Whitley's Journal

Joy and Pain

I have just come past the most fearsome experience of pain I have ever known, and one that counts among the most profound agonies a human being can experience. I endured this agony for three weeks, until finally I got my surgery. The pain is still there, but it is tolerable and manageable, and will fade over time.

What happened was that the lumbar disk on the right side of my body between vertebrae L2 and L3 ruptured, jamming itself directly into the most sensitive part of the nerve that lies beside it. At first, I waited it out. No good. Then I tried an epidural of cortisone--after making sure that the surgery center I went to did not have any injectables from the compounding pharmacy that distributed tainted material. No relief at all. I have used chiropractors for years with success, but this hideous fire that would not be quenched was beyond chiropractic. I could not in any way endure a manipulation.

I was prescribed pain medicine, and I took it but it was not only useless, it, along with the continuous agony, caused me to fail to eat and drink enough, and I ended up on Monday in the emergency room with dangerously low sodium. I was admitted and rehydrated overnight, then released on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, I saw an orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Neel Anand, who is a brilliant and very skilled man. For him, my surgery was relatively minor in scope, but he knew how much pain the injury was causing me and cleared the decks for me early Friday morning.

Now it is Sunday, and the nerve pain in my leg has dropped to the level of a severe headache. This morning, it was at the level of a migraine. Tomorrow, I will start acupuncture. Right now I am on one of the few anti-inflammatories that I can tolerate.

I have not been in a hospital in 40 years, not since I had a burst appendix in 1972. I have not had a cold or the flu or more than a minor backache in years. When I have an annual physical, I come out of it with flying colors. My last cardiac stress test showed that I had the heart of a 30 year old.

So I certainly was not expecting this. After I wrote my last journal, I found myself living through some very, very dark nights. The pain was literally beyond belief. I decided that I could not keep pushing it away. I had to do something else. I made an appointment with an acupuncturist but could not keep it because I could not get to his office. So what I did instead was to open myself to my pain, and admit it into my being and accept it for itself.

This was very difficult, because it felt like I was making it in some way a permanent part of my body. As I said in my last journal entry, I was leaving my body a lot. I was literally trying to escape via out-of-body travel. Two of the journeys were completely incredible, but I will get to them in my next entry.

Lying there flat on my back, staring at the ceiling, almost completely beyond thought, literally blanked by the pain, I took my attention to my body, and I embraced myself and my pain, and gave thanks to my body for this life I have been given. The pain did not get less. Instead, I came into touch with the deepest, most profound joy I have ever known. It lives in me in my depths, far deeper than any pain can go. I brought the joy up from the well of my being and let it mingle with my pain. What had been simple agony became a form of beauty--an opportunity that I could either embrace or reject.

I chose to embrace it, and I am glad now for the chance I had to taste of hell and find myself beyond its worst depths, calm, confident and so deeply happy. It was in this way that I rode the night horse of my torment, sensing signals of love even in the depths of great agony.

As I sit here now, I find myself feeling gratitude for all of you, just as I did when Anne was in such peril in 2004.

I am soon to leave this experience behind, but the depths it opened in me I will never leave behind. So the pain has given me a great gift: contact with a level of being that I did not even know existed, but which I think flows in all of us, a deep river of creative joy that has no beginning and no end, that is each of us and all of us, the river of being.

God bless.



Yes, there is life after discectomy. I had the same experience 12 years ago....pain that I did not know a human could endure, pain that causes mortal fear. Before that time I could not comprehend why someone would contract the services of a Dr. Kevorkian; but then, I knew. My life would have been effectively over without that surgery, as I couldn't even roll over in bed without screaming.

When I woke up from surgery the pain was entirely gone. I vowed that I would never take my renewed ambulatory status for granted, and I walk and hike a lot now, as I used to. God bless the neurosurgeon.

Glad it's Gone. Good approach, a little conventional medicine & a little alt medicine...
a good mix. Feel Better Sooner

Welcome back, Whitley. Glad you are on the mend.

Thrilled to hear it! Wishes for your continued recovery...

Whitley, I can relate to the "places" you went while you were in such extreme pain... even though it's a bit different and mine did not last as long.

In 1982 I was in hard labor with my youngest son for 20 hours (my physician was a Lamaze advocate) with NO medication. The pain was so great, I actually experienced something similar.

The breathing exercises really didn't work well for me, so I somehow managed to find my way to different "places" but I remember them more in terms of color and comfort than anything else. I really believe that saved me - that and the Caesarean section my surgeon performed after my sweet Southern-born mother verbally savaged my doctor. :-)

My husband and I wish you a speedy recovery. Remember, you will have good days and bad days. On those bad days, just look forward to the good ones you know will be coming. Soon the bad days will be a distant memory.

This is a great example of how sometimes there's no substitute for modern medicine. As flawed as it obviously can be, it can often make all the difference in life.

BTW, did they try Dilaudid for the pain? When my Dad was in excruciating agony from a twisted bowel, and significant doses of morphine didn't even touch the pain, the only thing that gave him relief was Dilaudid. I'll never forget that.

Very glad to hear you're on the mend, Whitley Strieber. I suspect there are a lot more things to participate in and witness that you came here to do, and require relatively good health. I'm struck though that apparently your visitors didn't show up under the circumstances, and kind of wondering how you feel about that. Perhaps that material will be covered in the next journal entry you mentioned.

Get well soon!

There are few instances of common pain more difficult to live with than the generated by rupured,buldging,compressed or otherwise traumatized discular pain. Whitley,you have my prayers and best wishes for a speedy resolution in this. I hope that your back surgery is successful and is a permanent solution.Pain brings out the best and the worst in our character.It tests the mind and soul. But,to be perfectly candid......overall,it bites the big one. Best Wishes To You & Annie

There are few instances of common pain more difficult to live with than the generated by rupured,buldging,compressed or otherwise traumatized discular pain. Whitley,you have my prayers and best wishes for a speedy resolution in this. I hope that your back surgery is successful and is a permanent solution.Pain brings out the best and the worst in our character.It tests the mind and soul. But,to be perfectly candid......overall,it bites the big one. Best Wishes To You & Annie

SO happy to have you back, Whitley!

Good Lord, what a mountain to climb.

Now, at the summit, composed interregnum, to take stock, breath and witness the blazing vista of perspective.

Phew...

Whitley and Anne,
There is resonance in all who respond here and wrote of their deep caring for loved friends, and calm joy that you are healing.

The love expressed by so many speaks volumes and reveals the reality in which we recognize how blessed we all are - to know you both (even though we haven't met.)

Your sharing with us, is an honor and a privilege.

May you continue to heal and grow strong.

Step gently and surefooted into this "newness" of life and love given and received.

Thank you.
Mentors are important!

Love and peace, always.

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