lastmandystanding

Mother. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Blogger. Aspiring writer. Smartass. Sometimes I say funny things.

Archive for the tag “coping”

The Thing About Pain

It’s much easier to say “my arm is broken” than “my heart/spirit is broken.”  Both can be detrimental to one’s health and well-being. Speaking from my own experience, both hurt like hell.

A broken arm receives immediate attention. It is thoroughly checked over, x-rayed, set back in place and in a cast so that it heals properly. It might even require surgery – going deep inside to fix the problem so that it can heal the way it is supposed to. I fell and broke my arm once, and it was evident to everyone within earshot that it was extremely painful. It hurt so badly that all I could do was cry and cuss. (And then I apologized to the doctor and nurses for cussing.) It became top priority to make sure that broken bone was taken care of and set up for proper healing. THAT was a pain you could see.

The latter, however… it is harder to see, but it is real. It is painful. It needs to heal. But, attention? No, not usually. It’s too uncomfortable. No one wants to talk about emotional pain. But yet, we walk around in a world full of broken human beings. Broken children, who will become broken adults. Broken adults, who, as children, were not set up for proper healing. Broken adults who didn’t become broken until they were older, but still have not healed. No one wants to dig deep and fix that pain. Hell, most people don’t even want to talk about it, let alone DO something about it. So, there in the darkness, it sits. There, it festers. It infects other parts of our lives. It infects other people. Why? Because hurt people HURT PEOPLE.

There’s a saying that if we all put all of our problems out in one big pile for all to see, we’d probably gladly pick our own problems back up. Meaning, someone always has it worse than we do, and we should just keep our own problems to ourselves. But does that mean we just don’t talk about them?

There are a lot of people out there hurting, pretending that they are not. Because they feel they can’t possibly expose that raw, imperfect side of themselves to the world ruled by social media likes, follows and shares. That’s not shareable. That isn’t likeable. We don’t talk about those things. Pain is not pleasant. It is not pleasant to experience, and it is not pleasant to talk/read/hear about. By definition, pain is physical or emotional suffering. It is everywhere. It surrounds us as does the air we breathe. Yet no one wants to talk about it, or admit their own. And my friends, THAT is a problem.

Because here’s the thing about pain: It becomes comfortable.

(What did she just say?) Yes. You read that correctly. Pain becomes comfortable when you’re not even looking.

I am speaking from my own experience here, but maybe you can relate in some way. I have chronic low back pain, bursitis in both hips, disc issues, etc. I’ve had back surgery. I have had multiple steroid injections for the pain. The injections contain steroids, anti-inflammatories, and a numbing agent (similar to Novocaine at the dentist.) They are NOT pleasant to receive, in fact they hurt like an S.O.B. But there is this blissful window of a few hours afterwards, when the numbing agent is in full effect. Due to the location of the injections, it’s almost like having an epidural for a short while. It is in that absence of ANY feeling that I most realize just how much pain I have been living with. The extent of the pain numbs the true extent of the pain.

Let that last part sink in for a moment. It is only when I am completely NUMB that I can acknowledge the full extent of my constant PAIN. My pain is replaced with a new, foreign feeling: relief.

My relief forthat particular pain comes in the form of spinal and hip injections. Other people have pain (physical or emotional) that can only be numbed with alcohol…or drugs…or self-harm…or sexual promiscuity, etc.

But I have a confession. I am doing my part in starting a conversation that is uncomfortable. It is mostly for my own catharsis, but also to let you know that you are NOT alone.

I have come to realize, and now freely admit, that I am seriously lacking in the emotional pain relief department, and this is a pain that I have carried for far too long. Sure, I have band-aids for it. Emotional Tylenol, if you will. My family, my love, my friends, writing, making funny videos, photography, creating something with my hands, be it painting, cooking, baking, decorating, organizing, etc. But even when you see me at my “best” – my funniest – my most supportive of others – my happiest – my most loving … it is there. In fact, it is very possible that in those moments, it is its loudest. I realize that may not make sense to most people.

It has been there for so long, that it is actually comfortable to me now. It happened when I wasn’t even looking. It came right into my life when I was too young to stop it, and ever since, it has just attached itself to me and started calling the shots. I didn’t even notice. I always knew the pain was there, but I became a master at functioning with it. I am a master, still. But it’s getting harder to keep that title.

