Some things you only need to experience once. These painful experiences are the lows to our highs. They hurt terribly, but without them, would our pleasant experiences be as sweet? The lessons learned and the strength of character gained from these pivotal moments could be argued as beneficial in some regards. After all, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. Reap some vicarious wisdom through these stories of people who went through experiences that they never want to repeat.
1. Rock and a Hard Place
Kidney Stones. Awful stupid things. Once you’ve had them one time, you know the pain. If you ever even have a twinge of pain again that signals they are coming back, you go into a total paranoid state. I’ve never chugged water, cut out all the salt, and other tips like that so fast in my life until I felt that kidney stone movement again out of the blue.
I’m a woman and it’s even worse for men. My sympathies for guys, because if they were bad for me, I can’t imagine what it’s like for a guy to pass those darn things.
2. Chilling Cries
When my children were young, there was a co-worker/friend of my wife who became a de-facto aunt to my children, and sister to my wife and I. She was single, and most of her family, whom she didn’t get along with, lived hours away. We lived near my wife’s family, and they all welcomed her and treated her as if she were one of us.
One spring, she’d been fighting a bad cold/mild flu. As with most teachers, she worked multiple jobs. Her second job was working at the Hallmark store. Early one evening, I answered the phone and a young woman asked for my wife. I could tell the girl was upset. My wife got on another phone, and I listened in. She said she worked at the Hallmark with our friend.
Our friend wasn’t feeling well and had gone into the bathroom. After about 30-45 minutes, the girl on the phone thought she’d go check on our friend. She knocked, but there was no response. The girl got the key and opened the door to find an utterly horrible sight: Our friend was dead. The paramedics were called, but they couldn’t revive her.
The girl didn’t know if our friend had family nearby, but she knew my wife was good friends with her, and so she looked up our number in the phone book. The girl was understandably very upset, and the news made me very sad, but the worst part was the noise my wife made. It chilled me to the bone, made me sick to my stomach, and got me crying.
Nearly 20 years later, my stomach still rolls recalling my wife’s anguished cry. I never want to hear that again. It turns out that our friend had a fast-growing tumor in her abdomen that was slowly squeezing off the blood supply to her internal organs. What she thought was a flu, was her organs slowly starving and shutting down.
3. Tough Baby
Taking our 5-day-old son to the ER, because he started having labored breathing and would not nurse. I handed him to the nurse, and she took off running and calling for a crash cart. I’m no doctor, but I knew what that meant. He was revived and we were given his diagnosis of Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS). His left ventricle failed to form.
Six open-heart surgeries and one transplant later, he is now 17 years old.
4. Brain Pains
I’ve had about a dozen brain surgeries. Recovery from them takes ages, but overall it doesn’t hurt much besides the stitches the first week or two. The reason I never want to experience them again was this experience. My body was rejecting a medical device and forcing it out through the skin, leading to me getting a staph infection in my brain, spending two weeks in the ICU, and blowing through 14 IVs because I needed so many antibiotics.
5. Au Naturale
Last year my doctor suspected I had some blockage in one of my fallopian tubes. I left work on a lunch break for a “quick check.” They discovered that one of them was 100% blocked, and they blew out the blockage right then with no anesthesia or warning. Then I had to go back to work. Probably the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced.
Around the same time, I also had a biopsy of my cervix with no anesthesia. I’ve concluded that anything medical that involves my reproductive system is going to be absolute misery.
6. Smiling Til’ the End
My mum and dad flew to my maternal grandpa to be at his bedside when he was taken into hospital. He was 91 years old, so everyone was kind of holding their breath, waiting to see if he would pull through. I called my mum to check up on how things were going. She said they were getting a taxi and that she would call me back later. We quickly ended the call, and I felt so unsettled that I couldn’t sit back down.
When she called me back, the first thing out of her mouth between crying was just, “He’s gone.” After that phone call ended, I burst into tears. The pain in her voice was so visceral. Even though we all knew he logically couldn’t have much longer to live, he was apparently still cheery while in hospital, cracking jokes with the staff and such.
They told him the day before this that he might even be able to go home in a few days. He was kind of cycling between being in extreme pain and then lucidity at the end. I think it was even more of a shock when he did finally pass away, because he seemed like his normal self even so close to the end.
