The Visitor

Somehow the pain slowly becomes a part of your dream. The mind is s wondrous thing, able to construct a narrative from just about anything, combining sensory input along with half-remembered events to weave a tapestry of impressions, some of which reveal hidden details about the lives we lead. The actors, once just travelling companions, now take on a sinister air, especially one. Wasn’t he once your friend? Steadily, though, the pain edges all else aside and your eyes open to the darkened room. It’s 3 AM and with a sigh you acknowledge the temporary presence of that occasional visitor.

Always the same pattern—it builds to a maximum somewhere on a line between the middle of your shoulder blades and the bottom of the sternum, radiating outward, hard to pinpoint for sure. Not throbbing, just constant. No relief, not over-the-counter meds, not movement. Opioids would do it but, on balance, they’re not worth it. Sure they’ll drive the visitor out but they’ll leave the door open for something even worse to sneak in. Best to wait as it will go when it’s ready.

Pace the floor, go to the couch, pace again, lie in bed, pace some more and finally surrender to the ever-present nausea. Each cycle lasts for 20 minutes or so and you know there’ll be many. Finally, exhausted you sink back into the couch, “Have to try and settle.” Hands by your sides with closed eyes you try and find the epicenter; make it yours. Focus on it and say, “it’s not that bad. It will pass.” Try to think about something else.

That buys a few more hours. A shower, hot as you can stand, a temporary relief. As you dry off you become aware of it again, just as strong but somehow now as if you are facing it anew, rested from the battle. It’s daylight now so you try to read. A half-page at a time is how it goes. It grows with each word but midway down each page you look up and stare at the wall as if to release it. Do it again.

Fifty or so pages in you realize you’re no longer looking up anymore. Somewhere during the last chapter the visitor quietly left. You put the book down, settle back, close your eyes and just breathe softly feeling your chest rise and fall.

A new day, one filled with renewed hope, awaits.


About Maurice A. Barry

Coordinator: Teaching and Learning Commons, Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Parent & Husband. eLearning consultant/coordinator. Program Development Specialist - eLearning (Department of Education; Retired). Writer: over 40 Math/Physics texts/webs. Developer & Manager of web content. Geek. Not into awards but loves comments.
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23 Responses to The Visitor

  1. Jane Fritz says:

    Maurice, this sounds like classic gall bladder. After suffering through that – always at night – for a few years, a colleague forced me to go to the doc. Had it taken out and never looked back. We should be born without those things. Your writing about pain beautifully, but it would be better to remain ignorant of the feeling!

    • You are truly insightful. Nailed it 🙂
      I am “in the system” and patiently letting medical science do its bit. Not rocking the boat at any level–dietary, or system-wise. Hoping for exactly that result, along with the laproscopic procedure.

      • Jane Fritz says:

        Yes, I had the laparoscopic procedure, which resulted in a really easy recovery (happily the same week as the winter Olympics at that time). What was explained to me after the fact was that these attacks (think you’re having a heart attack but it hurts too much to get up in the dark to go to the hospital) are always in the night is because we eat more in the evening and the pain is caused by the big-scale digestion process pushing the “stuff” through your system and then coming up against gall stones blocking its way through the alimentary system. Try eating more small meals throughout the day and no big meals. That usually helps mitigate that horrible pain. Getting rid of the gall bladder and those big bad gall stones is the best relief, for sure. I hope it’s all over soon!

  2. Dam … Maurice … what do you mean you’re ‘in the system.’ Sounds like you should be in the emergency room. I’m no expert but trying to tough out the sort of pain you describe can’t be good. Life without a gall bladder is every bit as good as one with it … even better. Please do whatever is necessary (yes … even rock the boat for goodness sake) to see to it that you never have to experience one of the episodes again. D

    • Lol… I don’t expect to be in this muddle for long. I’ll certainly take your and June’s advice. Heart and aorta already ruled out. Gall bladder ultrasound will probably nail the diagnosis. That’s what I’m waiting on. In the meantime no big meals, no fried food and no beer. Could be worse 🙂

      • Yes, it could be, for sure. Glad to hear that you’re waiting on results of a scan … seems to me that that sort of diagnosis (+ or -) should have been instantaneous though. Let’s hope it comes back positive and you can have the thing out once and for all. My appendix was done laparoscopically and it was a breeze.

  3. jennypellett says:

    Sounds uncomfortable, Maurice – but written about beautifully for something so horrible. Hope the solution presents itself for you soon.

  4. Mary says:

    Sounds horribly painful. I agree with pairadox to push for quicker testing if possible. You should not have to go through such ongoing pain . sounds as bad or worse than labour pains. Bar the door and don’t invite that visitor back .ever.take care

    • Well I certainly can’t comment on how it compares to labour but suspect it’s on a lower scale somehow. At any rate I don’t expect to ever know for sure. 🙂 In the meantime I’ll wait my turn…

  5. Sounds nasty. Especially the no beer part. Do hope it is sorted for you asap, and that your intervening wait isn’t filled with such painful episodes. Fingers crossed.

  6. Tiny says:

    Not a visitor you want to entertain for too long. Happy you are in the “system” already. Beautifully narrated.

  7. elkement says:

    First, I am happy that the other commenters solved the puzzle – so I know it is not too alarming. I hope you get rid of that nasty little green alien soon.
    Second: Very well written – subtle suspense! Please write a book 🙂

  8. Mjollnir says:

    I thought it was just a case of SOFS when I first read this and I did indeed sympathise being a sufferer myself. But what can one do when struck by Severe Old Fart Syndrome? 😀

  9. TamrahJo says:

    I get gall bladder problems off and on – – used to keep in check with acupuncture, herbs, but my recent discovery of near infrared therapy seems to have calmed this issue as well – worth a try – start with 5 minutes and build up gradually – done that way, no promise it will help, but sure to do no harm – – here’s the link of my experience which also includes a link to the original source –

    If I’m starting to have early symptoms of gall bladder issues, I make sure to lie on my left side and let the lamps shine extra time on my left side, placing my arm over my head, so the lamps can heat the whole of my torso – – so far, early symptoms abate and have not had to endure a full attack – hoping you find relief soon!

    • Thank you for that! I have since been positively diagnosed with gallstones and am waiting for follow-up with a specialist. In the meantime a careful avoidance of fatty foods, especially in the evening, has resulted in no further incidents 🙂

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