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Showing posts with label pain. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pain. Show all posts

Friday, July 31, 2020

Not so beautiful trauma

It was nine years ago to the day that the police found my brother deceased in his apartment deceased.  A fuller story is in Don't you forget about me: The blog I needed to write one day about my late brother.  Anyway, we had been very close at times and had always had a connection.   He'd been fighting depression and I'd been getting bad vibes that he was struggling to hold on.  But, the life is kind of funny.   The people and things in life seem to be constant and 'always there' until one day they aren't constant and aren't there.   I had an inkling that he struggling.  Enough of one that I threatened to have a wellness check done on him if he didn't call back imminently--which he did.  He called back and said he was okay and acted like I was overreacting.  It wasn't too much later that I got a cryptic text from him saying, something about "feeling like I am dying".  He'd spoken figuratively before and I was going through a life crisis myself.   I took it as, "I'm dying inside" or "I feel like dying".  I little time passed and I got distracted by my own life crisis.  He literally had made himself invisible to family for extended periods and I'd occasionally show up unannounced when I couldn't get a hold of him.  So, I wasn't too shocked when I hadn't heard from him in a couple of weeks.  I now understand that when facing depression, sometimes the last thing you want to do is to show your hurt to those closest.  I speak on my understanding of the subject matter in Depression: It Ain't Over 'Till It's Over.  His words may have been a final cry and I'll never know for sure.  That has haunted me since.  But, I have realized over time you can't save everybody despite sometimes valiant efforts.

 Obviously, the day he was found was in some ways the worst of my life in some ways.  Anniversary number 1 of his passing wasn't easy either.  It has generally been easier every year.   However, for some reason, it was harder this year.   Maybe it was the stress of work deadlines and the pandemic and all that involves?  In any case, it got me to thinking about his life, my life and the dysfunction we grew up in.  Someone he know from college had given me a gift, albeit a painful one, her memories of him.  I didn't see him much when he went away to college.  So, she give me a bit of picture of his life away at school.  She related that even back then she knew he was hurting more than the average kid who moves away for the first time to college.  Anyway, talking about it with her and others reminded me of something I'd figured out along the way.

When we have unprocessed hurt, our tolerance or ability to take more hurt is lessened.  Think of it like this.  We are a 16 ounce glass.  Life's daily struggles can fill our cup part of the way.  If we have a lot of unprocessed hurt, our cup may be well on its way to be full.  So, add life's daily struggles and it can get close to the top.  Now, add a particularly rough period and well you know the rest: the cup cannot take on any more.  For some people, it results in alcoholism.  For others, it can result in gambling, etc.  But, for the really hurt ones, the cup seems to find a way on the grounded shattered in pieces with the contents lost forever.

We may make it and recover from that rough period.  I survived a his passing, losing my house, losing my job, bankruptcy and my dad's health failing.  But, like him I had been scarred in the early years and the period immediately before, during and after his passing had it's own troubles, though I was able to start processing a lot that I hadn't previously.   Anyway, you survive the hurt/injury, but like a broken elbow that heels, it isn't quite the same.  The limb has healed as much as it can and you have 'full' use of it, but it it's not the same.  There may be weakness or scarring.  You may be aware on a fairly regular basis of the injury, but you don't necessarily focus on it.   However, you bang that elbow and the pain from the original injury and/or scarring will be front and center again.

I think hurt, especially that which isn't fully processed or 'healed' is like that.
  • You know it's there, but it is just there and not really interfering with your daily life.
  • You run into a situation or circumstance that reminds you or brings it front and center, and you feel the pain all over again--just not necessarily to the original degree.
  • You retreat or find something to take your mind off it until it subsides.
  • You get back to your everyday routine again and it recedes until the background.

However, sometimes just like the cup that has never been fully emptied, there is always a bit of a risk of it overflowing.   You may never get that cup fully empty and that may be your cross to bear, however, it is never too late to continue to process hurt where it exists.  It is never too late to look for opportunities to heal.  The big key is a willingness to work through it and building a good support system.  As we've discovered more and more during this pandemic, people are social creatures and we thrive on good support systems.

I guess my takeaways are:
  • We can't stop 'traumas' from happening to others, but we can be there for others after and provide them a support system.
  • Sometimes we have to face our own 'traumas' head on.  
  • In our recovery from traumas, it can be hard to get rid of the hurt that sometimes hides away.  However, it is best to address the hurt rather than just 'take a couple aspirin and sleep it off'.

