Pain Portrait

In my early teens I was introduced to the idea of ‘Pen Portraits’. These are described online as informal descriptions of a person that may include ‘hard’ characteristics like age, but will also focus on softer dimensions such as attitudes or appearance.

It’s 2am and I’m on my back in my profiling bed. My legs are raised, floppy and wiggling. My head’s still, resting on a single pillow. Between there and my knees is a slab of pain.

A digital painting of Touretteshero showing a colour-coded map of pain on Touretteshero's body. In top corner of the image, a key showing the intensity of the pain on a scale of 1 to 10 corresponding to a colour. Helpful objects surround her eg. phone, alarm and pain relief cream.

A digital painting of Touretteshero showing a colour-coded map of pain on Touretteshero's body. In top corner of the image, a key showing the intensity of the pain on a scale of 1 to 10 corresponding to a colour. In the top left corner of the image is the date (04.08.2019) . Helpful objects surround her eg. phone, alarm and pain relief cream and a lamppost. The pain is most severe in Touretteshero's lower torso but is also felt throughout the body including the wrists.

A digital painting of Touretteshero showing a colour-coded map of pain on Touretteshero's body. In top corner of the image, a key showing the intensity of the pain on a scale of 1 to 10 corresponding to a colour. Helpful objects surround her eg. phone, alarm and pain relief cream. The date is on the top left corner of the image 05.08.2019. Pain is shown around the body but less so in the chest than in the other images.

 

I’ve experienced chronic pain for just over three years. I’ve written about it a lot and attempted to describe it through drawings but I’ve never really tried to describe it in words.

I’m going to attempt this now, in the hope that it’ll help me feel more settled, and also help people without constant pain to understand something of what it’s like.

I plan to start at one edge of my pain and trace it through my body with words until I reach the furthest edge. This is an experiment, so bear with me:

My head is clear.
My neck is strong with slivers of pain that flash like badly wired fairy lights.
Prickles of pain stretch across my upper back, echoes of a deep ache further down.
The slab of pain sits in the centre of my body.
Defined by my torso, a heavy, smooth rock of pain as deep as I am.

The seed of my pain is the size of my clenched fist.
This pain is sharp but the edges are blurred, buzzing and blending into the aching slab that surrounds it.
My tummy is soft but spikes of pain reach towards the edges of me.

Skin stretches over sore hipbones.
Streams of light pain overflow, forming an estuary that twinges across my thighs.
The furthest boundary of my pain lies indistinct between hips and knees.

My pain pushes down,
Holding me against the bed,
Reaching out to meet the mattress.

It’s too early for me to judge if this experiment’s captured anything significant. But it is intriguing that the sorer I am the stronger my desire is to give shape to this pain.

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