it’s been nearly three months since my daughter
became unwell started with this painful episode.
it was a snow day, school was cancelled, and she had been out playing with her friends. she gradually started feeling unwell – a tummy bug, i thought – but had no temperature and was not sick. after a day or so, the pain started, then worsened, and hasn’t gone away since.
i feel brow-beaten at times by the repeated assertion that there’s nothing wrong.
yes, it is important to be reassured. yes, the success of any follow-up psychotherapy relies on parental acceptance of the diagnosis. i know that.
at a consultation this week, the clinical psychologist took hold of my daughter’s hand and said, ‘There’s nothing wrong…’
i am sure she meant this in the kindest, most reassuring way.
but it is bewildering. what message does that give my daughter, who is in near continuous pain? how does she square ‘nothing wrong’ with what she feels?
and now i regret not saying, actually, there is something wrong – my daughter is in pain. the pain is disabling. it prevents her from living her life as she wants to.
it would have been more accurate if the clinical psychologist had said we don’t know what’s causing the pain.
i think it is more than an issue of semantics: nothing wrong speaks of certainty; we don’t know does not.
my daughter, i think, is coping. she seldom complains. she’s had few teary or angry outbursts – both of which i think she is entitled to. she complains of the pain, but does not exaggerate it. she describes being sore, or very sore, or, when it is at its worst, really sore. in her head, i think she has the size of it. so, coping, then.
what she wants to know is, when will it stop?
this question slaps back all the kind, gentle, vague platitudes that a parent might have lined up: it will go away again, … try not to worry… let’s think about how we can put the pain in a small box on a high shelf…
the truth is, i don’t know when the pain will go away. i know we need to work on ways that can help her cope with the fact that it might not. i reassure her that the doctors could not find anything wrong, that the pain will hopefully go away one day.
her immediate response is, when?
there is no knowing ‘when’. there is only now and some point in the future when i hope her life will be different and pain-free.
i don’t know. perhaps the only person i am fooling is myself.
this video is from the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in America.
they describe functional abdominal pain as:
Functional abdominal pain occurs in an unpredictable pattern and is not consistently related to physiologic activities (eating, exercising, having a bowel movement, lying down). The pain can be severe enough to interfere with the child’s usual activity. It is usually around the naval and there may be non-gastrointestinal symptoms also.