April 1: My Time Capsule

This month I am taking part in the Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge from WEGO Health and will be writing every day (or nearly every day) about my health focus. Today the subject is time capsules, and the question is, what would I include in a time capsule that would be opened 100 years into the future?

In 2112 I hope that no one will live with pain the way we do now. I hope that there will be safe and effective treatments without side-effects. I hope the relentless stabbing pains I feel right now, as I type, will be easily soothed away in our descendants. But I want the people of the future to know what pain was like for us. I want them to understand the lives we lead now. Above all, I want them to know that chronic pain is not merely a sensation. It is something that touches every part and every moment of existence. For many of us pain also informs our perspective on the future. Chronic pain profoundly influenced my major life decisions and choices because it came into my life in my early twenties.

So what could I leave behind to convey my own experience of an invisible chronic condition? Are there any objects that could describe my feelings?

When I think of my life I visualize myself climbing a mountain. From where I stand I see hundreds of other people climbing too, but in reality I know there are billions of us climbing upwards from birth to death. Each of us encounters either flower-filled meadows or barren stone pathways at different times in our lives, and these represent joys and sorrows.

From where I stand on this mountain I see all my friends and family, my colleagues, neighbors, and acquaintances around me. And they too are climbing. I watch them clamber over boulders and hike winding trails. They climb through happiness and sadness and I see the emotions on their faces. When I look at them because they are all moving faster than me.

For the past 9 years of my journey on this mountain there has been a wall of rock interminably in my path, and I cannot see the top of it. Like those around me I still encounter challenges and new experiences — but the wall remains stubbornly constant. It is etched with the doubts and disbelief of those I meet. It is carved with the isolation of otherness. I am afraid of continuing upwards and even more afraid of retreating into the abyss beneath. The pain itself is part of the wall but somehow secondary. It is not the pain but the lack of understanding that scours smooth the stone face and makes the climb so treacherous. My wall has a blank and compassionless expression.

I have been scaling this rock for years and I know my climb has been a tremendous achievement. My struggle has made me stronger and more focused. I was forced to leave behind some personal weaknesses that were too heavy to carry. I have been pushed far past my limitations many times over. I am skilled and courageous.

So again I ask myself, what could I put in this time capsule that could convey these feelings? My answer is climbing gear, a sheer rock wall, and the experiences of simultaneously being afraid and persevering, solitary yet at peace, weary but physically powerful.