Thursday, July 10, 2008


My first memory is of climbing over a barbed-wire fence when I was five or six years old. My hand slipped and a barb tore a one inch gorge into the middle of my palm. In the hospital my mother held my good hand and the doctor stitched the bad one up, while I recited Jack and the Beanstalk punctuated by the odd 'ouch'.

Many years later I had a wisdom tooth with a twisted root extracted under anaesthetic. I had a relatively pain free twenty-four hours but something went wrong and I developed a painful complication called dry socket. I spent a week in agony, unable to open my mouth.

I know that both these situations were extremely painful because of my reactions and that people tell me so, but I can't actually remember what the pain felt and behaved like. When I hurt my hand shock came down like a transparent curtain, turning me into a mere bystander to the frenzied blur to the hospital.

Similarly I have now blocked out the feeling of nerve exposed to air, not through shock but through self-preservation. I remember crying in helplessness and frustration, my whimpers and groans muffled through gritted teeth, calling my boyfriend at work just to hear his voice, the receptionist telling me to go back to the surgeon because my pain was not normal.

Now my mouth is filled with Novocaine and again I can only describe my bloated useless tongue, the slurred speech and the distant tingling in my lips – but the feeling itself eludes me once more, the complete opposite of pain, the absence thereof. It is my writing's achilles heel.


Debs said...

I would be grateful not to feel the pain. I can imagine (though thankfully not feel it) the pain with your words 'nerve exposed to air' ouch, my teeth are tingling at the thought.

Lane said...

There's something about cuts to the palm of the hand and soles of the feet that makes me ..... eurgh:-(

Novacaine I like, but not the horrible numbness for ages afterwards.
Hope you're feeling better now.

Angie said...

Ah, but you've actually described the feeling so well! When we're in the worst pain we can't live in the moment, the shock takes over and all that remains is that weird haze and the tingling numbness. I think you've captured that perfectly in this description. :)

Anonymous said...

Ouch, hope it isn't too bad when the novacaine wears off! Ooh got Green Day in my head now.

I agree you described shock brilliantly, that's exactly what it's like.

Yvonne said...

Debs, the surgeon gave me that description when I had a follow-up meeting with him, it stuck in my mind.

Lane, I have the same thing about wrists for some reason, have had since I was very young. I'm feeling much better now thank you.

Angie, thank you, shock is the body's Novocaine!

M&T, I have the Beck song in my head. Thank you, but it was easy to do as I was Novocained-up; not the best way to write though!

HelenMH said...

Ooh, poor you. Dental pain is some of the worst I've ever felt. There's something about it being right inside your head as well x

Yvonne said...

Helen, it is awful isn't it? Thankfully it's over for a few weeks.

Tam said...

Urgh. Apparently, you're meant to forget the pain of childbirth because it's nature's way of ensuring you do it again when no sensible person would otherwise. Have you had children, Yvonne? Because I think you're in a delicate position otherwise if you can't recall what pain feels like after the event. Write "NO MORE CHILDREN...THEY REALLY,REALLY, REALLY HURT" on post it notes and stick them everywhere. It's the only way.

And this is an extremely personal post for my debut on your blog. Hi!

Yvonne said...

Tam, thanks for visiting! I've never had kids but I was talking to my dentist about that - how women who have gone through labour must feel like they're bulletproof.