Coping with Chronic Pain and Illness: Whole Health includes Psychological Health
An interview with Ann Becker Schutte, Ph.D Last year, for the first time, I attended Stanford...READ MORE
Many of us have been through the "But you don’t look sick!" frustration of masking a chronic illness, especially those who are injured by transvaginal mesh, who are “meshed-up” with all kinds of ailments not visible to the naked eye. Mesh-injured persons, like former Dallas Mavericks,’ Steve Nash describes in his recent open letter to the public, try different solutions, often including hiding intense pain in order to continue to do what they love, in his case the game of professional basketball. That is a sacrifice Nash is choosing to make for the love of the game, and I’m sure a very long list of personal reasons. Which leads me to the topic of personal injuries.
For many mesh-injured patients, their version of a professional basketball game may be to take their kiddos trick-or-treating on Halloween, or be able to sit through soccer games and parent-appreciation days at school. For grandmothers, aunts and uncles – maybe their “biggest game” is being able to attend grandkids’ graduation ceremonies and black-belt bestowings.
I want to highlight that Nash mentions twice, and by my reading, is genuinely confused by why anyone, at seeing a picture of him swinging a golf club on Instagram, or being “caught” hiking, has any say on whether he is able to play a professional basketball game the next day, week or month.
Nash says, "There is an incredible difference between this game and swinging a golf club, hiking, even hitting a tennis ball or playing basketball at the park."
This, I believe, is one of the most important messages our mesh-injured loved ones are trying to convey to us. Simply because a mesh injured man or woman may be able to sit with more ease or be able to disguise pain better on any given day, does not suggest that person is NOT gravely injured. Sitting at a 45-minutes soccer game and the ride to and from the field very well may cause a mesh-injured person to be bedridden for one or many subsequent days. That is the part the collective “we” do not see.
And from the mesh-injured person’s perspective, why would they want us to know how badly their sacrifice cost them? Who wants to be told, “You shouldn’t be doing this or that,” all the time? Who wants to be told, “Remember what happened last time you tried to go to the soccer game?” These questions are cruel, for they suggest that the patient cannot even expect to have the autonomy of using their own judgments about what they are “allowed” to sacrifice on the altar of pain, in order to participate in what is for them the “love of the game” – a grandchild’s soccer game or birthday; a small shopping outing; participating in a once-loved hobby occasionally. It’s their personal injury; it’s their personal choice. In speculation, I will say, it must be terribly suffocating to carry the fear of, “What if someone sees me at my child’s school party, and then they don’t believe I’m sick?” That sense of constant evaluation would be a very heavy burden to carry, especially with lawsuits looming over their heads, and the feeling that every move is being watched, possible to be used against them in a court of law.
Nash describes his pain as nerve pain — again, nerve pain amongst our mesh-injured loved ones can be somewhat difficult to diagnose (even for highly skilled physicians) and it’s a paradoxical pain at times. A difficulty in diagnosing pain does not conclude or suggest that a person is not experiencing tremendous pain with one action on one day, but less pain with the same action on another, or less pain with a different action on ANY DAY. The body is an adaptive, self-healing, paradoxical and masterful ecosystem. That’s why we call the medical profession, “the practice of medicine,” right? None of us knows it all; all the inner workings of the glorious human body, and the even more glorious capacity of the human mind and soul to make personal injury sacrifices, for love of family, friends and life. It is cruel and irrational to hold the personal choice against any hurting person.
We cannot know the extent, type or demand on another person’s humanity in contending with a soul-defeating chronic injury. Compassion is the best route.
I want to make an important distinction here between Steve Nash and the discussion of personal injury by way of medically inserted, polypropylene permanent, medical device – that mesh monster. While Steve Nash clearly is in pain, he CHOSE to play the game of professional basketball. The physical and mental demands of any professional sport are enormous. But – this route was Nash’s choice. I would speculate that he had an understanding of the permanent hold the sport could and likely would take on his body.
OUR MESH INJURED LOVED ONES DID NOT CHOOSE TO BECOME INJURED. An invasive device, procedure and scalpel were used to hurt our loved ones – to cause them, yes, what is now quite personal. Nash had decades of examples in basketball through which to draw informed consent. He also likely had lawyers, medical doctors, friends who played the game, all from which to make an informed conclusion about his choice to play basketball. Our mesh-injured loved ones do not have all of that.
Regardless, I thank Steve Nash for his bravery in addressing the issue of injury in professional sports, since it’s a “No pain, no gain” mentality. It shows strength of character, probably built up in part by years of living with chronic pain and still just trying to get it done.
Steve: You’ve given a much louder voice to legions of people you don’t even know. You are brave. We love watching you play, and will watch you play on as long as you CHOOSE to play.
Please remember this article before you are at-the-ready to give advice for "healthy living" to one who has chronic pain. Pain is a very, very personal creature. We have all been physically and/or emotionally hurt at some point, so we an relate to some degree, can we not?
Read more here: Open Letter From Steve Nash About His Health