If you know my blog you know I always end with a song and this song is screaming out to be included.  I have always liked her music because she faces pain and hurt head on in her music and lets face it, she's a very talented songwriter and singer.  She was hurt in a profound way by her parent's divorce at an early age and she found a way to turn it around into a positive (see Family Portrait).  A funny story: one time we (my girlfriend at time and I) were relating to a guy serving us about her concert and he intimated to me later how it was a brave thing to take her to a 'chick concert'.  I had to laugh as it was actually me that pushed us going to the concert.  I could have corrected him but why bother.  I don't have to answer for my taste.  On a related note, I'm proud of my late brother for being himself.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Placing Sadness in the Anger Bin

According to, the Five Stages of Grief are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.   The idea is that you first deny the reality of that which grieves you; you are angry about what seems unfair or not right; you 'bargain' with your higher power that you'll do better if only you wake up and this horrible nightmare is over; you fall into a depression when you realize that no matter how much you wish it weren't so, there is nothing you can do to change that which grieves you and of course you accept that which you and move forward.

What I've learned along the way is the practice of 'medicine' is as much of an art as it is a science.  I believe this to be the case with psychology as well.  I believe that some models of human behavior, interactions and thought are better than others, that there is no one-sized, fits all model.  Each model has its flaws and exceptions as well as its accuracy and strengths, but I digress.  I believe the "Five Stages of Grief" model has a lot of value to it.  However, I believe the progression of grief doesn't always follow that model and frankly sometimes people never quite reach the acceptance stage.   From what I've seen some people never make it through the depression stage.  It's like they deny the loss, are angry about it, try to bargain the loss away, and hit the sadness or depression stage and struggle to handle it.

I called this post, "Placing Sadness in the Anger Bin", because essentially, the griever is at a point in which he or she should be working through the sadness, but for whatever reason, is struggling to.  What should manifest itself as Sadness or Depression instead comes out in Anger.  The sadness exists, but the griever is not processing or allowing it to fully express itself.  In my own life, this circumstance manifest itself with my brother's suicide, written in Don't you forget about me: The blog I needed to write one day about my late brother,

Due to the circumstances and timing in which he was found, the family was never allowed to see him after he was found.  As I worked through his belongings in his apartment that in the week that followed, a part of me expected him to walk in and gripe about what were we doing with his belongings.  It was surreal and was obviously the denial stage.  Gradually, it gave away to anger.  I knew he was struggling and did what I could to help him, but I felt the family overall had let him down.  He would 'disappear' from time to time and it seemed as if few in the family did anything more than to ask about him (from my perspective).  Had dealt with the same type of sexual abuse that I did as a kid and the struggles that come from growing up in a dysfunctional family which was unnecessarily poor and led by an alcoholic dad.  He struggled to find acceptance and had cried out for help in his teens with an overdoes on Tylenol.  From my perspective, he was largely abandoned and left to his own devices by the family.   I was angry and humiliated that as a family that we let him down.  I was angry at God I'm sure.  I was angry at myself.   I knew he was struggling and I dropped away for a little bit.  I didn't care that I was dealing with my own failing marriage, depression and unemployment.  I told myself I knew better and let him down.

In some ways, I'd wake up for a bit and just hope that this was just a bad dream and he'd show up and hoped there was a way that that could happen.  But, at my age, the 'bargain' stage didn't last too long as I am a realist.  At this point, having gotten over the shock, having worked through some anger and realized that bargaining was fruitless, I was was struggling with the sadness/depression.  Why should I have to deal with this?  Why should I have to feel this bad?   Why was I the one who was the last one in the family to attempt to be there for him?   I bounced back and forth between sadness and anger.  Eventually, I worked through the sadness and came to accept the reality of never seeing him again, but it wasn't a clean, linear five step progression.

As with the story above, I have come to realize in my life, a phenomenon.  I have seen in the life of others, especially, but not limited to kids and younger people that same phenomenon: Sadness hiding behind Anger.  That is Anger being Sadness's spokesperson, instead of Sadness speaking for itself.

  • The sadness hurts. Why should I have to feel this hurt or loss?  
  • The sadness leads to unexpected/uncontrolled expression sobbing or crying.  Why should we have to deal with something that makes us feel 'weak' or 'unsafe'?
    • It can make us feel vulnerable or 'weak'.   Anger tells us we should be able to better deal.
    • It can feel humiliating.  Crying, while healthy, is best done in a safe place.  If not done in a safe place, it can lead to humiliation.  Anger hates humiliation.
  • The sadness seems never-ending.  Why won't this stage ever end?  Why can't I just move on?  Anger hates an unresolved endless repeat of the same painful story.

