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.
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.