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Painful realities

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Pencil artwork drawn over an engraving depicting a wooden panelled room with two men in the distance looking towards an unclothed woman lying on her side on a table, clutching a pillow to her front. The whole scene is black and white apart from the pillow and the rays of light streaming in through a window which are tinted red.
Nervous Ailing Woman. © Anne Howeson.

What is the nature of pain? How do we talk about pain and assess it seriously when the history of modern medicine is built on the transfer of authority from the patient’s subjective experiences to the physician’s objective diagnosis? This is not a broad, sweeping history. It’s a personal one. I am one of an estimated 200 million women worldwide whose body has experienced extreme pain and physical distress that has been routinely dismissed by physicians. It is only pain, I was repeatedly told, as the agony engulfed my life.