Going back into my youth as far as I can remember, I can’t recall a time that I WASN’T scared and anxious most of the time. About what? Everything. I experienced trauma at a very young age. Young, but old enough to remember. I’m not ready to go into that just yet, but it was legitimate, deep, life-altering trauma in every sense of the ugly word.

Now, science and medicine can tell you what trauma (and the lingering stress and anxiety) does to the mind and body over time. I can tell you that every bit of it is true. It is hell. It is exhausting.  IT. IS. PAIN.  I can honestly say that it has affected every single aspect of my life. My personal relationships, friendships, my health, the way I parent my children, the way I mentally and verbally respond to certain things, my work performance, my self-image, self-esteem, self-worth, how my body reacts to things, my social life, how I handle stress, how I treat my own body…the list could go on and on.

I know what you’re thinking – she needs counseling, she needs to give it to God. Oh, I’ve been to counseling – several counselors as an adult; nothing as a child. I’ve TALKED about it to counselors (and one pastor) ‘til I’m blue in the face. And trust me when I say that I have screamed and begged and pleaded with God to just – TAKE IT. I don’t want it anymore, and I can’t carry it anymore. And I feel like He is giving me a clear message that He indeed WILL, but I have some work to do first. I can finally let go of the pain, but I need to bring others on my journey. Maybe that’s you? Maybe it’s someone you know. (He hasn’t told me that part yet.)

And, lest you fear you’ve stumbled upon a holy-rolling religious fanatic, let me assure you – I am neither. But I am deeply spiritual. I believe in God. I believe in salvation. I pray. But I do not go to church (gasp!). I do all of this from wherever I am, because HE is wherever I am. And yes, I talk to God – not like most people probably do, but I like to think He and I have our own little way of communicating. I imagine he face-palms and shakes his head at me a majority of the time. I talk to Him more like I would talk to a person in my living room over coffee. Me to God: “I’m sorry – you want me to do WHAT now?” For instance, I recently had a very vivid dream about a girl with whom I went to high school. I think I’ve seen her exactly twice in the twenty-three years since we graduated. As clear as day, I got the message that I was supposed to reach out and tell her about the dream, because she needed to hear it. Me to God again: “Ummm, have we met? It’s like you don’t even know me. Huh uh. Wrong girl. Not doing it. Next topic, please.” So, I ignored it for about a week. Then, just the other day, I woke up and was like “OK, FINE!! WHATEVER, GOD” (in my most teenager-y, whiniest voice, arms folded, heavy on the eye-roll.) So I reached out to her. And as you can imagine, it started out like “Hi, ok so I don’t usually do this – in fact, I have never done this, but here’s what I got… Oh, and P.S. Please don’t think I’m a lunatic…” She was moved to tears, thanked me profusely for reaching out and said she needed to know she was not alone. (Wipes forehead) PHEW!! Thank God! No, literally, me to God again: “thank you, God. I was a small blessing to her today. Let me be that every day to someone. “

But I digress. Back to the discussion at hand… THE PAIN.

Counselors, check. Pastor, check. Ask for God’s help, check. And yet I hold on. Because it is comfortable to me. My biggest pain is also my comfort and my oldest friend. It knows what no one else knows. It’s been a part of me for so long, that I truly cannot grasp what it would feel like to be free of it. Who am I if I’m not hurting? Who am I if I’m not broken? Who am I if I’m not consumed by grief? Who am I if I’m not anxious and worried all the time? The answer to that is – I don’t know, but I’m going to find her. Step one in doing so is admitting my pain, my trauma, my grief, my loss. I refuse to allow another day/week/month/year/decade of my life pass by, suffering in silence, praying that one day, it will just go away.

My experience matters. My trauma matters. My pain matters. My suffering matters. I matter. I am not alone. YOU are not alone.

In order for the woman to heal, she has to bring to light, that which the girl has kept in the dark for far too long. Heal the girl, and the woman will appear and reach her full, God-given potential and purpose.

Advertisements

Ask and you shall receive? 

This is a quick one, but I just had to share.  I posted this blog just this morning. 

Dragonflies have been symbolic to me since about two days after my father died.  I can go into detail on that at a later time, but they are SO symbolic that I have a tattoo of a dragonfly, next to my dad’s signature that says “Love, Dad” which is from a poem he wrote me when I graduated high school. So, safe to say, pretty darn meaningful to me. 