Anyway, from what I see, Anger serves two purposes, not necessarily healthy, but nonetheless two purposes.

  • Anger can serve as seemingly less draining than working through the sadness.  
    • Anger doesn't require the level of introspection and processing of sadness.  It is a raw unfiltered emotion.  Let's face it, if you don't feel like you should have to deal with sadness, anger seems to be a good option.
  • Anger can serve as a way to block the sadness (at least for a time).   
    • In a way, it can be seen as the emotional version of cutting.  My understanding is that the raw physical sensation of cutting serves as a distraction for emotional pain of sadness.  If you are focused on the acute physical sensation of cutting* and all it involves, for a time, the emotional hurt is overridden.  Anger can be raw and intense, and in a similar way to cutting it can overwhelm sadness the emotional hurt of sadness.

I think most people have seen instances, either portrayed in the movies or somewhere in their own lives or those around them an angry person who is lovingly embraced and proceeds to break down and cry.  While I wouldn't categorically endorse that technique in dealing with angry people, it does emphasize a point: that sadness is often underlying anger.  

I guess my takeaway is this: Before you write off someone who has anger issues at least consider that there may be more than just meets the eye.  It isn't always just some jerk who decides that hating is an acceptable way of life.  It isn't always necessarily some psychopath who has predatory anger.  Sometimes, an 'angry' person is simply a person who is trying to avoid dealing with sadness.  So, instead of placing their Sadness in the Sadness Bin, they feel more comfortable placing it in the Anger Bin.  So, before you condemn an angry person, consider that there may be a sad person inside who just needs some understanding.**

Just my thoughts,

* I understand there are other reasons behind cutting as the Mayo Clinic details.  I've known people who cut, but I never began to understand why they cut themselves UNTIL one day when I chewed a fingernail too far down on the nail bed.  I'd done this before where it caused an uncomfortable, acute pain.  But, I had found that pressing down on that fingernail until it turned white for a while would lessen or block the pain in the nail bed.  I believe my higher power gave me an insight that day.  What I was doing was substituting one pain for another less intense pain.  In other words, I was blocking pain with pain.  I realized that day that people often cut for the same reason.  They are blocking an (emotional) pain with a less intense physical one.  I realize now that perhaps anger is just another form of pain displacement.

**But don't be so foolish as to try to hug and angry person with a knife or to ignore the symptoms of 'psychotic anger'.   Personal safety comes first.  ;-)

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Demons, Part 5: Ways to deal with hurt and the failure to outrun it.

A while back, I found out a one-time friend of mine had passed away from an overdose shortly after I fell out of touch with her.   At the time our friendship ended, she had basically tossed aside our friendship essentially stating that [our friendship] wasn't (paraphrasing it) "doing it for me".   Not one to be where I'm not wanted and having my self-respect, I honored her wishes.  In fact, I made a point to shut her out and blocking her access to me.  But, before I did this, I let her know that "I had figured that our friendship had an expiration date on it", before quietly fading away.  Even though we were never more than friends, I did like her a little bit and I was left wondering, what did I do to deserve being 'unfriended'?

Long after this estrangement, I looked at a common friend's page and saw her name in the friend's list on Facebook.  Out of curiosity, I decided to see what my estranged friend was up to.  I observed she had a memorial page and after following up on it, I got the rest of the story.   Even though we were estranged and she'd hurt my feelings, I was sad about it her passing.  She had overdosed within a number of months of our friendship ending.  Knowing that she overdosed shortly after our falling out of touch, helped me to understand that our estrangement was never really due to what I was lacking in the friend department to her.  Instead, it turns out she was a hurt person, struggling with demons.  She was seeking whatever she could to outrun or mask her pain and hurt.  A friendship that wasn't 'fun' enough didn't help her to do this.  It's clear now that neither I nor anyone else could be what she needed.   She needed to come to terms with herself and her pain.

