Tag Archives: pain

Night-time Brain Storm [a poem]

Another set back;
Another shake up;
Another break down… What happened?

The answer lies in the prepositional verbs: ‘Back – Up – Down’
Not steady but hurled around;
On life’s rollercoaster.

My anchors were not firm,
Under waves of emotion they squirmed.
I try to breathe, return from mind to body as I’d learned.
Let the ripples be superficial;
Ground myself, stay steady, don’t cripple;
Try to be solid like the Zen stone;
Impermeable to weather: never roam.
But no:
There’s nowhere to rest, no sense of home.

Now the waves grow taller, the winds turn to gusts;
And my anchor shifts, weakened by rust.
My roots, thin and feeble, had not yet entrenched themselves into the earthy nutritious networks;
Not yet reached that rich layer of resilience and resources.

So the battle’s lost.

All perspective’s gone, whisked into whirlpools of worry;
All rational replaced by recklessly rampaging self-criticism,
And threatening high tides of cynicism.

stormy sea

I abandon my mind to the high seas of self-pity;
To be tossed into turmoil, tugged at by illusions of alone-ness and capsized by catastrophic untruths of my inability.


Negativity’s had its fill.
And in the morning’s balmy light,
The calm after the storm comes into sight.
With relief, it dawns that the set-back-shake-up-break-down,
Is nothing more than a thorny crown;
Now gently detaching from me,
As day unravels, a blurry night-time memory,
Persisting only in the stiff corners of my body.

Now leaving the bedroom fog;
Leaving the set back to reset;
Leaving the shake up to up-rise,
Boarding the lifeboat of morning with new eyes.

Now making a cup of tea,
Maybe step outside and try to breathe:
Up, down and back in normality.


But I’m too young to have a slipped disc? Making sense and being content.

A cluster of lanterns was visible from my window, drifting gently upwards in the night sky with no direction. They must have been propelled by the joyful energy of the people below, the will of their eager launch parties, and the magic of Loy Kratong festival itself, for there was  barely any breeze on this stifling tropical night. Raising myself up delicately to look out of the window, I gazed longingly at the beautiful spectacle of orange constellations ascending gradually like lost, sedated fire flies. I was alone and house-bound, trapped by disability on the first-floor of our town house and unable to join my friends out on the streets.

Launching a lantern from my balcony.
Launching a lantern from my balcony.

Loy Kratong was due to be one of the highlights of my time in Thailand; I had planned to travel with friends to enjoy the festival in one of its best manifestations (at Sukothai) and drink in the wonder of a skies and rivers full of light. But then, at age 28, while absorbed in the fascinating complexities of life on the Thai-Burma border and involved in gaining career-advancing experience, I had found myself in great pain resulting from a prolapsed disc (commonly known as a ‘slipped disc’)  in my lower back. The day I realised something was seriously wrong was not long after a trip to Laos to renew a visa, during which a cycle ride down long gravel paths had caused me to experience severe shooting pains and jolting sensations in my back; As I sat in a meeting at the UN refugee agency listening to discussions on displaced populations, I found myself distracted by the feeling of something being displaced in my own body! I had been ignoring the grating sensations in my right lumbar area for a few weeks, caught up in the bigger issue of the 7,000 Karen refugees living in temporary self-built camps along the border whose rice rations would soon be depleted. But now, even trying to walk or sit felt completely… wrong. Perhaps that’s not a helpful description. But it wasn’t just painful, but simply wrong, out of place, disjointed.

A 'krathong' (made from banana leaves and coconut) soon to be lit and floated on a body of water.
A ‘krathong’ (made from banana leaves and coconut) soon to be lit and floated on a body of water.

I did not receive the best advice from the doctors in that small, frontier town. Instead of keeping mobile, which is the current mantra for back pain sufferers, I was told to take bed rest for 4 – 6 weeks and remain as straight as a plank. This advice generated a cautiousness  in my movement, frightened of making a wrong move which might impede healing. But amidst the obvious frustrations of being house-bound for a whole month, and the uncomfortable dependency on friends and my boyfriend of the time to bring me food and water each day, a niggling question kept arising: WHY and HOW did this happen?


 – I am only 28! Isn’t it only older people who get degenerative discs?           – Slipped discs are also caused by accidents, but I’ve never had one! A bumpy cycle ride isn’t brutal enough in impact.                                               – What is wrong with my skeleton? My bones must be deficient in something?                                                  – I must have had horrendous posture all my life? (unlikely, I had an athletic, active youth).

Continue reading But I’m too young to have a slipped disc? Making sense and being content.