When a screenwriter takes her chronic pain to the end of the world

“It’s just a herniated disc (or two). You shouldn’t suffer so much. Every doctor, physiotherapist, chiropractor, and osteopath I’ve met over the past few months has said the same thing. They also add that if we were to perform a random MRI even on asymptomatic adults walking down the street, all six out of 10 people would show some form of disc damage – a bulge, extrusion or degeneration. Therefore, my condition is not abnormal. And yet, I wake up most mornings with a body so stiff and sore that getting out of bed seems like the hardest part of life. Legs twitch even as I try to stay still, staring out the window, ruminating on the pain I feel.

Pain, they say, is a signal in your nervous system of something that may have gone wrong in your body. I lie in bed with my pain, trying to figure out exactly what is wrong with me – both physically and emotionally – and how exactly to describe it, what the doctor will ask me on my next visit. “Does it sting, burn or sting? I won’t have an exact answer to that, because all I know is that it’s an unpleasant sensation, a pain sometimes dull, sometimes sharp, which has become constant, synonymous with my being.