I'd venture to guess most of know or are at least familiar with someone like that, if not having experienced it ourselves.  Someone who has or has had a deep soul level hurt that they tried to avoid facing.   From my experience and knowledge, anyone who has been there realizes that when you are in that place, you can either do one of four things--much of which I have done.  Some ways of dealing with hurt are unproductive and some are destructive.
  • Attempt to outlast it
    • Curling up into a ball, trying to sleep away pain, hurt and/or sadness.
    • 'Sleeping it off' can sometimes actually help if not overdone or abused.  Sometimes a new day can bring a fresh start and allow us to heal enough to deal with it.
  • Attempt to avoid it.
    •  Medicating it. This can take many forms, none of which are necessarily healthy and some of which can be downright deadly.
      • Literal 'medicine' such as drugs or alcohol to hope us cope.
      • Distractions to keep us from facing our hurt
        • Gambling, porn, overeating are 'pleasing' distractions.
        • Cutting and inking can be 'blocking' or masking distractions.  Just like a fire strategically set can burn the 'fuel' to a raging forest fire, a different type of pain can help block the 'hurting pain'.
    • Shutting down mourning.  Sometimes it hurts and makes us feel vulnerable to feel and to risk sharing our hurt.  Sometimes we are told to be brave, to keep a stiff upper lip.  While there is a time to be brave, sometimes when we shut down mourning, we are being just the opposite of brave.   We are avoiding.  Essentially, we are Zig Zagging through life: Diverting our energy from where it is really needed
  • Attempt to outrun it
    • Keeping too busy to have time to focus on it.  
    • Keeping busy I believe is a common way to avoid grieving the loss of a love one.
  • Allow ourselves to feel it.
    • Outwardly mourning and/or inwardly focusing on our hurt can be a distraction to what we need to get done, if it is timed wrong.
    • Finding a time and a place where it is safe to feel and mourn the hurt is imperative.  Allowing too much hurt to build up with no outlet is not a healthy place to be.

We all face some disappointment, some hurt--a promise not kept, a friendship lost, but I'm talking about deeper than that.  I'm talking a deep gut punch like a bitter divorce or an unexpected, untimely death, abuse and things of that nature.  This is not to minimize the 'smaller' hurts, but to put things in perspective.   Sometimes too however, enough 'smaller' hurts can build up and be just as debilitating.   But, I digress.  What I'm talking about is a buildup of hurt.  Anyway, as I've gotten deeper into my adulthood, I've come to realize that pain and hurt will not magically disappear and just because you claim you are 'over them' doesn't actually mean you are.   Our soul, and not our hopes, has a way of knowing if we have dealt with hurt.  My estranged friend reminded me.  Anyway, just some thoughts.   Here are a few other posts which I think would go with this one:



Saturday, April 28, 2018

I haven't got time for the pain or do I?

I recently went to a ballgame in which my daughter's choir sang: "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" for the seventh inning stretch.  It was a very cool thing to watch for a parent.  I was very proud of her.  Anyway, after all the fun and games so to speak, we left the Stadium and headed towards the car.  On the way to the parking lot, I stepped off a curb the wrong way, twisting my ankle with the weight of my body collapsing on top of it.  Besides being a bit humiliated, I was a injured and was in pain.  I still am having pain with it about a few weeks later as I severely sprained my ankle.

This whole incident and the inconvenience it caused kind of gave me the blues over the next few days.  Anyway, my wife and I had a discussion on dealing with adversity and she indicated that she does what needs done even when upsetting/depressing things happening to or around her. In other words, she can't afford to let things keep her mood down.  Like I said and I was feeling bluesy and probably a bit misunderstood and said to her, "People have time for depression?"  I wasn't trying to shame her or make her feel bad, but to express that yes we indeed can exercise control over how we deal with bad things, it is not always complete control.  

  • A situation in our life can be so upsetting that despite our best efforts to "soldier on", we have to take the time and give the wound a chance to heal before we go back into the daily grind.
  • We have face so much trauma over time that what seems like a small setback can just feel like piling on of woes and therefore can be disabling.
  • We are just having a bad day already and what we could brush off yesterday is something that we struggle with doing so today.
  • We have a family history of 'behavioral health' issues or problems
In other words, sometimes our spirit dictates to us what we can handle, not what we think we should be able to 'deal with'.

People say God will not allow more in our lives than we can bear in referencing the following:

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

When relating this adversity, people take this to mean that God will not allow you more to happen to you than you can handle with idea of handling means "just dealing with it".

I think the problem lies in people's interpretation of it.  Handling or 'enduring' doesn't always mean just pushing the problem (pain) aside and soldiering on.  Sometimes, it means taking a break, taking a nap, stepping away or retrenching such that we can recover.  

I think,...
  • Provided we aren't invested in a lifetime pass to a pity party and want to move forward in our lives.
  • Provided we don't have a nervous breakdown when we stub a toe or a similar overreaction.
  • Provided that deep down inside we are committed to moving forward and haven't just given up 
That we should be accept that sometimes we or those around us do need to make or allow "time for the pain".  If there is anything I've learned, it's this:  Feelings denied, suppressed or otherwise minimized don't go away, but instead can metastasize into something far worse or destructive.   So, be kind to yourself.  Don't sit around and expect life's hurts and problems just to go away as you rock your life away, but don't ignore them always pushing forward and pretending like they don't exist either. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Burying things: people and problems.