7. Financial Freedom
Living paycheck to paycheck. I’m in a comfortable position now, and don’t need to worry about bills or if I can eat that day.
8. The Runs
I once left 45 minutes early for work to get a jump start on a big day. I took a horrible poo before I left home. I assumed the nightmare was over, but it hadn’t even begun. In my car on the way to work, I felt terrible movements in my lower gut, and even heard gurgles of slop. It was now on its way out, and it took everything I had to stop it.
Just to be safe, I took a shortcut through a neighborhood where I knew there was a porta-potty at a disc golf course. Things got intense as I approached the porta-potty. In an act of desperation, I was looking down at my bowels yelling “WAIT!” I pulled up to the porta-potty on the wrong side of the road, left the car door open and ran the 15 feet to freedom. As I opened the door, I released straight sludge down my leg before getting the chance to drop my trunks.
Bad news. My trunks were white, gray and black camo. Messed up real bad. I spent a lot of time cleaning up the best I could, then ran for my car wearing a shirt and shoes—my trunks balled up in one hand. People lived across the street and garage doors were open. I didn’t check to see if anyone witnessed this whole spectacle.
I made it back home to shower, and still got to work a few minutes early. That was a lousy way to start a long day.
9. Car Troubles
Getting a call that my son was hit by a car, and was en route to the trauma center. It was awful. He recovered, but only 30 hours of surgery, and 1.5 years of recovery… Thank god, no brain or spine injury. Just broken bones—ankle, and both arms.
10. Cancer Sucks
I would say the death of my parents. Both had cancer. My mom did not want me to be there, she was comfortable, but angry and depressed about her cheated time, right until the end. We couldn’t even get her to talk to us, she was so mad at the world. In a way, I always felt cheated that we never even had a chance to come to terms with what was happening.
My dad refused to have anyone take care of him except for me. He was not comfortable. He was in extreme pain, as cancer slowly took his stomach lining over. I’ve never seen a person be so tortured, for so long, in my life. It was worse than any movie scene because a movie scene only lasts a few minutes. This took months.
He lived in an area where there was no palliative care, and the county hospitals were too understaffed. So, it was just me and him at home, for weeks and weeks, on an isolated farm with no visitors and harsh winter settling in. I did everything—cleaned his accidents, emptied the drain attached to his midsection that took out fluids from his stomach cavity—which was not just fluid but lots of white globs. This is actually cancerous tissue broken away.
He was so vulnerable and embarrassed and in severe pain that nothing helped. We had fentanyl, but it made him feel sick. The entire ordeal was so harsh that I couldn’t even mourn the loss for a while. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
11. Going Mental
I was in a general unit of a mental hospital. Almost everyone was nice, but there were a few people who gave me a weird vibe. I hated it there. There was nothing to do except take pills and talk in a group. The day I got out, my mom came to get me. She had to wait three hours in the parking lot. When I asked what time I was leaving, they kept saying, “When your ride gets here.”
I started to worry I was never going to get out. I had called my mom over an hour before, and she had been sitting outside waiting, they just hadn’t told me that she was there.
12. No Cap
I dislocated my knee cap once. It happened a lot with my sister, so I knew I could pop it back in, and I did. Afterward it felt like a bad sprain. But those few seconds when the knee cap was in the wrong position—it’s hard to describe. I don’t remember any pain, but it was the most horrible feeling of panic and horror when something is just not where it’s supposed to be.
I think more than a few seconds would have driven me insane.
13. Tough Pill to Swallow
I’d have to say getting potassium put into your body through an IV. That stuff burns like nothing else. I’m a type 1 diabetic and have gone DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis) a few times, and part of the recovery in the hospital is that they have to give you potassium, as insulin apparently can’t lower it.
14. Lost Hobby
I’ve spent my entire adulthood as a hobby mechanic working on my own cars and toys. This spring, some addicts stole my tool chest and everything in the garage. I got a few items recovered and a person charged, but I’m still missing all the main tools with a value of about $6,000-$7,000. Now every time I go to work on a car, I can’t even start the project before my mind says, “Oh man, I had a toolbox.”
Then I get angry, and don’t even want to do the project. I feel like they not only stole my tools, but also the enjoyment I got out of my hobby.
