The Invisibility of Pain
I have worn a wrist brace for more than two months now. I don’t know what my injury is or how to treat it. My pain has graduated from bursting out daily when I pull on my pants to only spiking if I bend my hand in certain ways.
The pain is an indicator of damage: it is my body’s way of telling me that something is breaking. The question is how to tell anyone else. When I went to see a doctor, I waited for an hour and a half for her to arrive. She finally burst into the room. As I scrambled to keep up with her brusque manner, she reprimanded me for wasting other patients’ time. She told me she would send me to get an X-Ray. At the time, I only sensed that her solution was not one I wanted, but I couldn’t tell what the objection was. Writing this now, I’d say, no, I don’t want you to send me somewhere else, I want you to tell me what is wrong and what to do. Instead, I asked if she could give me a wrist brace, “or something.” She told me to buy one at CVS, and left.
But at least I have a wrist brace: a visible marker of my damage. The flag of my injury means I can cite a visible reason for the limitations that come from my pain: I can hold up my brace when refusing to help move something (although my stubbornly agreeable personality means it’s still hard to say no). It’s my excuse, one necessary not in order to avoid responsibility, but to have others understand why I do it: my pain has put me into the kingdom of the unwell, a place separated from the world of good health. Each week, I promise to see another doctor if my wrist is doesn’t heal, but each week, I feel like it gets closer. I refuse to entertain that it might go the way of my leg pain and never heal. So I wait, donning my brace each day to show the uncertainty of my unwell status.