Something that could very easily lead to the death of anyone foolish enough to attempt it. Because of the level of danger, I need you (the reader) to carefully read the next few paragraphs.

The following short story is just that. It’s a story written for a couple of reasons. I wrote this a form of self-therapy for myself. The facts and accounts of the story are true but they are also a chapter from my past. Anyone who has known me the last four years either already knows this story or probably won’t be surprised by what I’ve written.

And, second for amusement or astonishment. Some readers probably won’t believe some of the details. Others might believe the same details and be somewhat horrified.


A brief flashback to the Year MM, The Millennium.

My exotic dancer (stripper) girlfriend had turned out to be extremely damaged instead of just slightly fucked up. What I thought was maybe a cute phase turned out to be hardwired life choices. Like everyone else in our world, she was a product of pain and tragedy. The traumatic events of her life from before I met this woman had transformed her and she chose a path of darkness. There was no attempt to break any of the cycles that her family had passed on to her. During the final stages of the relationship and one of our last conversations she looked into my eyes and told me that there was nothing about herself that she needed to change, she hadn’t made any bad decisions or done anything wrong (ever) and that she didn’t need to apologize for anything (ever). I was surprised but I shouldn’t have been since that was her faith and belief system. It’s also completely within her rights to live in such a way. I still don’t agree but it doesn’t matter, because it’s not up to me.

The first time that I walked into a room and found my girlfriend cutting herself I was completely shocked and slightly horrified. Not just because she was dragging a razor blade across her arm, no that wasn’t the worst of it. Her three-year-old daughter was in the room during her cutting therapy session. I’m using the word therapy because of what my girlfriend said to me when I sat down by her side and asked her what the fuck was she doing. I can’t remember the exact language that I used but it went something like this. “The pain on the outside helps with the pain on the inside”.

That was almost 20 years ago and I don’t have any idea what’s become of her and I have no desire to find out. I’ve learned over the years that some people are in your past for a reason and usually it’s best not to work backward when it comes to a previous intimate relationship. That being said, I’ve also learned that she was right. Well, sort of. I definitely don’t endorse cutting, any form of self-mutilation, suicide or anything else that involves someone hurting themselves. Please let me explain.

Four years ago I was all f****d up. Not just hurt but extremely damaged and post-traumatic. I’m not going in the details here and now for several reasons. In fact, I’m not even going to list the reasons why I’m not going into the details. And just when things got really bad…you already know huh. Things got even worse. Yes, it’s true…things can always get worse and what I didn’t yet realize was this. I was going to have to lose it all before anything would start to get better. Begin day one homeless. Then a series of discoveries, and finally a path that would lead me through a maze of enlightenment. Or maybe just amazing enlightenment.

Today I’m writing about only one of these discoveries. I had discovered a way to trigger an emotional release by pushing myself well beyond my breaking point. This release would have a healing effect on my mind, body and maybe even my soul. Now, why would I cross my own breaking point? That line that separates okay from not okay and if I venture past it then there’s a chance that I just might not make it back to the okay side! So what did I do? Yes, you guessed it. You’re good at this. I searched out every one of these mental, emotional and physical boundaries and carefully noted the locations. And why did I do this? Because why not, I didn’t have much else going on those days. So why not push myself past every single line of defense that my mind had constructed for me. And that’s just what I did.

Pushing myself past my breaking point can only be compared to what I experienced during basic training in 1986. If you have been through any sort of Boot Camp, you will understand what I’m writing about. There’s a point that the recruit reaches when they just can’t imagine being able to go another step, and then guess what happens? They are forced to march another 20 miles before setting up a bivouac. That’s US Army talk for a temporary camp. And then after setting up this temporary camp along comes a higher ranking non-commissioned officer and instructs our Drill Sergeants to instruct all of us Privates to break down the camp and move it another 20 miles. Oh…and there’s a catch. All of the trucks that dropped off the big green combo backpack/duffel bags with the rest of our equipment…have left and returned to the base. And here’s what it looks like now. We’re all wearing our packs and now we have the second bad (even larger) on the front kinda like a child carrier but it weighs more. And we have to hold our M16 out in front of us and we can’t let it slip. If the weapon slips even an inch we could end up doing push-ups while wearing all that shit plus the M16 resting on top of our hands. And if our weapon falls off our hands? You don’t want to know. So wearing both bags and carrying the rifle we March another 20 miles in deep sand on a hot sunny day. And this is after marching at least 20 miles before we set up the first camp. Okay so, that’s US Army Boot Camp in 1986 at Fort Dix New Jersey. I don’t know what the Army does now.