15. A Day in the Life
I remember my church doing a secret mission trip. We thought we’d go to a soup kitchen, but the truth was so much worse. It was actually a “homeless simulation.” It was an experience some people set up, where for a weekend they’d make you go through the life of someone who is homeless. Your supplies were limited, your meals per day were limited or dealt in an unfair way, and a lot of the “activities” were things like gathering cans or searching for food.
The simulation ended up traumatizing me on an emotional level, because I was isolated by the people I thought trusted and loved me as much as I did them. I was almost treated like an outcast to my friends, and the only person who cared enough about me to give me the time of day was a random girl who had no association to my own group.
It made me really realize how lonely it is to be homeless. Maybe not everyone feels the same way and I was only in this simulation for a few days, but it’s a crippling feeling. No one deserves to be alone, especially in situations where you already have nothing.
16. Two’s a Pair
I had my right testicle removed, but that’s not even the worst part: this happened on my second wedding anniversary. Two weeks prior to that I was diagnosed with testicular cancer, after I had gone into the doctor because my testicle was the size of a tennis ball and rock hard. I could go without that whole ordeal again.
17. Explosive Experience
An I.E.D. exploded two-hundred meters ahead of my Humvee. I was the gunner at the time, and I felt the concussion, heat, and dust moving through the gunner hatch. My ears rang for days. This was my first I.E.D., two more followed, but were further away and didn’t really have an impact on me as the first did. The feeling that someone deliberately tried to cause harm to my crew and myself was life-changing.
18. A Burning Sensation
I was pepper-sprayed for training purposes, but I tell you what, if someone ever threatens me with pepper spray, I’m doing whatever they say. Johnny Knoxville even said it was one of the worst things in his Hot Ones interview. He was right.
19. Unlucky Love
Meet someone, think it’ll be a good relationship, and break up because they dealt me a heartbreaking betrayal. It turns out that they were using me for everything I’ve got. It’s been ten times. I think I’ll just be one of those women who live alone in the mountains now. I know it’s because I’m kind and want to help. Can’t turn that off. I’ll help others instead.
20. Malicious Middle Schoolers
The entirety of middle school. No thanks. I feel like middle schoolers are old enough to be malicious, and too young to have developed empathy or something. It’s the perfect storm of being horrible to others.
21. All Bite, No Bark
Getting bitten by a dog. The dog, a 160lb. Great Dane, put me in the hospital for a week. I got an infection. The dog was nuts. Had some virus which made it crazy in the head. I went to pet him and he lunged at me, grabbing onto my arm. I went to the ER, and they stitched me up, which caused my arm to go red and get infected. I stayed at the hospital for a week on antibiotics and got better.
I had pretty bad PTSD when meeting new dogs, but I’ve since gotten over it. I’m definitely more cautious now, but once that initial introduction has happened, and there is mutual respect between me and the animal, I get all the snuggles with them.
22. Sandwich Saviors
It was over 20 years ago and I still have nightmares about it. Luckily no one was injured or killed because of it. The 13-year-old kid that lived downstairs from us lit some football cards on fire and threw them on his bed, then left the apartment, leaving his mother asleep on the couch. That little kid caused a devastating fire.
My kids and I were home when it started, but didn’t realize until after. I smelled burning, but I was making ramen noodles and spilled some under the burner, so I assumed that was why. It started getting warmer, but we were on the top floor so it was always hotter than usual. After eating the ramen noodles, my kids insisted that they have sandwiches because they were still hungry.
We didn’t have any bread, so we went to get that and some other groceries. Because of that tiny request, we missed the fire. When we came home, there were firefighters punching holes in our roof.
23. Poor Pup
I bought a puppy for my girlfriend. We took care of her. We planned to take our new puppy to have a check-up on a Thursday. We bought him on a Sunday. He died of parvo that Thursday. He was crying out in pain. That was my first time hearing him make a sound and the last thing we heard. I went off on the breeder we bought her from, but that doesn’t fix anything.
24. Young Woes
Childhood. I used to sleep in other people barns, washed my clothes in the river, and illegally worked a full-time job during nights to support myself whilst never missing a day from high school. I’ve been wearing the same shoes for 3 years, 19 hours a day, every single day!
