Dead and Still Alive

Life is such precious stuff and also downright dangerous.

Amazing things can happen in a quarter of a second. A person can make a decision for the better that will change lives forever. On the other hand, unless effort is expended, the tendency is for life to run slowly downhill, and the moments of missed opportunity to turn into “years that the locust hath eaten.”

The elderly have often been blessed with sufficient time to feel they have had their chance. This is often NOT the case for those with spinal cord injury and pain. Such events come all too soon in life and then a kind of suspended animation can occur, which is not really life and not really death. The person is simply unaware of the opportunities passing by them. They are too busy struggling with the pain.

Since pain contracts the imagination and the focus to a narrow, sometimes a VERY narrow existence, it is important to do two things:

1) Don’t overextend yourself. As the National Institutes of Health has said regarding central pain, life must be kept as free from stress as possible.
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The reasons for this go to the fact that a person’s survival resources are finite. The NIH scientists know all too well that severe central pain casts a shadow of suicide upon whomever it afflicts. This is what gives it a quality of horror. Death lurks uncomfortably close, even for the “well adjusted” CP subject. It is key to conserve resources, and make room for survival. This requires telling the world “No” most of the time. While the disapproval of those told “no” can add to the lack of self esteem, conserving resources can give you just enough rest to get by. Sometime a little means a lot, if it gives you what you need to stay alive.

2) Oddly, this is the polar opposite of number one. It is that life will lose meaning if we mess up badly, frequently. In the conserving of resources, there are things which are all too easily overlooked, ignored, or omitted. These things have to do mostly with loved ones and those around us. Despite our plight, if there is guidance and example which needs to be set, we should save some energy for that. It is not enough to be a slob about anything that matters. If there are other people involved in our lives, and we are not recommending the incurring of obligations toward others, but if there are, we need to love them, to honor them, and to care for them. Mostly, it means not losing track of them, even if we have lost track of ourselves. If it is a choice between holding on to our own vanishing identity and helping a child gain theirs, the child gets first priority, number one. The failure to do this is extremely painful and we already have enough pain to live with. Keeping a journal, with specific recording to make sure we have touched the bases, may be necessary to get past the blocking interference of severe pain. Life cannot be lived the same in central pain as in normal circumstances. We must develop new strategies to care for our loved ones, and many times those strategies must be extremely creative. Again, sometimes a little can be a lot, if it allows us to let them know they are loved.