Pain. It’s certainly not a contest. Or is it? Apparently, on Facebook at least, it is.

I am currently laying in my bed at home in complete misery. It took two Norcos to stop hurting enough to prop my laptop open and type this. Why the pain pills, though? I could just tell you that I spent the last four days in kidney stone hell, but where’s the competitive spirit in that? Let me narrate a bit for you, so that I can truly be KING OF PAIN (at least for the moment).

Today every muscle in my neck feels sprained. Every muscle in my stomach and my back feel sprained. My shoulder and pec muscles feel sprained. My thighs, and calves, and even my feet muscles feel sprained. I feel like I did seven different full body workouts at the gym yesterday, then got hit by a bus on the way home. But that’s a weird outcome, and hopefully you’re wondering why my muscles would be hurting so much because of a kidney stone. I’ll get to that.

Do you know what else hurts right now? My kidney. And my penis. And my bladder. And the inside of my mouth.

Kidney stones. “They’re as close to giving birth as a man will ever come.” Do you know how many times I’ve heard that since I had my first kidney stone 11 years ago?

I remember that first time. I was at Lake Powell with my family. Within a matter of minutes, I went from rubbing my back feeling like I pulled a muscle, to being on my hands and knees atop the marina asphalt, repeatedly puking because the pain was so intense. My mom rushed me to the lakeside clinic where the doctor immediately knew what was going on, and injected me with morphine. After the first shot, she was the first to say it. “This is as close to the pain of giving birth as you’re ever going to feel.”

Just like that, with one simple statement, pain became a competition. I was literally being held down by three people while my body arched with spasms, screaming uncontrollably, in so much pain that death didn’t seem like a bad alternative at all. Yet she wanted me to compare it to women giving birth and she wanted me to know, in that moment for some reason, that my pain still wasn’t quite as bad.

The first shot didn’t do anything for me. The doctor kind of laughed for some reason. “This must be a bad one,” she said. “Sometimes people need a second shot to get on top of the pain.” And she gave me a second shot. But that did nothing. The pain was in charge. After another 20 minutes or so she put in a third shot, assuring me nobody has ever needed more than that. Except… I did. I felt a general wooziness after that third shot, but the pain was still there. The last thing I remembered was the doctor telling me she could only give me one more shot and if that didn’t work, she would have…” I woke up in my bed at home some six hours away, and I remember nothing that happened in between.

Fast forward. Over the years that followed, I had many kidney stones. Seven more, to be exact. They each were terrible in their own ways, but none of them were as bad as that first time because I recognized the symptoms of them before the true pain hit, and was always able to get to an ER or to jam pain pills down my throat to get ahead of it. I became able to recognize this particular dull ache in my kidney so distinctly that I usually had up to an hour of advanced notice.

But not this time. This time was different. This time was way different.

It was around 11 PM on a Friday night. I was sitting at my living room computer, working on a project (because that is apparently what my Friday nights have become).

There was no dull warning ache. There was no preemptive signal at all. In one split-second, I went from feeling perfectly fine to arched backwards in my chair, grabbing my back, feeling like someone had snuck into my apartment and stabbed me from behind. I know I definitely screamed as if I had been stabbed.

I knew that pain all too well. I knew what it meant. And I was confused by it as much as I was writhing from it. How could it possibly be a kidney stone?

I just knew that it was, and then I made what may have been the worst decision I could have made in that moment. It was a decision that would spiral into a lot more bad decisions to try and fix that first bad decision.

But I’ll have to tell you about it tomorrow. I just hit my limit. I’ve gotta lay down, and suffer on my own for a bit, and let myself ponder what it would be like to ever be in as much pain as a woman giving birth. Or I’ll just watch a few more episodes of Always Sunny. I guarantee I’ll be doing one of the two.


Dan Pearce | The Single Dad Laughing Blog