25. Hospital Blues
I’m currently in the hospital doing spinal rehab after a bad motorcycle accident where I nearly died. I was resuscitated and spent time in the ICU. I was transferred between two other hospitals back and forth for more operations. I’m paralyzed from the waist down so I cannot walk, cannot go to the toilet unassisted, the food is awful, and only two of my friends have come to visit me. But that’s not even the worst part.
My fiancé is also 24 weeks pregnant with our first child and is having complications, so she had to move back with her parents. She could be rushed to the hospital at any time for an emergency delivery, and I feel very useless because I cannot be there for her. I feel like I am living the worst part of my life right now. Also, I had to put our wedding on hold and lost money doing so.
26. Pain in the Butt
Pilonidal Cyst. First, it felt like I bruised my tailbone. I thought it was just caused by an accident, but it kept getting worse by the day. About a week later, the pressure and swelling were so bad that I was crying trying to lay in bed. Turns out, when you lay down, your butt cheeks push against each other. And when you have a golfball-sized cyst in your butt crack, that ends up hurting really bad.
I went to the doctor because I thought I had broken my tailbone. Having people examine your butt crack is vaguely embarrassing. The doctor lancing and squeezing it to drain it, even after two lidocaine injections, was painful enough that I was crying, bent over on the table. I never got the sense of relief after the pressure was gone, either, it just hurt and then I was really sore for the next three days.
I’m sure I looked like the biggest wuss, when in reality my pain tolerance is ridiculously high. It just hurt that bad. I definitely will go to the doctor sooner if I EVER feel like I bruised my tailbone again.
27. Tender Tendons
Slipping down a knife handle and cutting through five out of six flexor tendons in three of my fingers, right at the lowest joint. First, the cuts looked like a chicken drumstick when you cut it apart at the joint. Then it turned into a freaking bloodbath. Took me a long time before I stopped getting flashbacks to that moment of shock when I realized what I’d just done to myself.
The thing is, I was being stupid because I was angry. It almost felt like I’d done it to myself on purpose. I had the tendons sewn back together in hospital, but the fingers never regained most of their mobility.
28. Not Safe for Work
About a month ago, I had eight consecutive seizures in a row at work. It sucked because I was around a ton of people who knew nothing about seizures, and when I warned them about me feeling one come on, they all wanted to be the hero and no one listened to my advice before the episodes. This happened after months of begging my workplace to let me train a few different people on different shifts how to handle the situation. Ended up with me being jobless now.
I’ve never felt so helpless.
29. Leap of Foolishness
My now ex-boyfriend got stupid drunk one night and tried to pick a fight with me. I knew how much he had drank so I just kept agreeing with him, as to not provoke him. Well apparently, that irritated him even more, and in his drunken state, he did something so utterly disturbing that I’ll never forget it. He ran and jumped over our two-story balcony.
Now, normally that’d be enough to break an arm or leg and knock the wind out of you, but unbeknownst to either of us there was a bank of debris from a bulkhead that was being replaced in the water (we lived on a lake). I remember screaming for his mom and brothers while they frantically called the cops and an ambulance, and all I could do was sit there and hold his head in my lap while hoping he doesn’t die in my arms.
The cops questioned me, and one officer threatened to arrest me for domestic assault until they actually did the math. I’m 5’2″ tall and about 130 pounds soaking wet. He was 6’6″ tall and 220 pounds of pure muscle, there was no way I could pick him up and toss him over a railing.
There’s a local legend in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which involves a mysterious and supposedly deadly sort of otherworldly creature. Some versions claim that it’s a man-like shapeshifter, capable of blending in with the shadows as it stalks through the desert. Others describe the beast as being curiously canine in nature, albeit with too-long limbs, black claws, and eyes that seem to burn like pinprick embers in the darkness.
One thing that remains the same through every retelling, though, is the high and eerie keening noise it’s said to make when it hunts down its prey. One evening when I was about eleven years old, I heard it. I had been lying in bed, reading beneath my covers with a flashlight, when a mournful howl pierced the air from somewhere across the moonlit sands.
