The size of your kidney stone will determine your experience and concomitant symptoms. If the stone is small enough, it will pass through the urethra without a problem—you will not experience any symptoms, and you may very well remain unaware of the stone. Symptoms appear when the stone is big enough to put pressure on the urinary tract tubes (the ureters, which connect the kidney to the bladder, and the urethra, which leads outside the body) as it attempts to pass; this is what the pain starts.
Everyone has a different way of describing the pain of a kidney stone. Some people prefer something simple: “It hurt like heck and then it was over.” Unfortunately, this does not even begin to describe the pain—not the pain I felt, at least.
Before understanding what was going on, I thought I was having a stroke. That might sound like an overreaction, but truly—I thought I was dying. At first, I thought I was just having stomach pains, so I tried to sleep it off. When I tried to go to the bathroom, blood came out; I still thought I could sleep it off. Then it hit.
The pain is sudden, and it comes in waves that affect the back, side, abdomen, groin, and genitals. At a point, the pain was so blinding I couldn’t feel my left side. I vomited, ruined my underwear, and eventually lost consciousness. This is when the experience got real; even though most kidney stones can pass in the “comfort” of your own home, my mother panicked and sped me to the Emergency Room. I think I would have been okay had I known what was happening to my body, but not understanding the source and cause of the pain somehow made it worse. Kidney stones are no joke, people.
This pain, in conjunction with blood in the urine (hematuria), frequent and painful urination, and the humiliation of having a kidney stone at 16-years-old was enough to synthesize a truly traumatizing experience.