And then there is another type of PITA. I will warn those of you with any reluctance to read about personal disclosures regarding the functioning of an otherwise healthy human body or a wish not to hear about the end of the human gastrointestinal track opposite the mouth to stop reading now. Thanks for giving today’s blog post a try. I wish you a happy and vivid-image free Sunday.
For the rest of you who remain, I say the following in the hopes you will think about something a bit differently.
Over the last two weeks, I have been practicing my Ashtanga yoga in a different way than I had been for the last five years. I am at my studio before seven o’clock in the morning to join other like minded people in a silent, self-led practice.
In the last two weeks, I have been cursed with a stress fracture of my left big toe, a tendon pull in my neck, a hyper-extended (maybe even sprained) ankle, and a fascia tear in my right foot. I mentioned in a post a few days ago, Warning, that going into this sort of practice can bring all sorts of buried emotions to the surface. My yoga instructor opined upon patiently listening to my litany of corporal complaints that the human brain distracts us from dealing with the emotional work we must do with a barrage of physical aches and pains. Essentially, it is the notion that we subconsciously provide a physical scapegoat to manage our psychological stress and anxiety. My yoga instructor even sent me a link to a video about a physician who has “cured” countless patients “suffering” from back pain where there is no medical reason to account for their distress. This doctor asserts that the pain we feel is not actual pain; it’s referential pain caused by the human brain trying to cope with psychological stress.
(So at this point, you’re probably wondering about my big caveat at the beginning of this post. You’re at this point asking yourself, “What does this have to do with a soft, slightly-leavened flat brad from the Middle East?”)
That “pita” is lowercase. The “pita” of which I write is all caps.
P.I.T.A. = “Pain In The Ass.”
(Last chance to bail. If you keep going, you may be unable to look at me/regard me in the same way as you have up to this point.)
In the summer of 2014, I was convinced I was going to die of “ass cancer.” The pain came on quickly and was intense. What else could it be except acute, stage IV, ass cancer? My otherwise healthy diet didn’t prevent what surely was going to be my undoing. Visions of my funeral, where people would be forced to whisper the details of my demise, were only slightly offset by my mental images of trying to be discret in the use of an ostomy bag. I’d be forced to reason that having to empty out a bag full of mostly-digested food instead of using the toilet as I had for almost my entire life was “worth it” because at least I wasn’t dead.
Neither picture was pretty.
So I avoided talking about it. I decided that the pain must be attributable to something I was eating. Maybe I was having too much coffee, or not enough water. It was the chair I was using. It was the underwear I was wearing. It was something I could fix without having to see an ass doctor.
Well, I tried making variations to those things which may have been at the root of the pain. After weeks of drinking copious amounts of water and little coffee, trying to eat gentle foods, sitting on a pillow as I wrote, and parading around underwearless, I was convinced that death awaited only the pronouncement by someone with a medical degree. You see, I already knew what was happening. I was stalling because I didn’t want someone with “MD” after his/her name to make it “official.”
I went to my primary care physician, explained the situation, and got a referral. She recommended I go see a male ass doctor. Apparently, he knew what he was doing.
On my first appointment with said ass doctor, I was shocked that he was going to be “doing” anything — especially any “doing” which involved inserting an anoscope to “take a quick look.” (Bear in mind, I am the daughter of a nurse who never attached any shame about the functionality of the human body. She was always very matter-of-fact about it all and never used euphemisms or “baby talk” when discussing any of it with me.)
I did as asked, rolled onto my left side, and let this stranger in a white coat with his name and “M.D.” embroidered over the pocket take a “quick look.” Admittedly, it was quick — though not quick enough for me to not wonder whether this guy was not really a doctor but some pervert who’d found the real doctor’s coat on a hook outside the examination room.
Diagnosis? “I don’t find anything out of the ordinary upon visual inspection.” I almost took this as a compliment. But then remembering why I was there — for certainly it wasn’t to get an aesthetic review of the lower end of my rectum — I asked, “Do I have ass cancer?” He said, “No.” Reconfirming, I said, “You are sure.” He pointed to the dark green stitching on his left upper chest and said, “I’m the doctor, right?” Tempted as I was to question his ownership of the lab coat, I nodded, sat up, and said, “Now what?”
He didn’t have any idea “now what.” He suggested that I drink more water, cut down on coffee, eat healthier foods, try not to sit for long periods of time. (When he failed to recommend that I go without skivvies, I knew he must have been a legitimate doctor.)
The pain continued.
I even felt it yesterday.
And last night, when I was getting into bed, Rob asked how my toe/neck/ankle/foot injuries were feeling. I said, “They’re better, but my ass pain came back a little today.”
It was at that moment I realized that I was never dying of acute, stage IV ass cancer. I had been taking all the anxiety I was feeling in the summer of 2014 time and burying it — apparently, in my ass.
No lower back pain for me, folks. When I have stress, I deposit it elsewhere. Now, this doesn’t mean I am always “suffering” from ass pain. Moreover, for those of you who I see in my community, this doesn’t mean I want you to check in with me on how my ass is feeling in the same way you might ask your friend with chronic back pain how she’s doing.
I share this story with you because I have come to believe that our brains have a remarkable ability to control how we “feel” both emotionally and physically. Perhaps my self-effacing confession will led to your reconsidering the root of any ongoing pain you might be having — because living with constant pain is a pain in the ass, sometimes literally.