My first thought was that it had been a coyote… but as the sound echoed through the night for a second time, I felt a shiver of panic flash up my spine and a deep weight of dread coalesce in my chest. That evil wail was not the call of anything I had ever encountered, nor of something that should have even existed in the waking world; it was the cry of a nightmare incarnate, and no amount of reason or rationality could shake me of that notion.
Now, at around the same time as this story, I’d been doing my best to foster a reputation for being an independent and brave kid. That goal went swiftly out the window as the screeches seemed to draw ever closer, and I quickly ran from my room to seek the protection of my parents. Upon reaching their door, though, I was presented with an even more terrifying discovery:
The howls were coming from inside the house… along with a lot of heavy breathing and the occasional whisper. I couldn’t look my mother in the eye for a week. I never want to hear the Skinwalkers again.
31. Cheating to Escape
I was in a violent relationship. I tried breaking up with the guy several times, and he wouldn’t let me. He would sabotage everything so I could go back to him. The only way out I could think of was cheating on him so he could feel disgusted at me, and let me go. I told a friend about my situation and offered to pay him $85 to be my accomplice.
He accepted and helped me with the “affair.” We made sure we were in a place, where my ex or his friends would see us, and started kissing in public. It worked. Got rid of my nightmare, but cheating was the most disgusting thing I ever did and I would never do it again.
32. Non-Cathartic Catheter
I had my appendix taken out, which is already bad…but it had nothing, and I mean nothing, on the catheter. There was blood. I came out of surgery with an ice pack on my junk, and a concerned look from the doctor. He told me that there’d been as issue with my catheter, and that there was some “damage” when they tried to remove it.
My blood ran cold. They hadn’t even told me that I was getting one! The doctor then said: “You may feel some pressure in your bladder and a need to urinate, but you will not be able to, because of the surgery and the coagulated blood in your urethra, so you will have to stay a night or so…” I was still high on morphine, so I just said okay.
Later that night, the pressure that the doctor was talking about came. I really had to pee, but I couldn’t because of my blocked urethra. I called the nurses and say that I have to pee but I can’t—I am loopy as heck too, so she lifts the blanket and grabs the bedpan to “assist.” She sees the blood everywhere and calls in another nurse to assist—mind you, I am already in a good amount of pain, there is a pressure in my body that I have never felt before; it feels like the pressure is building up behind the incision and about to burst my abdominal cavity. It hurt a lot.
Anyway, one nurse was holding my junk in her hands while the other attempted to pull the coagulated blood-booger from it. They finally pulled it out, which felt like someone was pulling a barbed stick out of my urethra, then the real pain started. The pain radiated from my abdomen to my toes and fingers—which were curling in agony. Then I had to pee. I couldn’t push the pee out, I just had to let it come out—which it did, in short dribbles, each little shot was like razor blades covered in lemon juice, salt, and cayenne pepper.
It took what seemed like an eternity to empty my bladder. I was making those long, dreadful moaning cries—and now, any time I am in a hospital and hear those cries, I know what that patient is going through. It’s not a normal outcry from pain, it’s different. It’s a plea for god, or someone, to just end that pain, like the sounds of a wounded animal. The hospital went medieval on my butt.
Bottom line: Morphine fixes a lot of problems, but pulling a blood-booger from my nether regions isn’t one of them… Never again.
33. California Heat
Evacuations from the (now) yearly California fires. My city got hit pretty hard by the Woolsey fires last year. Packing up the things that I thought were most important, and having to leave everything else behind was really hard. That entire weekend, I had no idea if we would be coming back to a house. I didn’t know if I would go from owning everything in my room, to owning the things I could fit into a suitcase and a backpack.
It was the most stressful and awful night of my life.
34. Foreign Aid
Our dream vacation turned into an utter nightmare when my wife fell and broke both her arms while we were traveling in a foreign country. We had to navigate an unfamiliar healthcare system that was severely understaffed and under-equipped (at least by American standards). Then, trying to finish our vacation, flying home, putting off buying a house because we spent our savings on more medical care, additional surgeries, and her going back to work with me driving out daily to assist with bathroom duties…
It was a trying time, but we made it through. Our marriage feels pretty darn strong now, so that’s cool, I guess. Oh, and we feel eternally grateful to the people of Ireland, they are seriously the kindest and most caring ever!
