In 2013 I broke my right hand in a fall. The bone healed quickly, but my brain did not: I developed chronic pain in areas of my body unrelated to my injury, slid into depression and suffered dissociative experiences during which I felt my consciousness leave my body.
During my ordeal, well-meaning psychiatrists prescribed an ever-evolving cocktail of mood-altering pharmaceuticals to try and stabilize me.
Ultimately, a gentle and patient psychotherapist diagnosed me with PTSD. She stuck with me for two years as I fought to climb out of a terrifying dark hole, finally emerging into the light wiser and mentally stronger than before my injury. And an equally wise MD specializing in the mind/body connection helped me to understand that the brain can both cause physical pain and be a powerful tool in eradicating it.
"Pain" is a day-by-day, chronological record of every pill I took on my two-year pharmacological journey. Created with metal African beads strung in one continuous strand, it is reminiscent of the ancient knotted string quipu the ancient Andean people used to count and mark the passage of time.
Each type of bead represents one type of medication, some of which caused terrible side effects.
While drugs can be unquestionably important in the treatment of mental illness, they can also be hastily over-prescribed and the healing power of the mind given short shrift. This piece evokes the yoke of pain I endured for three years, as well as the beauty that ultimately emerged from my struggle.
(For more on harnessing the power of the mind in healing, I recommend the pioneering work of the late Dr. John Sarno: The Mindbody Prescription: Healing The Body, Healing The Pain.). 2015