Perceiving Pain & The Shortest Flare

Perceiving Pain & The Shortest Flare

I flared yesterday, and it’s gone today.

Which means that I was a 7 or 8 on the pain scale less than 24 hours ago, and I woke up at about a 4 or 5.

This is my shortest flare in recorded history. (Yay, iron?)


The second time I was in the ER with a gall stone attack (2014), the attending nurse asked me where I was pain-wise on a scale of 1 to 10.

“Definitely a 10.”

She wrote that number on a dry erase board in my room, and then asked me where I’d like to be on that scale.

“I don’t know? Like 5?”

She laughed, but she wasn’t mocking me. “I think we can do better than that,” she said. “How about a 1 or a 2?”

Then it was my turn to laugh. “Uh, okay.”

She gave me IV dilaudid and in seconds, I was totally free of pain.


My point is not that I want to be pumped full of dilaudid all the time, but that people who experience chronic pain will happily accept any improvement on their current circumstances—even if that’s somewhere between “nagging pain, uncomfortable” and “miserable, distressing.”

Whereas compassionate people who have no experiential concept of chronic pain will be like, “Why the hell wouldn’t you ask for a 1? Dilaudid exists for a reason.”


On a related note, I typically call today’s 4 or 5 “better.” And I’m actually pretty happy to be here, because relative to yesterday’s misery this is better.

But I’m still hesitant to say the words “I feel better” because that can be interpreted as “I feel all better.”

For some people saying “better” is like saying “I had the flu last week. Today I feel better.”

Yeah, my “better” is nothing at all like that.

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