I took a side job one summer working at a snack bar at a local pool because I really needed the money. The job itself was fine. What I hated was how awkward it was working with a bunch of teenagers who pretty much would never talk to me. They were all high school kids, and I was 22 years old and in grad school. I was only around six years older than all of them, but they wouldn’t talk to me.
They made me feel like some kind of creepy weirdo, even though I was barely out of my teens myself. I still think back to that and cringe every once in a while.
I fell head over heels for this girl. We were really young at the time. We fooled around sometimes and started dating in our 20s. She convinced me to move in with her, and at the time it didn’t feel right but I did it anyway. After two years we would get into arguments and she’d just say super messed up stuff that you can’t take back. I chalked it up to anger. I stuck around because I loved her.
One night she screamed at me that she hated me, so I decided to leave. I moved from Florida to Ohio on a whim. I made it to Tallahassee and my car died. So, just imagine a grown 27-year-old man, on the side of the I95, just bawling his eyes out. I had a super mental break down, it was nuts. I swear, I don’t have a belief in God, and I’ve never thought to ask for anything.
I’m bawling my eyes out and I say out loud, “God, or whoever is up there, I need you. I really NEED you, please just help.” Two minutes later, my jaw dropped. This dude pulls up in a red truck with his young daughter and asks if I’m ok. I just tried to reply without sniffling and as normal as possible, “Yeah… Car died, I don’t know.”
The dude dropped his daughter off, and came back to get my car up to the nearest shop. I never even got his name, but before he showed up, that felt like the lowest point I’d ever been. I mean I’ve had bad times before, but in that moment, I had nothing. After he came by, I immediately stopped feeling so horrible.
37. Tense Torsion
I sat up after a nap and felt this ungodly pain in my abdomen, like someone was twisting a knife inside of me. It hurt so bad that I immediately started seeing stars and feeling faint and queasy. I couldn’t stand, so I slid off of the bed and somehow managed to crawl to the bathroom to vomit from the pain. The movement of me puking made the pain so unbearable that I passed out.
My roommates found me, and got me up and to the ER. That’s where they found out the awful truth: there was a huge cyst on my ovary. It weighed it down in a way that made something awful called “ovarian torsion” possible. Just before surgery, I don’t know what happened, but I moved in some kind of way that corrected the torsion.
I felt sudden relief, which was short-lived, as a few hours later the cyst burst. I got to go home without surgery, but I NEVER want to go through that again.
Being raided by the police with no clue as to why. It was complicated, but basically a malicious anonymous call was made to the mayor’s office instead of the police. So, the police seemed desperate to get me on absolutely anything, I’m assuming they were out to impress or something. Took weeks before they gave up, and I went through at least a dozen interviews while the police outright tried to start fights with me, etc.
39. Fear of Holes
Searching Trypophobia on Google. Don’t even try it, just stay happy.
40. Hot and Helpless
One night, I awoke to the smell of smoke. Within an hour, my whole house burnt to the ground. It started as a grease fire. I lost the only place I’ve ever called home. Lost all my belongings. Lost everything. But that wasn’t even what hit me the most. What hit me the most, was standing there watching my house fully engulfed in flames. And knowing there is absolutely nothing I could do to help.
That was the worst feeling of my life.
41. Rollercoaster Diagnosis
Sitting with my wife as we got told that she had cancer. The drive home was so quiet. The next day, we got a phone call to say that it wasn’t cancer, just a benign mass. The relief was palpable. The following day, we got yet another call saying that the initial diagnosis was correct, and that it indeed was cancer. I cannot put into words the feeling of that gut-kick from the Low-High-Low.
Fast forward 14 years, 1 major surgery, a year of scorched-earth chemo later and yearly checkups, and I’m blessed to be able to say that my wife is healthy and cancer-free.
42. Lego Lost
We took our kids to Legoland. We were at this small outdoor area that had a bunch of tables with random parts that kids can use to build stuff. I turn around and my son isn’t there. I start looking around and don’t see him. My blood runs ice cold. I’ve never felt such panic and helplessness as I did in those few seconds. Thankfully he was just around a corner, and I think he was moving while I was moving so it seemed like he was nowhere nearby. That’s a moment I’ll never forget, and makes me thankful I’ve never had to endure anything worse.