I took my daughter to the doctor this afternoon and he’s always got a self-illustrated trivia question posted on a dry erase board in his office. It changes every day, in case you’re wondering. 

I sat down across the room and looked (squinted, because I didn’t have my glasses or contacts) and I said “umm…is that a dragonfly?”

Yep. 

It took all I had not to lose it and start crying, but I told him I had to take a picture and just simply told him dragonflies are very symbolic to me of my dad who passed, and the irony/beauty of this being there TODAY, when the appointment was just made TODAY, is rather incredible to me. 

So…maybe he’s not that far after all. Or maybe they get blog subscriptions in heaven? Either way, I’ll take it. 

Thank you, daddy. 

Grieving: “Where have you been?” Moving your feet and life forward after heartbreaking loss

“Where have you been?”

That’s often the first thing we say when we see someone who hasn’t been where they were supposed to be at the time they were expected. Your spouse, your teenager, friend, etc. is late to show, and we beg to know where they’ve been…what has kept them from us? It may be part relief, part curiosity, part fear…but we ask – needing that answer. 

And sometimes we need that answer from someone who can never give it to us.

I’ve written before about my father’s sudden passing here, which unfathomably is approaching the five year mark. I cannot ever convey in words the devastation it brought me and my family, and how much of it I feel so deeply every day, even still. There are events so pivotal that they divide your life into categories: before and after. 

I am not the same woman I was before he died. I will never be her again. A part of me died with him. I’m still working on my “after.”

I’ve found solace in “feeling” him near me over the years. Dragonflies have an extremely unique and special significance for me, and I consider them a sign from my dad. I’ve had a few dreams of him, but never once has he spoken words to me in a dream…he’s just – there. Funny thing is, the ONLY words he has spoken in any of my dreams since his death, were telling my mom not to open that bottle of a really odd flavored vodka, because we already had one open and it would go to waste. My dad drank bourbon. Go figure. Dreams are weird.

He was cremated after an open-casket service, so I don’t have a graveside to go sit and visit him, talk to him, have that symbolic “place.” 
My mom just sold the last house they shared together. I can’t even imagine how difficult that was for her. I can no longer go there and feel his presence, catch a passing smell of his cologne, sense and feel him as if he’s there, just in another room, out of site. 

It was when I went THERE, to their home to visit, that reality really wound it up tight and throat-punched me. Walking into the house and up the stairs and he wasn’t there waiting. Agony. But then slowly I’d start to feel him all around me. Bittersweet memories of him either kissed me gently on the cheek or punched me in the face everywhere I turned. I could feel him there… and it brought some needed comfort, if only temporary. I can’t go there anymore.

I will admit that my grieving process has functioned on a healthy dose of denial, supported by the fact that my parents have lived in another state for over 20 years now. When my mom comes here to visit, it’s easy and protective for my mind to just casually tell itself “Oh, dad just stayed home this time. No big deal.” My sister and I joke that he’s just on a nice vacation. The joke is that he must be having one hell of a time to be gone this long. But the funny truth is, my dad hated vacations. He was a worker; two jobs for most of his life. 

I have only a small amount of his ashes that I shamefully admit are in the small pill bottle in which they were given to me. I haven’t found anything special enough to hold the small amount, and I have plans to eventually have some of them added to blown glass and created into something unique and beautiful, forged by fire – just like him. They sit in a curio cabinet that is rarely seen, and even more rarely opened, along with my other “dad” stuff. Stuff that is special and sentimental, and comes out when I feel the need to bawl hysterically for a bit and just let it all out.

Are you like me? Do you ever seem to just torture yourself with sad things?

Like, “damn it all, I need to ugly cry, and I’m going to look at the things, and listen to the songs, and smell the smells, and relive the moments that make me saddest in life. And while I’m at it, I’m gonna think about orphans and starvation and cancer and abuse and homelessness, and how my kids are growing up at warp speed and I’m running out of time to fix any ways I’ve screwed them up and omg, I’m 40, will have BOTH my babies walking around in teenage bodies in the next few weeks and life is a little hard and overwhelming right now. I better just get it all out and be REALLY super miserable for a bit — then put it away ‘til next time.”

No? Just me who does that?

