(Because this post is too long, I am going to split it into 2 parts, one now and one in a few days. I don’t want anyone out there reading to get bored, you know! If you want to be sure to read the second part, please click on “E-mail Subscription” on the side of this post and put in your e-mail. Then, the 2nd part will be delivered right to your front door, like a newspaper!)
I happen to be blessed (?) with two sons who do not feel pain normally. It took me a while to figure this out. I knew when I took them to the playground when they were three, four and five years old, they would run around, fall, trip and bang into things as much as the other kiddos did, but they never came up to me crying, like the others did to their moms. I actually thought how lucky I was that they weren’t “whiney” like the other little ones, whom I considered to be “wimpy”. As the boys have aged and accidents have happened, I have learned that the fact that they never came crying to me over little hurts and bruises was a sign that they did not FEEL the little hurts and bruises!
Steven, who was born addicted to heroin and cocaine, has always had “wiring” that is abnormal. He has had a lot of diagnosis; ADHD, OCD, ODD, BPD, autism, Asperger’s, and sensory integration deficit, but to me it all boils down to the fact that his nervous system/brain developed in the embryonic fog of a drug addicted, alcoholic birth mother. Like many children diagnosed with autism, he has severe sensory integration deficit. When he was younger, he would throw himself on the floor, cry and bang his head if there were a tag on his shirt or if the seam in his sock were crooked. Light touch actually HURT him. I remember taking him in the grocery store with him sitting in the baby seat when he was about 2 years old. If I absent-mindedly gently rubbed his little arm, he would scream and yell “STOP HURTING ME!” (to which I would slink away hoping no one in the store heard or noticed…)
Steven cannot tolerate being touched gently, but he loves deep, hard hugs, BEAR hugs. These feel good to him. This “wiring problem” (as I affectionately call it,) impairs his ability to realize if he is hurt. The best example of this was one summer day when we were cleaning out the freezer. It was one of those old fashioned freezers where frost had built up all around the inside. After I scraped it out, we took the slush outside and thought it would be fun to make snowballs out of it. There we stood in the front lawn, throwing snowballs at each other in the 80 degree heat! Steven got hit in the eye with one, but quickly brushed it aside and threw another one back. We had great fun, playing until the “snow” had melted.
The next morning, Steven woke up and his eye was bright red and swollen. He did not complain of any pain, but I still I quickly called an eye doctor whisked him off for an exam. While at the counter registering, the receptionist asked me how it happened. I told her he got hit in they eye with a snowball. She stared at me for a long time, so I gave her the cleaning out the fridge story. Again in the examining room, the assistant asked me how it happened. Snowball again. She wrote it in his chart. “Hit in eye with snowball.” It was August, and it was pretty funny. When the doctor examined his eye, he was incredulous that Steven was not shrieking in pain. It seems that a piece of ice had scratched off pieces of his cornea! It is supposedly very painful, but did not faze Steven in the least. He was sent home with cream to put in his eye every several hours and he healed up fine.
Angel, on the other hand, does not feel pain because he has Dissociative Identity Disorder. In layman’s terms, this disorder developed because he was so badly abused as an infant and toddler that in order to protect himself, his brain split off into “parts”, with one “part” absorbing the pain of the abuse to keep the other “parts” safe. This was a coping mechanism he developed in order to survive. (Of course, when he was younger, we were unaware of this diagnosis.) One day, when he was about four years old, I went to pick him up at pre-school. The teacher told me he had been pushed off the top of the jungle gym by another child and that he may have hurt his hand because he was holding it a little funny. He was not crying and did not complain of any pain, but I decided to zip him over to the emergency room anyway to have it checked out. He smiled at the doctor who examined him, and seemed to enjoy the attention. When the doctor examined his hand, it was obvious that the problem was not his hand, it was his entire shoulder and arm. They did an xray, and we learned he had broken his shoulder! Again, the doctor questioned how he could possibly not be screaming in paid, and especially how he could have managed to spend the day in preschool! At the time, I did not know how it was possible either!
These are just 2 instances where Steven and Angel were hurt and did not acknowledge the pain, but I was able to witness this phenomena several more times, episodes which I will share with you in Pain is All Relative, Part 2!