On a scale of 1-10 where is the pain now? “9” I say , totally straight faced and cool. “Obviously, that cannot be true!”
My question is why not? Why can’t I be at level 9 in my pain scale and not be rolling over the floor crying and screaming? How do I do this? I’ve had years of practice.
Firstly, I think that women are socialized to bear pain. We menstruate and are taught that pain is normal, any amount of pain is normal, so just bear it…………and amazingly we do!
Even when we can barely walk and can’t keep food down and are hardly functioning………we do.
So, we go along with no idea of what is too much pain………because there apparently is no such thing.
Then, we have children, we give birth to them. They say that childbirth / labour pains are the epitome of pain……………….. and yet we do it with such grace over and over again. That means that we can handle anything, any type of pain.
The thing about it is that my pain scale and your pain scale are completely different, There is no way of knowing what my 10 is vs your 10. My 10 may be your 15 for all we know.
The process and scale are completely subjective. So when the doctor asks ” 1-10″ he just has to believe that what I say is true.
Us women are great actors, we play many roles on a daily basis and expertly so.
I am mummy and that means that I have little human beings who need me to do things for them, to spend time with them and to take care of them. I definitely cannot do that effectively if I am doubled over in pain. So, I put on a smile and do what I have to . I may lean on a wall/ door every now and again or sit when I would normally stand or move slower…………but I still do what needs to be done.
Since I am concerned about my children’s emotional health I am cautious with how often I let them see me cry. I shield them as much as possible. After all I am the woman who walked around in labour and only stopped to brace when the contractions were close. If I can do that I can surely hide my pain from my children.
I am a wife, friend, Counsellor, Psychologist and so many other things. Each of these roles demands something different of me. Shakespeare thought all the world was a stage and we are all just actors. How true that is.
The other thing I have realized is that women keep moving the threshold of our pain higher and higher. It is an exercise in persistence but one that is familiar to us all. We teach ourselves how to endure ever increasing levels of pain and just smile through it. We are so accustomed to pushing past the pain that it becomes second nature. So level 10 this year may be lower than level 10 next year for the same individual.
Reality is that asking me “1-10” is useless unless you are my regular Physician who manages my acute pain episodes on a regular. That is the only way that a doctor can truly understand when I say “9” and am walking into his office on my own. It would also help if he’s also seen what 10 looks like 😉 Then he is more likely to regard my rating as true.
I remember years ago taking a prescription for Pethidine to the Pharmacy and the Pharmacist questioning its accuracy because to her I looked fine.
Side bar: I find men are more quick to believe me than women 😦 Subjective much???? The profession requires objectivity though:(
The same thing happened when I first had my present morphine prescription; that was until I happened to be in the Pharmacy in the middle of the contraction like pains and was stumbling; good thing hubby was there to hold me up. They haven’t questioned the prescription since……..
So, it is safe to say that the scales as they exist need to be revised. Since pain in itself is a subjective experience and us women have taught ourselves to bear it; any external indicators must be taken with caution. The extent of my physical distress or lack thereof in NOT an accurate indicator of my pain levels.
The only true indicator is what I tell you!
Doctors and researchers need to look again at how they assess pain levels in women. Our socialization and practices have equipped us to endure untold levels of pain without any outward indicators.
Its about time doctors start listening to women!
Its about time doctors sought to understand women!
Its about time doctors start believing women!
Our pain is more real than you can ever know………………