I have sometimes wondered, over the years, if I would be able to survive torture, if I’d be stoic, or beg for death, or what? Now I know.
Yesterday I had some sort of nuclear medicine test done. According to my doctor, “It’s just a scan, like the CT scans you’ve had before.” I’ve had many of those due to my various health issues, and don’t recall them being terrible or anything. So I innocently and happily showed up at the hospital bright and early and ready to go.
Back in my 20’s I was diagnosed with a degenerative spine issue. Though I’d had some back problems since childhood, other than some exercises suggested by my pediatrician I’d never had – nor required, I guess – treatment. So I wasn’t really surprised to get an official diagnosis, as insurance papers all demand them before they’ll pay out.
In the intervening 40-some years my spine has caused me more and more grief, as degenerative issues tend to do – they degenerate – and has taken my ability to enjoy the simple things in life, such as cooking, playing my keyboard, sleeping, and walking. But life goes on, right? We all have something…
When I was faced with the skinny little table upon which I was instructed to life flat yesterday therefore, I felt my first hint of trepidation. But what the heck, I would take one for the team and lie there as instructed. One of my life maxims is that I can get through anything, as long as I know there’s an end in sight. So I obediently climbed aboard and got into position on my back, a little flat pillow under my knees, and a heavy wide valcro wrap pulled tight around my torso and arms to keep me perfectly still.
Knowing that we – so I’ve read – have some control over our physical responses via mental discipline I got some comfort from that. I went into prayer mode almost immediately (which is my default anytime I’m driving, falling asleep, or whenever my mind isn’t fully occupied with a current task – never miss an opportunity to spend with God!), strapped down like Frankenstein’s monster I suggested to Him that He needn’t have gone that far to get my attention.
After 15 minutes the technician stopped the machine, telling me there was some sort of error on the computer. After moving me to another machine we went through the strapping-down process again though this time I wasn’t quite as enthusiastic as my spine was already starting to burn in protest. About halfway through the first hour is when the spasms started and I realized I totally lacked the type of discipline it would take to get through this with any degree of mental pain control at all! At the end of THAT part of the test I was moved into the big drum part for about 10 minutes, then back out for the camera-moving-around-me part for some still shots: 3 of them at 5 minutes each. Unstrapping me after nearly an hour and a half I needed help sitting up, and without it I likely would have fallen when I tried to stand; thankfully my scwalker was within reach and since I’m so comfortable with its assistance I was able to make my way onto the seat, painfully but still vertically.
Now here’s the best (!) part: I got a 45-minute break, and THEN I HAD TO GO THROUGH THE ENTIRE PROCESS AGAIN! I spent that precious 45 minutes in the most comfortable chair in the central lobby/waiting area, doing stretches and twists and whatever else came to mind to loosen my body for the assault to come. I found a muscle relaxer in my purse and took that, plus some homeopathic nerve pain pills; it was all I had. Definitely I’d have come more prepared had I known what to expect…
Only a few minutes into the second round I was nauseated from the pain. Talking to Jesus helped in some ways but it wasn’t long before all I could think about was the pain and it was at this point I started wondering if this kind of pain was survivable, and when the word torture first entered my mind. And I still had an hour or more to go!
In hindsight, here is what I learned: No, mental discipline cannot overcome pain; such discipline must be learned at practiced and perfected to ninja level to help with anything like what I endured yesterday is my guess. Second, yes, I can survive torture but no, the idea that I can survive anything when there’s an end in sight is of NO help whatsoever in the moment. Lastly, as in all of life’s trials, I have the assurance of Jesus with me but that doesn’t mean I don’t have to go through whatever life in this earthly body brings. (I am more ready today, however, to leave this body behind though!)
After the painful difficulty involved with getting into the car for the ride home I headed straight for my “corner” of the bed where I sit packed in pillows during my worst pain. I ate some chopped raw cauliflower with ranch and bacon bits (delicious!) and fell asleep. I woke up 6 hours later to a delicious steak and some zucchini lovingly prepared by my beloved Petey for supper before falling asleep for another 4 hours. I woke up well after midnight and watched some TV in bed until about the same time I got up yesterday, then fell back to sleep for a few more hours. My mind and body were exhausted.
24 hours later I am still feeling the effects; walking is difficult, I get nauseated again just thinking about it. Movement is more painful than usual. I feel as though I’ve been kicked by a horse, over and over again, across my entire back. The muscles hurt around my ribs from the continuous spasms yesterday. And if I am requested to do that test again, the answer will most definitely be NO!