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Unlikely Perks of Pain

Updated: Jan 27

I was thinking about art earlier, (I know right), actually that has been a rarity lately and I can refer back to previous blogs this month to make it clear why that is.

Inevitably the subject of dental migraines remains the feature topic when I do find the chance to reflect or evaluate anything, there is that familiar creative wisdom that gets passed about, encouraging artists to draw/write from life and what they know, it’s an obvious principle to follow but I guess our minds get distracted by other things that aren’t always as beneficial creatively, (or at all productively).


Given that thought, I cannot currently find a spark to draw from my life’s experience, because frankly I don’t know how to draw physical pain, fatigue and irritability, (at least not in a way that would make any desirable outcome.) But, I can at times like this afternoon, write a little, so this is where my outlet remains for now, at least on occasion where I find the energy and inclination to. For instance, today, my brace was rating an 8 on a 1-10 scale of pain, any higher would require a short notice visit to Putney to get it looked at, but on a good day it hovers around the 5 mark, which is where its dropping to now thanks to that post workout mild euphoria one often gets, and some chemical intervention to temper the pain. So presents a window of time for me to write… well, what I know, or at least what occupies much of my mind.


And that’s kind of interesting, because I don’t want to be complacent, I am grateful for many things in my life, but since last September the pain and discomfort has gradually escalated beyond anything I anticipated, and while dragging myself through this final hurdle of treatment, it does reveal one unlikely (all be it undesirable) benefit to persistent physical pain… in that it’s something to do.


While many have recently grown more anxious and or perplexed by the world and the progression of our day to day lives, I’ve had the benefit of physical necessity, a pretty consistent distraction. Most other forms of physiological or cognitive stressors we naturally regulate on a daily basis have been blurred in the distant background of a higher functioning existence than the one I currently lead. I probably have an exceptionally optimistic outlook on the coming months compared to most, because with only 1-2months of invasive teeth expansion plates left, whatever the second quarter of this year involves, it’s unlikely involve my skull hurting constantly. Which sounds utterly delightful.


And yet even now in this peak phase, there is a painfully beautiful simplicity to existence, my time, energy and thoughts are aligned in solidarity by one common cause, to plan and go about my day in such a way to minims a very non ambiguous pain.

To function on workdays, while working remotely, with a systematic method of body hacks and practical scheduling of pain reivers, so I can do the day’s work, get some essential exercises, essential housekeeping, covering the bare essentials to pay the bills and keep mind and body functioning (enough). This is my art now, and I’m getting pretty good at it all things considered, not that I’d say I’m coping well, but coping as much as it seems possible to. Alas unlike other artistic medias, this craft isn’t exactly going to successfully get crow bared into a Tate retrospective later down the line, and it doesn’t have to mild relief of validation and social connection that material I post on social media channels might provide.


And so hence this guess, and I must reiterate I am grateful for a great many things in life, I’d like to think rather than being complacent now, I am merely observing what I can currently observe. Indeed, bizarrely I have to find myself grateful that this phase of treatment takes place over a national lockdown, because if I was having to cycle into work and trapse up and down a campus all day onto of everything else, I would probably have a nervous breakdown. Realistically I don’t know what the hell I’d have to do in that situation, but with that in mind this sort of treatment is in some ways a kin to recovering from surgery. The symptoms may be invisible to the onlooker, but I will say if there’s any persisting doubt out there, (perhaps those who’ve experienced relatively tame versions of orthodontist in the past who may not be aware how this one differs) that having been circumcised a few years ago, I think I preferred the experience of having my foreskin cut off, and the ensuing month of watching the stitches in my penis slowly dissolve, rather than having to manually expand the devise currently sitting in mouth.


But make no mistake, my orthodontist is an exceptional person, my breathing has improved profoundly, and the long-term health benefits are 100% worth the temporary suffering. I’ve said all this before, but he deserves all the kudos, and I will persist talking about all this stuff, until I can talk about or contribute something else.


Footnote:

There is an anecdote (for what its worth), which I forgot to add, about a pain relief method used by famous hypnotherapist Milton Ericsson that reminded me a bit of the concept I was attempting to describe. I forget the exact details but it involved deliberately inflicting temporary discomfort to different areas of the body to distract the sensation of pain. That would have been a very elaborate and long process but I thought says a lot about the value of adequate mobility and circulation for pain management. All still easier said than done if you're in the midst of pain, but its a valuable concept for a lot of things I think.

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