Extreme Makeover, by E. Mitchell

Another touching contribution by the author. An afterthought submitted is the best introduction:

“What you see is not what you get. Our lives would be ugly indeed, as would we, if the pain showed. If we can believe what our eyes see, the human face, and others can believe what they do not see, the invisible pain, we can get along.”

My children. What will become of my children. That is the most defeating question of all. Since Central Pain has robbed me of myself, who will take care of my children. That is the thought that obsesses me as I watch them grow, in a sterile life, in an impersonal world.

I would not send them the messages they have received: distance; isolation; depression; and pain. But no one else sends them what I cannot, so I send my errant messages because they need something for an identity. It is hard to bestow identity after losing mine. Having long since given up other standards, I find the standard for mother also out of reach. Pain drains me of the energy to think. And so I ask one thing only of life, to make them live, even as I cannot.

These are the thoughts that consume me at night, when I cannot sleep, when the burning is intense, when the pain mounts, when it is the worst. Exhausted, and in shock, I huddle in a place, wondering if I am too far away to hear what God might be saying, too far down among the creatures for human feelings. I want to reach out to my children, but I also want to isolate them from me, that they may live fully, in love, in love of others.

Morning eventually breaks the cocoon of misery, and I realize that only I can move away from the defeat of the dark night. I make a resolution. I will cleanse my body. I will put on some clothing, even though it burns me and exacts a price, what I may not be able to afford to pay. I look in the mirror. I am shocked to see what looks like an ordinary person. Who is that? The face reveals nothing of who I am.

I do it. I do it the best I can. There are some wrinkles in the clothing. The hair is not right. The angle of my head is wrong. My eyes are fierce, and weak at the same time. I force myself. I will be human.

I push away the burning, the nausea, the soreness, the aching, the miserable attitude. I am dying of thirst, but I will not drink. I refuse to let the burning of fulness punish my bladder just now. I put it all together and for the first time in days, go out where others are.

And there are my old friends. My face is more than familiar. It signals how they used to think of me, but cannot now remember why. I must look a disappointment, for the pain of movement and the control problems make even turning to hear them a problem, and I was once envied by them. They approach me and I wonder if there is any room in their minds for someone like me. To my surprise, they pay no attention. There are better thoughts for them to think. But one of them, for an unknown reason, cannot pass me by.