It’s been way more than a mile, I’m not gonna lie.

Seven weeks ago I suffered the most severe back strain of my life.

Five weeks ago, on top of the pain from the back strain, I began to feel shooting pains down my left leg.

Four weeks ago, I started popping pain killers like they were going out of style.

Today, I still am.

Sadly, I’m not even abusing them. Much. Taking them just as prescribed leaves me high, woozy, and slightly out of touch with reality for hours on end each day. And they’re not even narcotics.

I can’t function without them though, because, as an MRI confirmed a week and a half ago, I have a herniated disc at the L4-L5 vertebrae in my spine.

This pain. It never truly stops. It starts in my back, hangs out at my butt for a while when it’s in a good mood, and then, just when I least expect it, it shoots down the back of my thigh, grabs onto my calf like a drowning man to a life raft, and then creeps into my toes. It is painful. It is  creepy. Honestly, it’s downright scary.

A good day for me is when I can roll out of bed and not choke back a scream. When I can take a shower and not feel, by the end of it, like I need drugs to get me through the day.

A good day is when I can talk about something other than how much pain I’m in. Because seriously. I’m sick to death of it.

I’m sick of feeling it while I’m sitting here typing. I’m sick of it taking double the time to get anywhere because I’m gimping around. I’m sick of the unflattering back brace that I bought a week ago. It doesn’t look good. I’m sick of wearing sneakers with skirts because I can’t handle sandals.

I’m sick of not working out. I’m sick of not riding my bike. I’m sick of not enjoying life. And I’m damned sick of not being able to go on any new adventures, meet fun, new, interesting people, or have new experiences. That’s what life should be all about. Learning, experiencing, savoring, enjoying, and growing. Not pain, right?

However, to be positive, I’ve had to remind myself of a few lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Because life, after all, is all about learning. Learning and growing, growing and learning. Becoming a better person.

I’m not religious. I question the idea of “God,” and I have no beliefs in ghosts or any other crap like it. And don’t even talk to me about “spirituality”. I hate that shit. It’s been preached to me so much I refuse to think about it at all. No. Just. No.

But, I do, fundamentally, believe that life is a learning experience. For what purpose? Well, my purpose in life is to become the best person I can be.

With that in mind, I’ve considered the lessons I’m learning on this latest life adventure.

What has pain taught me?

A lot more than you might have thought.

It has taught me that health, which I loved before, can be too easily snatched away. It taught me, once more, that everything you have in life you must appreciate. It can be snatched away in the blink of an eye and gone forever.

It has taught me sympathy. I lacked this before. I used to sit and read medical records day in and day when I was an Underwriter. I never understood why so many people with back pain were on so many drugs. Tons of painkillers, narcotics, anti depressants.  I thought they were either crazy or they were addicts. Mostly, I thought they were addicts.

I never understood. I never had sympathy. I never empathized. It was “Decline, decline, decline.”

Well let me tell you something. I will never again.

I will NEVER again think that way about someone with back pain. Dealing with major depression because of chronic pain that persists for years on end? I get it now. I truly do.

It has taught me that help will sometimes come from the unlikeliest sources.  That sympathy can come from the unlikeliest people. A simple smile on the metro. An offer of a seat from a stranger. Small kindnesses make a world of difference. Even from strangers. Even better from friends.

Valuable lessons all of them. Karma coming back to bitch slap me right in the face.

In the coming days it will teach me more. As I start dealing with physical therapy in a few weeks and slowly begin the process of retraining my body, I’m sure there will be a few lessons to learn along the way there too. No question. Lessons in persistence, determination, strength and will.

Character building life events. Why do they have to suck so damned much?

Life is a crazy adventure but the good parts are meaningless without the bad. I hate that it’s true, but it is. There is no avoiding it.

So I’ ll leave you with this poem that I ran across years ago and have always loved about sorrow.  Sorrow is nothing but another kind of pain after all, and something that we all learn from.

Before I do, tell me. I’m curious. What has pain taught you?

“I walked a mile with Pleasure;
She chatted all the way;
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.

I walked a mile with Sorrow;
And ne’er a word said she;
But, oh! The things I learned from her,
When Sorrow walked with me.”

 Robert Browning Hamilton