BY JAY VERA SUMMER
I. Head Pain
I lie in bed, turn the blow dryer on "high," and point it at my forehead. I’m not sure how much time passes, but the air begins to smell like burning. I can hardly feel warmth through the pain repeatedly cracking across my face in throbs. I push the blow dryer directly against the skin of my forehead and then feel the heat of its metal grate. That heat turns to a wavy cold, similar to the strange sensation of chills at the brink of heat exhaustion. It works; I no longer feel throbbing. Every few seconds when I pull the dryer away, the throbbing returns. I have to pull it away, though. That wouldn’t be an easy-to-explain scar.
II. Chest Pain
I lie in bed and try to breathe slowly, as slowly as I can. About half-way through each breath, when my lungs are the fullest, a sharp pain shoots across my chest like lightning. I imagine this is what it feels like to be stabbed. I keep thinking if I breathe more slowly, the pain will go away. If I focus on the breath, I’ll transcend it, or something. I meditate on my breathing and obtain a relaxed mental state. An hour passes and my chest pain still doesn’t subside. Although fewer breaths means fewer lightning strikes, their severity remains the same. I think about how people usually only preach mind over matter when they don’t understand how to explain what’s going on with the matter.
III. Emotional Pain
One pain is not a symptom of fibromyalgia, but the result of living in a society that does not understand it. I lie in bed, my joints hurting in a new way, not wanting to go to the doctor again just to hear they can’t find anything wrong. What if something really is wrong, though? Something different? What if I die because I didn’t want to wake up a friend or family member who might secretly believe my pain is all in my mind? Because I would rather maintain my dignity than feel shamed in front of another condescending physician? I make my decision: I would rather die than be treated like a hypochondriac, or a liar, or a lonely woman going to extremes to receive any sort of attention. I try not to cry. Crying makes me breathe faster, and breathing faster makes the physical pain stronger, and in more places. Tears slide down my cheek as I come upon a major realization:
As long as I am in this body, I am fully, irreversibly alone.
Jay Vera Summer is a Chicagoan living in Florida. She writes fiction and creative nonfiction, and co-founded weirderary, an online literary magazine, and First Draft, a monthly live literary event in Tampa. Her writing has been published in marieclaire.com, Proximity, LimeHawk, theEEEL, and Chicago Literati.