone something. It lets you know when you are reaching your limits. Having a physical injury is always looked on more favorably in the world of today. You break an arm, everyone rushes to sign your cast. Injury your back, and people tell you to take it easy, and people can trip over themselves to help out. 

Mental pain is just as much an indicator that things are not right as physical pain is. However, people dealing with mental pain are often told such trite bullshit as “it could be worse’ and “what do you have to feel bad about?”

Physical pain can manifest in all parts of the body. Mental pain is usually just a disease of the mind, although severe enough mental illness can manifest with physical symptoms as well. 

My shoulder is bothering me because I over did. Just like eating too much sugar can damage your pancreas, and too much alcohol can damage your liver. 

The brain is not immune to injury. It is an organ, just like the pancreas and the liver. If it gets damaged it will play havoc with all of your body. The thing is, physical trauma isn’t the only way to injure your brain. Baring witness to the worst the world has to offer can damage you as well. The adrenal glands can work overtime due to a heightened state of awareness. Your brain gets subjected to the same crap time and time again, before long your default is to go to that place whether you are being subjected to it or not. 

That’s where PTSD comes in. PTSD is a bitch. It is an occupational injury that I can’t escape despite being off the job for over five years. Blending it in to my other co-morbid conditions and it’s no surprise that I struggle, even this long after. 

Yet physical injuries are taken more seriously than psychological injuries. Hell, even in EMT school we had about four hours of training total in dealing with mental health patients, everything else was physical. Considering the number of psychiatric transfers I attended in my EMS careers, it amazes me that there wasn’t more training.

I think the reason for this is rooted in the fact that people have a better understanding of what they can see. You can see someone with a leg in a cast. You can’t see what is going on in someone’s mind. You can’t see that the barista who is smiling at you is really struggling to keep it together, You can’t tell that the asshole cop who is screaming at you for going 5km/h over the posted limit in a school zone had his child injured by someone speeding in a school zone the day before. You can’t see that the kid working two jobs is stressed out because his marks are suffering from the work that he needs to do to stay in school.

Bottom line is, mental pain is equal to physical pain. Someone feeling the pain of depression is no less of a person than someone who is having severe pain from breaking their foot. In some ways mental pain can be worse; a broken bone heals in 8-12 weeks. Bouts of depression can go for months or even years and medication isn’t always effective. 

This holiday season, when lot’s of people struggle, myself included, be compassionate. Being caring, understanding, and even friendly takes significantly less energy than being an asshole. 

I know that I am feeling the pain both physically and mentally at the moment. I’m not shy about being physically injured. I’m not going to be shy about being mentally injured either. 

Kevin

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