Many years ago, while on exercise with the Defence Forces I fractured two fingers in my left hand. The exercise was two in duration and required surviving in the winter rains and snows of the Wicklow Mountains while fighting mock battles. Carrying large wet kits and little sleep were the order of the day. The exercise was a ‘must do and pass’ situation.

I was only six days into the exercise when I suffered the fractures. I was left with two scenarios. Tell the medics and be RTU (Returned to Unit) without completing the course OR suffer through the pain.

I chose the latter. In my opinion physical pain can be overcome by applying a psychological bandage over it. Physical pain is relative. However when I arrived home and showed the injury to my GP, she said I was about two weeks away from an amputation. My fingers had turned black but I had completed my mission.

So you can forgive me when I stand beside someone and we look up at a mountain range and they say “God isn’t it beautiful”. My reply is “God, yea, fabulous’ but inside I’m saying “Try surviving in the kip and see if you still have a romantic view of it”.

So what’s the problem? Why are people always complaining about pain?

You see I believe that real pain is the one that takes over your thoughts. Grief, rejection, loneliness, to name a few. These are the real sources of pain.

We have a tendency to sympathize with people when we see them in physical pain. I ask you to try be more aware of those who are in real pain. Your support might just make a real difference. A lot of old people live in loneliness and their pain is not witnessed. Watch out for them this winter, your visit might help in their recovery.

Tom Cullen  October 2012

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