As we go through life, it seems like we hit change points from time to time--residences, professions, relationships-family and friends, losses, etc.

I felt a weird disconnect last year (2014) when late one Sunday night my mom passed away with almost no notice.  About a week later I was back at work trying to pretend as if nothing had changed and going about doing my job.  It's like I had to bury the hurt, bury the pain, bury the shock.

I was at a concert last night (August 2015) and Collective Soul was the opening band.  As music often does, it transported me back in time.  I remembered a little bit about the last time I saw them.   It seemed like a long time ago, yet I remember distinctly enjoying my birthday that year seeing them at the Pageant.  Anyway, that memory was buried deep in the past.  It got me to thinking about burying things.

So, exactly what is burying. What are the pros and cons of it and how does it differ from setting aside and denying?  We can't always deal directly in the present with people/relationships and problems.  Sometimes, we have to take another approach to dealing with problems for our mental well-being.

First, I wish to cover burying.

  • It can be a very healthy process.  If we have properly mourned or come to terms with something, it makes no sense to ever let it see the light of day. In other words, laying it to rest.
    • A grudge or hard feelings with a family member or friend, if reasonably resolved can and should be forgotten.  Aka burying the hatchet.
    • If we have truly fully processed a hurt, it sometimes is time to let it drift off into nothingness.  Not to be forgotten, but not to be thought about so much.  Except of course, if it can be used instructionally with others.
  •  It can be a very necessary process.
    • Clearly in the case of a literal physical burial, it is a necessary, but sad process in dealing with the passing of a loved one.
    • Sometimes a relationship is so hopelessly broken that you just have to sweep up its remains and just bury them rather than trying to hold on.
  • It can be an unhealthy way of dealing
    • Sometimes, we haven't dealt with demons, skeletons or hurts and they are just too painful to deal with.  The easy answer is to 'soldier on', 'get over it', and just attempt to bury what hurts. 
      • As we know, if we don't learn from the past, we tend to repeat it.  If we don't learn from our mistakes or misjudgments, we can easily fail to recognize a similar scenario when it arises.
      • Just like in a horror movie with a person who is wrongly killed, our demons or skeletons can come back to haunt us.
        • It can take the literal form of someone or some circumstance coming back into our life which disrupts our current situation.
        • It can take the form of a secondary issue.  If not properly resolved that can metastasize into a larger problem.  We may think we are burying a hurt, but instead we are planting the seed for another larger problem such as drinking.  A problem which can completely absorb us and destroy us.

Next, I will cover setting aside

Setting aside

  • It can be a healthy way to deal with an issue.
    • Sometimes we aren't finished processing issues or problems.  Sometimes we don't have the strength to deal with the heavy lifting involved.  So, we process as much as we can and then set aside the issue to pick up at a later point.
    • When we come back to the issue at a later point, we may be able to come back at it with a calmer mind and a fresher perspective.
  • It can be an unhealthy way of dealing with something that needs to be dealt with now.
    • For example, if we are having relationship issues that are getting worse or leading to more resentment, delaying dealing with them will only make dealing with them worse later.
    • Another example: if we know someone needs an intervention, putting it off until later may make the intervention more painful for everyone and won't really keep us at ease in the meantime.  We may be able to avoid the problem for a time, but it won't get any better and risks worsening.
  • We don't always have the luxury of setting aside a problem.
    • For example, when a loved one dies & we are the responsible party, we can't just ignore dealing with their passing while we collect our grief.  We have to soldier on through it until we have a chance to exhale.
    • If a problem is severe, we risk it blowing up in our face if we ignore it.
      • For example, if we ignore necessary engine work on our car long enough, we might wake up one day and wonder why our engine has permanently failed.
      • Another example: if we push off cutting expenses too long, we might end up having to declare bankruptcy and ruining our credit in the process.

Finally, I'll considering denying.

