"Doesn’t That Hurt?" Jackie Lewis
Let’s break down the question.
“Doesn’t that hurt?” Yes, it hurts. Now you look away awkwardly, unsure of the appropriate response. Maybe a well-intended offering of “I could never do that.” Yes, you could, and you would.
“Doesn’t that hurt?” Sometimes. Now you change the subject, my non-committal response allowing the conversation to shift with ease. We acknowledged the blood, or the holes in my body, and you feel better.
“Doesn’t that hurt?” No, not really. Now that I uphold my side of the social contract, hiding my truth in order to defend your comfort, you look relieved. “You’re so brave!” No, I’m not.
Once, I tried “Yes, but it doesn’t matter.” Why? “I still have to do it.” This is your least favorite response. It evokes a heavy feeling we go to extreme lengths to avoid. Powerlessness. You can’t carry that. You try to shove the feeling back, attempting to find a solution or at least justification. (See also: “Have you tried…?” or “Did you eat a lot of sugar as a child?”) I don’t blame you.
That sinking, anxious, almost guilty feeling is the unanswered ringing of cognitive dissonance. It’s the endless, fruitless loop of trying to reconcile suffering without cause. I understand. The mind wants reason, order, or at least faith in a higher purpose, but chronic illness is a bottomless chasm of senseless chaos.
My body doesn’t understand. Pain is the body’s warning that something is wrong. It tells us to stop. Every infusion site, injection, lancet, needle and tube in my skin, is physical dissonance. Inflict pain to feel better. It fits in the sick theme of autoimmune disease. My body, in trying to help, hurts itself. I have to carry it.
“You get used to it” or “It gets easier.” These are empty promises to a 12 year old. The burden doesn’t get lighter the longer it’s held and I don’t get stronger either. I find ways to shift the weight but I can’t put it down. During a particularly hard week 14 years later, I wrote that my condition is:
“That feeling of carrying all your grocery bags in one trip, seeing the treadmill tick down the last minutes of an intense workout, being an hour away from your weekend on a Friday afternoon. Except there are no kitchen counters, there is no 0:00, and there is no Saturday.”
I have Type 1 Diabetes. I have an insulin pump and insulin pens. I have a fear of door knobs and drawer pulls (look up insulin pump tubing). I have calloused fingertips. I have scar tissue. I have a shorter life expectancy. I have an aversion to pocketless dresses and being touched on my hips or stomach. I have anxiety. I have depression. I have wondered if death would be easier. I have no idea if I can have children. I have to eat. I have to test. I have to test again. I have to stop eating. I have to count carbs, count bites, count units, count to 5 before pulling the needle out. I have to ask for help. I have to explain. I have to be patient. I have no more strength today.
I have learned how to carry on when there is nothing left. So, I will tell you it hurts only sometimes and we can close that door and move along, isolated. But, if you want to stay, if you don’t mind holding something heavy, ask, “How does it feel?”
Hurt that doesn’t feel futile fuels my future. Sometimes we do what is painful in order to survive.
About the art:
After reading Jackie's story, I looked to my book of stones and did some searching on stones with relatable healing properties. Jackie also indicated that she wanted burgundy or blood red incorporated, as those colors represent to her both pain and vitality.
I found Tiger Iron, which not only had some of these colors, but also had significant healing capabilities that reflected some of the issues Jackie shares in her story. So this painting is of a slab of Tiger Iron - this is a stone of strength, stamina, and courage. Tiger Iron is useful for self-healing, especially from chronic illnesses.
It can instill vibrational harmony in the kidneys, lungs, intestines and pancreas. It aids in strengthening the blood and muscles, and reinforces patterns of health, personal power, focused will, mental clarity and groundedness. I then included a quote by Gerda Weissmann Klein which I felt powerfully summed up the essence of Jackie's story.
I hope this piece will bring Jackie continued strength, vitality, and courage in the midst of pain.