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My latest column on fear and the war on pain can be read @ http://americannewsreport.com/nationalpainreport/living-pain-fear-war-pain-patients-8822860.html
This article by Chris Hedges is something we should all read and ingest. Then we should all find ways to act on it.
Above my right ear was a long purple feather, above my left, orange; around my neck, a white plastic lei over a raspberry boa.
Deb, 12, coal black eyes set deep under auburn hair, studied my ridiculous presence with the loitering eye of an artist. I was the veracious mannequin that she unconsciously packed with… vaporous imagery? She’d back-filled me during the preceding week.
We were in the Kid’s Korner.
Fluorescent lights in the cavernous pier castled uneasy shadows while painting us in a skittish pale glow, a glow that whispered, “something’s wrong here…something’s wrong.”
Yes, something was certainly very wrong, Pearl Harbor wrong.
It was the third week of September 2001 and it was my first day having moved from volunteer to supervisor. The first paid job, though part-time, I’d held since force-retired in ‘95 because of disastrous pain. But several surgeries later, I could work again, even if very part-time.
We were located at the litter slogged foot of 51st street in the north end of one of Manhattan’s cavernous piers on the Hudson River. The piers were huge low slung metal structures hunkered along the river rented out at top dollar by the city for industry shows of all sorts.
It was mid-morning with knurled grey clouds troubling the river and washing family after family against the guarded gates on 11th street.
Trauma, too fresh, haunted the serpentine line.
Sitting on a child’s chair I held still as instructed by my 12 year old artist. As a child therapist, I performed as directed.
The Korner was a part of the vast Family Center run by the city, state and feds to provide relief for those families and individuals whose lives were blown loose by Bin Laden’s cataclysmic reach.
People who came for help dropped off their kids with us while they gathered in new lines for services to stitch their lives back together.
The Korner wasn’t just a day care center. We had volunteers experienced in working in a variety of ways with kids while being good at relating to children who were stuck in traumatic circumstances.
It was my job to advise the volunteers on how to work with spooked kids and how to relate to their over stressed parents.
I also taught them on how to recognize the accumulating stress in themselves in reaction to what they were seeing and hearing. I advised them about secondary post traumatic stress disorder and let them know when it was time to leave the work behind and care for themselves.
When a volunteer identified a child she or he thought might be in trouble they referred the child to me as I had specialized in post traumatic stress disorder.
After Deb was referred to me, I observed her play for a time with the volunteer with the idea of either advising the volunteer, or, if needed, gradually enter, as I did, her play sphere and gradually take over.
As I got to know her, Deb included me ever more deeply in her art work. Fortunately, this didn’t require much physical work from me as my body in those early months at ground zero was still rattling around at its.
Mostly, it was the pain that would several years later be diagnosed as arachnoiditis in my lower spine as well as the degenerative disease in my cervical vertebrae in addition to fibro.
All Deb required of me was my quiet, still presence in a small wooden school chair where she could apply all of her artistic talents to express who knew what as applied all manner of gewgaws to my head, doing so in a manner that everyone could see me.
The rest of my body, my pain, disappeared.
I was simply her medium, a medium feeling its way deeper into the presence of an unexpressed horror, an unnamed agony.
But always the accouterments were attached ever nearer my eyes gradually tunneling my vision forcing me to see…what?
Each hour spent with Deb was like spending an hour in a anesthesia chamber where I was bathed in an opioid mist: I felt no pain as my vision tunneled ever more narrowly. As her agony brushed its cold fingers across my heart my pain receded further.
After two weeks her parents told me she’d lost interest in school and was fighting uncharacteristically with her younger brother. She’d been alone watching the attacks from their apartment just south of the towers but had never spoke of what she’d witnessed.
After building trust over several weeks I asked Deb to tell me about that morning.
Alone in the back of the Korner, sitting across from me preternaturally still holding my eyes with hers, draining me of all awareness of my pain, Deb spoke in a low steady voice.
Instead of slowly circling her story, she stepped directly into it’s center as if she’d been waiting all along for me.
“They jump. I watch them all the way down. Some jump from the flames…together holding hands.” With no change in emotion, Deb added, “It sounds like giant pumpkins exploding…when they hit the street, I mean.” Her pupils pinpoint.
My heart stilled: present tense. PTSD.
After a long pause: “The worst?” I asked, holding her cold hand.
I could feel her tears pulse where no child should have to feel what she saw.
My body ceased except for my tears piling waves against my watery eyes.
“Hanging on the street lamps,” she whispered.
Time had collapsed for Deb.
She paused, dreamy, eyes falling away.
“Meat,” she whispered hoarsely, “meat.”
I held her hands, her hands, hands…
I didn’t feel my body until late the next morning.
Connecting with the depth of the emotion of another is the best anesthesia.
I’m not special, we can all try this.
It changes what and who we are.
Volunteering if we can, on suicide or other hotlines is among the best anesthetics. The anesthetizing effects lasts hours, the effects on who we are, longer.
So, so much longer when we reach deeply beyond ourselves.
The hollowing out of inner city neighborhoods has many causes: racism, draconian laws and sentencing, mass incarceration and more. The following article sheds more light on this complicated process and points out what we need to do to reverse this process. Please read http://www.alternet.org/corporate-accountability-and-workplace/how-wall-st-turned-america-incarceration-nation
http://americannewsreport.com/nationalpainreport/living-pain-reaching-ground-zero-8822438.html This column sent back to me by my editor surprised me as I hardly remembered writing it last week. When I started reading it I wept all the way to the end.