Ok — Don’t judge my borderline unhealthy coping skills. It’s cathartic because I say it is and we’re all friends here. If, on the other hand, you do the same thing, then “hey there, crazy-cry friend. I see you. I get you. I already love you. You are safe with me.”

What usually brings me to one of these ridiculous crying sessions is my complete and overwhelming grief. I grieve many things, as do many of us. I am trying to muster the courage to write about some of the others, but mostly, and presently, it’s grief for my father. And lately, what takes me there is the fact that HE. IS. NOWHERE. 

I don’t feel him. I don’t hear his chuckle when something happens that he would find hysterical. I don’t get signs from him that used to be abundant. I haven’t felt his presence in so long. Haven’t heard his voice in my ear, whispering the answer to something I’ve silently asked.

Radio silence.

Daddy… where have you been?

Make no mistake, I KNOW where he is. I know he is ok. He suffers no more. He is in beauty and splendor of which you and I have no earthly comprehension. And I KNOW I will see him again one day.

But yet I struggle.

I just feel like he’s slipping further and further away… and it kills me. I was having this very discussion with my boyfriend, who, I have to say, is completely full of love and non-judgment when it comes to this battle of mine. He never got to meet my dad, which breaks my heart, but I’ve told enough stories, he has an idea of his personality. And he said to me: “Baby… I didn’t know him, but I feel like I do. And I think, from what I know about him, that maybe he’s still very much there, but keeping distance, kind of as an act of tough love, to tell you, in a way – to ‘stop this…this level of grieving is holding you back. You need to know I’m ok and GO LIVE.’ And then he said “your dad is on the OTHER SIDE of what we can only imagine. He knows you worry and you wonder and you miss him, but you’ve grieved so hard and so long that maybe he’s trying to tell you to that ‘one day, you’ll fully understand, but until then, you need to stop focusing on me because I am more than ok, and focus on loving and living your life, because currently it’s holding you back. I am holding you back.” 

It was a clarity moment. This made a lot of sense to me, especially knowing my dad – the KING of tough love (and also a softy.) But in my true last-word-Lucy fashion, through my ugly sobbing, I said “well yeah, sure…that’s totally something he’d do, but can’t he throw me a freaking bone when I’m crying out for him right now?!”

No, dear readers. I don’t think he can. Nor will he. I think I gotta do this one on my own. I have to find ways to cope and deal with his death so that I can get back to living.

I suffer fiercely from anger over his death. It was sudden. Unexpected. No closure. Sure, I said things at his bedside before he took his last breath, but did he hear me? And the anger… oh, the anger… manifests in ways I can’t understand, let alone try to explain right now. 

I have anxiety, general and social. Sometimes it’s completely overwhelming. Those closest to me may be surprised to hear that and know what I go through just to go to an event where there will be lots of people. That can be anything from the grocery store to a hometown football game to a get-together with friends. Hard to explain or understand, coming from a woman who’s been described as being able to talk to anyone, anywhere, about anything. Most, not all of the time, once I’m IN the situation, I can mostly fake being ok. It’s the build-up to going that’s hell. And the rest of the time, I can’t get out of there fast enough, even if I’m having a decent time.

I believe the only way FOR ME to get through this is to pray and move and write and love my way out of it.

I will move myself back to life. I will, to God, pray myself back to life. I will write myself back to life. And I will love myself back to life.

I need to get out more and interact with people. (Working from home, that’s easily avoided.) I need to move my body. I need an outlet for stress and anxiety before it literally kills me. I’m looking into yoga classes. I plan to write more. About my dad. About grief. About anger. About happy and funny things again. About pain. About whatever it is I need to write about. Even if no one reads it, I need to say it. I need to put it in writing.

I have to start more DOING and less TALKING.

I have a framed quote in my office that my dad used to have in his. It reads:

“Don’t ask the Lord to guide your footsteps if you’re not willing to move your feet.”

Well… It’s time to start moving my feet.

And pray that one day, I will hear – clearly – the answer to “Daddy, where have you been?” 


Picture in blog is me and my sweet daddy when I was a baby. Looks like he was doing the “soooooo big!” ❤️ Precious to me. 

**I’d love to hear ways that YOU have coped with grief and loss, and the anger and anxiety that follows. Please comment and share your thoughts. I read them all. And if you enjoyed this post and think someone else may need to hear it, please share the link on your social media. Thank you! XO**

Post Navigation