These words of Moriarty have been echoing in head for the last few days.
I have been telling my patients for a while now that fear of pain is far worse than pain itself. I would say that based on some personal experience but a lot more based on what I was told by my amazing teachers over the years.
I also like to experience pain myself, not because I am a masochist but because it helps me relate better to my patients. I have had my share of pains (neck, knee, upper and lower back pains besides all the sports related injuries), so it helps me when my patients come with similar problems. I connect with them at a different level.
Recently I experienced something that till now I wasn't able to understand well enough.
Have you ever been scared of getting up in the morning? It wasn't the case till 10 days back but now I am.
It was pitch dark around me. I couldn't figure where I was, how did I get there or what was I doing wherever I was. I didn't know if I was dreaming or if it was real. I could feel water around me. And I was also sweating profusely. I soon realised that I was flat on the ground. I didn't bother rushing to get up because staying flat on the ground felt the right thing to keep doing. It actually felt good. But I still couldn't understand what was going on.
Once I could muster enough courage, I got up on my knees. I still couldn't see a thing. On moving my hands around, I realised that there were walls all around me. It confused me further as that made that room or cubicle to be very small. I just couldn't understand if I was dreaming or not. If I wasn't dreaming, where the hell was I?
I managed to get up on my feet. I could barely stay up as the floor seemed to be unstable and moving. I moved my hands around me again. All this while there was water flowing next to me. My hands moved more in the direction of that water flowing down. My hands hit something resembling a tap. Since I wasn't sure I was dreaming or not, I had mentally prepared myself for some surprises. As soon as I moved the tap, the water flow became lesser. That helped me come closer to a conclusion that I wasn't dreaming. But then why was there no light?
On moving my hands a little bit more, I stumbled upon a switch. And then there was light.
I found myself standing in my kids' bathroom without having any clue how I got there. My clothes were wet on my right side. It wasn't the room that was moving, it was me who was not steady on my feet.
I stumbled my way to my bedroom. It then dawned on me what had possibly transpired. I had been having cold and fever for a few days. As un-sexy as cold sounds, it had knocked me out for a six as I had been feeling very weak for last couple of days. I had gone to the kids' loo just past midnight. The last thing I remembered was that I felt dizzy. In my 'downfall', I had somehow managed to put off the lights and somehow, put on the tap.
When I got to my bed and tried to lie down, I realised my neck, upper back and lower back hurt bad enough to not let my lie down flat on my back. Next morning I also realised that my forehead and knees had also banged against something during my epic 'downfall' last night. Pain in all these body parts has only become worse over the last few days. But its not these pains that I feared.
Even though I now know that I was in the bathroom when I fell but I am still scared to get off the bed in the night or first thing in the morning. It's the fear of again falling into the abyss, into the void. Being suspended in the unknown, for what seemed like eternity, makes me sweat just thinking about it.
It indeed was a very surreal experience. I had come face to face with the fear of the unknown. Probably my deepest fear ever. Since that day, I have been scared to get up in the morning. All this while I have been seeing patients on a regular basis. This experience has helped me to become a lot less judgemental about my patients. I don't assume anything. I ask them. I want to understand them from their point of view. Not mine.
All the experts out there are interested in fixing problems even before understanding the journey while the fall is on. They only focus on the landing. These enlightened ones, whether they be doctors, teachers, politicians, judges, or whoever else dealing with people directly , pick up the pen or make up their minds even before the problem has been uttered because they assume they understand and know it all.
The above spoiler of a line from Moriarty to Sherlock is a lot deeper than meets the eye (or ears) first time around.
'What-if' is ingrained in our heads by the society from the moment we enter this world. When a child is learning to walk and tumbles down a million times, he or she only cries when a 'well meaning' adult who rushes to prevent the fall. The 'what-if' never enters the child's mind. It is a rule of nature that you need to fall before you learn how to walk.
When this same child learns to ski or skate at a young age, they don't fear the fall as much and can learn these skills a lot more easily. But when an adult tries to learn the same at a later age, they stiffen up their bodies so much that when the do eventually fall they almost always break their bones and never again attempt to ski or skate. That's because the adult has been trained all these years about the fear of fall which the young child doesn't have.
The trick is to let go. Something that I preach to all my clients but I am starting to practice it yet again at a very different level. We all know that we will all die, but somewhere deep inside we all believe that it'll never happen us, that we are super special and we will live for eternity. As soon as we embrace death, it becomes a lot easier to let go. Let go of any feelings whatsoever. We start to enjoy the fall. No, it is not easy at all. I can definitely vouch for that one as I am still on my journey of getting comfortable with the fall.
This fear of unknown is probably surfacing right now because of something that has probably has been disturbing me subconsciously for last few weeks. Something really personal.
We are a closely knit joint family, a rarity in today's world. In last few months I have seen a few friends and family die. It hit me each time a bit more than thought it would because I am very comfortable with death. Or that's what I thought till my eldest sister (first cousin) passed away a couple of weeks back. My nephew had called me in the room to confirm if she was passed away to the whatever the next thing is, if there is any such thing. I thought I was ready for it. I had gone in. Looked at a frail ghostly body that I couldn't recognise even though I knew it was my sister. I felt her carotid artery and told my nephew that she was still there but no sure for how long.
I told my brother-in-law that as much as you know about the inevitable, you simply can't be ready enough for it. He just nodded. In less than 5 minutes high-pitched shrieking and wailing erupted from inside the room in which my sister lay. She had moved on.
Alan Watts summed it up real well.
We need to fight our inner demons on our own. Even our best meaning friends will not be to understand us and help us. To be honest, we need to become our own best friends. Else, the mind is going to play havoc with you like never before.
Watch this video. It might make some sense to you. In any case, I wasn't trying to answer any questions. I was only posing questions that I don't have answers to.