Opioids and Looking Like Uncle Festus
(This will be posted to The Pain Community Blog on Facebook this November)
Several years ago I began taking opioid medicines to combat the hideous pain I’d been living with for decades.
It worked and I began to experience the happy diminution of pain throughout my body.
But–there’s always a “but” in happy stories–a few years ago I switched to another opioid after developing tolerance to the first medicine.
While the new medicine worked well I quickly developed dry mouth that I dealt with on my own; I wasn’t about to let a little sub Saharan dryness diddle with my improved pain.
Yet it’s in the interstices of muting pain and acidic Saharan Zephyrs that brews disaster in the mouth of the blissful unsuspecting.
Yes, brewing calamitous enameled weakness.
It started with a ham a cheese sandwich where in my second bite I crunched something much too hard. Fishing it out I held on the tip of my finger that which could only be a chip of tooth enamel.
This dolorous calving of my teeth repeated itself over and over in the following months.
Dental care became a must.
However, my tale of ending up like uncle Festus flamed up as if accelerants had been hidden in those increasingly edgy spaces between my individual teeth: my unemployed wife, my inability to work, our son still at university, dwindling savings and the conspicuous lack insurance.
But we all know too well that dental insurance is…well…laughable.
Denial fell like a blackout curtain across my reason: The loss of enamel, like calving glaciers, would certainly end soon; I could ride it out.
And neither can you.
Denial crumbled like my teeth when I saw the gaps, the lost teeth, the decay.
Uncle Festus in the mirror.
Eventually, I sat in a dental chair for days over months at the University of California-San Francisco being worked over by a student dentist from India.
I got good care, though the out-of-pocket expense was, and is now stunning.
Now living in Chicago with my wife employed and after selling one of our apartment buildings at the hands of eminent domain in Utah, we now have the thousands, I mean thousands, necessary to hammer, pick, extract, fill, bone transplants implanted perfect imposters.
I now look less like uncle Festus and more like my aging self.
The moral of this posting?
There is none. We’re trapped between the Scylla of delicious opioid relief and the Charybdis of disastrous decay.
What’s to be done?
Change, if you can, the medication. Consult a dentist privately or at a University if possible. Drink more liquids than you can possibly stand. Suck sugarless mints. Mouth wash, mouth wash, mouth wash. Floss daily if you can or use a waterpik. Rinse your mouth especially after eating; rinse, rinse, rinse.
Oh, yes, contact your legislators and agitate for better dental care insurance.
Any suggestions from sub Saharan veterans is sorely welcome.
My latest column on my reaction to the FDA rescheduling hydrocodone analgesics can be read at http://americannewsreport.com/nationalpainreport/living-pain-fallout-rescheduling-hydrocodone-8822119.html
My latest column, which my editor, Pat Anson, thinks is my best to date, can be read at http://americannewsreport.com/nationalpainreport/suboxone-destroyed-teeth-8821967.html
The intransigence of the Tea Party isn’t simply hard-nosed, right-wing politics. What the Tea Party is doing fits every definition of treason: They are trying to bring down our form of government. They want to replace our democratic republican form of government with a nihilistic dictatorship of the few for the oligarchs who fund them.
This is not gridlock as so often the media tries in their laziness and obsequiousness to corporate America tries to describe it. No, this is the attempt to overthrow what’s left of the democracy to which we so religiously adhere.
These people don’t really care about the Affordable Care Act. In study after study when the average citizen, including Tea Party voters, are asked about specific portions of the Act, they, to a great extent, say they would approve such a measure; such as, eliminating insurance companies from being able to deny you coverage because you have a prior existing medical condition, or keep children on parents insurance until the children reach the age of 26.
No, this battle is not about the Affordable Care Act. This is criminal behavior among a small coterie of elected Congressmen who are attempting to overthrow our republican form of government because they can not find a way to rule by normal electoral politics.
The evidence for this is found in the way republican dominated state legislatures have gerrymandered districts so that they will not have to compete with other elements– democrats, blacks and Hispanics who would be unlikely to vote for the GOP candidates, thus making these Congressman from these districts bullet proof. This, of course, allows these office holders to act as radically and as dictatorially as they desire, knowing that their seats are safe among their white, Republican voters. In other words, referring to the checks and balances of electoral politics, these Congressmen face no credible opposition that might restrain them, thus, undemocratically, quashing any opposition.
Combined with new voter restrictions in red states, we have a perfect storm of treasonous behavior not only to diminish minority voting, but to overthrow the government in favor of right-wing white minority rule.
It isn’t even necessary for these radicals to literally oust sitting office holders. All they have to do to overthrow majority rule is to keep holding the majority under the thumb of constant threats to undo what government is left. In other words, constant, strategic political blackmail.
It isn’t, as we’ve witnessed in the last decades, for the right to hold onto this sort of power in perpetuity. No, all they have to do when they have been able to organize a significantly vocal and electorally stout enough opposition to threaten their leaders with loss of office at key junctures of our political life, they realize, with Democratic vacillation, that they have significant sway over the political process to undo any legislation the majority has enacted.
Personally, I think these treasonous office holders need arresting and chargjng with treason–the attempt to overthrow the government. I don’t say this as an Obama supporter or a Democrat, I am neither. I say this as a citizen who abhors the hijacking of the only political process that we have.
These people are traitors. We need to stop them in any way possible short of violence. Yet with the shut down of the government and the threat to not pay our bills, violence is what the court.
We should never give into this.
This is not politics as usual.
These people are serious, treasonous and need to be stopped at all costs.