Through a continuous cycle of breakdown and rebuild the individual is transformed, not just physically, also mentally and emotionally. That is if everything goes right. Some recruits are transformed more than others, and it all depends on the individual. During basic training and also during the last four years I was transformed. I achieved this transformation through a series of self-therapy sessions. Sometimes I would take a 20-mile bike ride during 100-degree temperatures while wearing a 50-pound backpack. Now keep in mind that I’m 51 years old, and I was diagnosed with degenerative spine disease 15 years ago. In addition to those details, I was also homeless, using drugs at the time, malnourished and usually suffering from sleep deprivation. On a positive note, I have always done a great job at staying hydrated and taking care of my teeth. Except for one crown I still have all of my teeth (at 51). When it comes to pushing myself beyond the normal limits of human endurance (mine anyway) I’ve been known to go the distance. Now here comes the part where I demonstrate just how much of a dumbass I can and have been. First another warning!


A few of my friends know about this reckless stunt. As I stated earlier a few years ago I was extremely f****k up. It’s not that I wanted to die because I didn’t. In fact, there was never a time when I wasn’t 100% sure that I would survive and not be killed by a passing automobile. Let me explain. Picture someone on a bicycle riding down a quiet street or maybe using a hill to build up maximum speed. This person races towards a green traffic light and continues building speed. This person is also wearing headphones and doesn’t seem to be doing a lot of left-right-left checking as they approach the light or stop sign at a speed that can only be described as ‘it’s too f*****g late to stop or turn now!’ As this reckless person approaches the light it becomes clear that they’re not trying to catch the green light, but plan on hitting it when it’s red. Okay, let me stop there. Yes, I’m referring to myself. Once again I wasn’t trying to kill myself but just the opposite. By this time I had been working on and developing all of my senses in an effort to….well to make them really good! Now we’ve all heard of people who have done this sort of thing. Some of them have been blind, some deaf and some were ninjas! Okay, I’m none of those things so it probably just looks like I wanted to get smashed by a car, but that’s really not it. I really had been spending time on these extra senses. Now I’m not going to bore you with all of the silly details but I will say this. Some people estimate that there may be anywhere from 10-20 additional human senses. That’s an additional 10-20 senses on top of what we already consider normal. Anyway, it takes about one second to pass through an intersection at 30 miles per hour, and I was probably going faster than that. There are only two ways to survive this ordeal. One, don’t do it. Two, be tuned in with your environment. So tuned in that you don’t need eyesight or hearing to know that the car is there. Several times I scratched the ride at the last moment because I knew that I would be hit. The trick was to know without using my eyes or ears. Okay, so two years ago I got hit by a car. Gotcha! It didn’t happen while I was doing this stunt, but while I was crossing the street on my bike with traffic. I was wearing headphones and I cut the car off without looking because I was counting on the senses that I just referred to. I was not rolling through a red light though. Bottom line I screwed up, paid the price and was severely injured that day. Still didn’t stop me from rolling through red lights in the future though!

Well, we’re reaching the end so here’s the deal on how it works. Rolling through the light and scraping past what should have been a death trap was a release. I compare it to being a cutter and running a razor blade across my arm. I’m no better than my old girlfriend who proceeded to cut herself in front of her daughter. I had absolutely no business and no right to do such a thing. My actions put quite a few people in danger and who knows. How many of those cars had children inside of them. Could I have been any more selfish in my actions? Yes, but not enough to matter. Bottom line…it was a mistake but I was so f****d up in the head that I didn’t realize it at the time, and that’s still not okay. I own my shit and I was wrong. For those out there in this world that almost hit me…I sincerely apologize.

Joseph Shanklin
July 16, 2019


2 thoughts on “The Other Side of Pain

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