What a scream

by Yule Heibel on October 16, 2003

I’ve been mentally AWOL and haven’t posted, instead getting myself all bent out of shape over a few of things that made me think about other things that … & so on, loop-de-loop. Today I’m spending the day in bed because I woke up very badly this morning. It feels as though my blood pressure is hovering around 80 over 65 right now — low and barely there. I can sort of feel my pulse, but not much. Today marks the third time in my life that I’ve fainted from pain. The first time was when I was quite little and the fainting was a way to escape a bad situation; the second when I was a teenager and had a medical iintervention; the third this morning when a leg cramp woke me up and the pain became mentally so unmanageable that it overwhelmed me with memories from that very first time (this relates to the above point re. getting bent out of shape). A leg cramp! It’s all in the head, but the body remembers, it remembers very very well. I wrote about torture a few days back, about walls falling away to reveal limitless horror — like that, that’s how the body remembers. The blood starts pounding in your ears, you feel adrift, you cannot connect to boundaries or to beauty, you want to throw up very very badly. And you pass out.

There’s pain that has a purpose, and there’s pain that doesn’t. The pain of childbirth has a purpose and I had no problem with it. My kids were both born at a free-standing birth centre, with no drugs on the premises, nor doctors. I had an intuition that if I were to go to a hospital, I’d end up with a cesaerean, which I didn’t want: I wasn’t afraid of giving birth, but I was afraid of that kind of intervention. As it turned out, my first-born’s birth probably would have been a c-section delivery in a hospital: 3 hours into the pushing contractions, which had taken about 15 hours to kick in fully, the midwives had to call the hospital across the street to report, and basically to alert the doctor(s) and staff to a possible emergency. After yet another hour or so of torturous pushing contractions only seconds apart, Adam was finally born. His birth had taken so long because he was facing the wrong way (face up instead of down, chin out instead of neatly tucked in), and his right fist was jammed to his forehead in a kind of revolutionary salute. So I know from pain, ok, and when I say a leg cramp tossed me to the floor, I mean it was in the leg, but it was also a deep, deep cramp of the memory-variety.

The “pain” of childbirth is peanuts compared to pain that comes with fear (and if you fear childbirth, your pain will be frightening). If you understand that pain has some purpose, and there is nothing happening to your body that it can’t handle or wasn’t built to take, pain is manageable: that’s what all the good childbirth classes are about, mental preparation. But when pain comes from beyond, when it is inflicted, it has the ability to unhinge your mind with fear. Intuitively we probably all suspect this, having considered the pain that comes from a heart attack, say, which quickly overwhelms and unhinges; the pain that we expect must come with violent death; the pain that comes with wasting diseases or cancer. Or torture and abuse. Pain whose biological purpose is obtuse (unlike childbirth’s) or worst of all: inflicted by others.

If I had high blood pressure, I probably would have keeled over with an exploding artery; as it is, mine is low, and so I just crashed. Crashed, crashed, crashed, wanting to throw up.

Best of all, it is raining like mad today. Sure, everybody thinks that it always rains in the Northwest, but Victoria is in a rain shadow: it’s not that deluge-y here. It rains, but typically it’s drizzly. Today however has been a howler. Raining like the flood. All that water pressure out there is just making me feel the lack of pressure in my bloodstream more acutely. Maybe the rain will give me my strength back.


Doug Alder October 17, 2003 at 1:10 am

I suffer from night time leg cramps sometimes. The type that bring you up from a deep sleep screaming, or at least you would scream if the pain wasn’t so intense that you can’t catch your breath. Normally I’m pretty immune to pain – a year in the hiospital at age 12 for a series of painful kidney operations saw to that. You learn to flow with the pain, to absorb it and make it your own and not treat it like some fanatical interloper that snuck into your life with the intent to destroy it.

I’ve found that I am prone to those cramps when I get dehydrated and I think it may be a combination mineral deficiency (brought about by the dehydration) andthe lack of fluids itself that may cause the cramps. So try drinking a little more water and throw in a banana for the potassium – it seems to work for me.

Shelley October 17, 2003 at 1:11 am

I think I knew where some of your other stuff originated, and I’m sorry that it happened. I’m also sorry that you’re feeling sick.

I hope you’re better soon.

Yule Heibel October 17, 2003 at 1:25 am

Thanks, I’m feeling better — old German saying: can’t kill weeds, heh. Doug, this is the first time a leg cramp sent me flying — I actually wrote a much longer story about it, but daren’t post that, it’s way too intimate. Suffice it to say, I was very h2o-hydrated, which is why I had to go to the bathroom so badly, just before I passed out after getting up to do so …and , well, let’s just say I really had to go. Ugh. The banana-potassium connection is important. Hmm, maybe I’ll go downstairs and eat a couple of my kids’s Flintstones — we’re out of bananas, alas. 🙂 And drink a glass of milk — which I can barely tolerate, but it’s calcium.

But it was mainly a mental thing: something remembered. There’s a sister (#6) who may or may not have a lot to answer for….

Shelley, thanks. I verbalize, can’t help it. Or maybe I could help it, but don’t see that I should. Yakety-yakety-yak. That’s me.

Betsy Burke October 17, 2003 at 2:48 pm

Hi, ouch, that must have been pretty bad. I think I remember the second intervention because I might have been there too, so this must have been pretty bad- yes, the head takes you where you don’t want to go. Hope it’s better.

Yule Heibel October 17, 2003 at 11:52 pm

It’s like that old song, the knee bone’s connected to the shin bone, the shin bone’s connected to the ankle bone, etc etc, and and they’re all connected to …THE HEAD BONE!!! Whee! Such a riot!

Yes, Betsy, you might have been there (Cook Street medical clinic, Dalkon Shield?). This whole thing has been very strange, and I have lots to think about. Believe it or not, part of it was informed by reading articles on Wednesday (before the leg cramp that will live in infamy…) about J.M. Coetzee‘s principled stand on how we treat animals. I’m not a vegetarian, but I was impressed by the novelist’s assertion that it has something to do with an imaginative leap to accord all living things their due. It reminded me of Susan Sontag’s claim (see blog a couple of days ago — Oct.12) that literature has the task of strengthening our ability to cry for people who we are not. Empathy. Sort of like thinking — imaginatively — about how we treat animals. I mean, this is what we share: the mortal coil. But too often we’re pornographic — we get excited about cunts & cocks, but it’s really anaesthetic, because it’s all in pieces — it’s a kind of imaginative dulling. Pornography is anaesthesia, like meds and drugs and alcohol. Aesthetic is the opposite of anaesthetic. Think about the body, the physical thing. Aesthetic means feeling with your whole body, and running the risk of going mental over it because you take all its options into account, not just the isolated pick-‘n-choose ones. Because the shin bone is connected to the ankle bone is connected to the head bone.

Man, artists are a bitch. Wish I was one. … When I grow up, when I grow up, one day, one day…

Alex Rodriguez October 19, 2003 at 10:49 pm

I used to stretch alot in the morning on waking. Then I noticed that the worst cramp ever experienced by a mere mortal would develop on my left calf. I mean, the thing would feel like acid was being released right under the skin and there was no end to the pain. It didn’t take long to learn NOT to stretch when first waking up. One other thing I learned when the cramp started: hyperextend my leg and point my toe straight out. Now when I feel that cramp startup, I make my body go limp and point my left leg. Most of the time, it kills the cramp dead. Good luck with those cramps. May you never get another.

Yule Heibel October 20, 2003 at 12:36 am

I’ll keep that in mind, Alex. It’s been days (3+), but incredibly my leg still hurts — I wince descending a staircase. …Marcel Duchamp, where ARE you???

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