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.