  • Denying a problem, at least in the short term, might be the only way we can mentally deal with it.  That is it effectively is a shock based response.
    • If we had someone close to us die, the pain that they we feel might be too intense to deal with at the present time.  We may need to tell ourselves that we are fine to get by in the short term.
    • Denial can buy us time to come to terms with the issue or loss.
  • Longer term, denial is a horrible way of coping or dealing with a problem.
    • It can frustrate those around us.
    • We risk the problem getting out of control if we deny it long enough.
  • It can also be a response based on not wanting to deal with a problem.
    • If we deny a problem exists why then there will be no need to deal with it.
      • For example, if we have a family history of heart problems and we show symptoms of heart problems, we can fool ourselves into believing we definitely don't have a problem, especially if we don't get it looked at.
      • If we don't have a doctor diagnose a health issue, then we can blissfully pretend that it doesn't exist as it hasn't been 'officially' diagnosed.
    • That is at least until the problem becomes so huge or so in our face we can't avoid it anymore.
      • A family members who has given indications of suicidal thinking may one day force us to pull away the denial after they make an attempt on their own life.
      • Kind of hard to avoid facing a problem when it has just blown up in our face.

I guess the takeaway from this blog for me is this.  There is a time to deal with problems, but there is also a time bury a problem: when it is necessary and/or after it has been dealt with effectively.  However, there is a time to set aside problems or even to deny them.  It's important not to set aside or deny a problem for too long, but it is just as important not to keep on 'dealing' with a problem indefinitely.  That is long after it has come time to bury that problem.  Part of maturing is knowing when to deal, not to deal and when it is finally time to bury a problem.  Getting the timing down of how and when to effectively deal with problems is a key to living in the moment and living in serenity.

I think the bible effectively talks about this in Ecclesiastics.

A Time for Everything
1There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Demons Part 3: 'Bloodletting' pain as a way of mourning

According to Wikipedia (for what it's worth), bloodletting is:

The withdrawal of blood from a patient to cure or prevent illness and disease. Bloodletting was based on an ancient system of medicine in which blood and other bodily fluids were regarded as "humors" that had to remain in proper balance to maintain health.

This practice was done from ancient times until near the end of the 19th century, but has all been abandoned.  Medically, it has been pretty well discredited.  However, I found the concept a useful way to describe a healthy way of mourning.

I don't always tell what inspires my blog posts.  But, this one I will share.  Anyone who knows me knows that my daughter, Olivia, is being raised in a broken home.  That is to say, her mom and I got split up when she was 4.  Obviously, this impacts Olivia and has hurt her.  But, as the parent who doesn't have primary custody of her, I see much less often.  I calculate about 30% of the time*.  Sometimes, I don't see her for about a week at a time, occasionally it is longer.  I always feel a sense of loss during these stretches.  While I am grateful that she has good health and I do get to see her--there are some who aren't that lucky, it still hurts.  The pain of the long stretches will always be there as I feel myself missing large blocks of her childhood, but I am better able to deal with the technique(s) I describe below:


In the Bible, God tells us:
1There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens  (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
Furthermore, He lets us know there is a:
4a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance  (Ecclesiastes 3:4)

However, we don't always take that advice to heart. I used to be guilty of letting the hurt build up.  Sometimes I found constructive way to divert the energy: running, listening to music, etc.  Other times, I  utilized unproductive or destructive ways to divert the energy: impulsive spending, wasting all day watching TV or playing video games, moments of promiscuity, etc.  See:  Zig Zagging through life: Diverting our energy from where it is really needed.

Anyway, it wasn't until I got older that I really realized these: two things about dealing with hurt:
  • The power of prayer and faith. 
  • What I call bloodletting: Focusing into the hurt rather than avoiding it.  
God helps those who help themselves.  Our faith can help us through the toughest times and God can literally move mountains if we ask him to, I believe that God helps those who help themselves.  That is to say, He rarely removes all our pain,but instead gives us the tools and wisdom to deal with it effectively, thereby lessening it.


Back to my story.  In 2011 when I literally lost almost everything, including my brother to suicide and my daughter for a while to a contentious divorce, I had to find a healthy way to cope.   After trying to avoid it or coping in unproductive or destructive ways, I came to realize that I'd been dealing with hurt the wrong way for most of my life.   When I started seeing my daughter again and had to give her up to her mom--dropping her at daycare or school or directly to her mom--it really totally hit home.  The times I had to give her up for literally almost a week, it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I would smile, hug her, kiss her, love her and put on the happy face, but as soon as I rushed back to my car, I would be devastated.  I came to understand the power of going into the pain or hurt, rather than trying to avoid it.  As I was driving off, I would literally flip my CD player or electronic device to sad music.  Sometimes, the more sad it was, the better.  In the privacy of my car on the way home or to work or wherever, I would literally find my inner pain, and like poison let it drain out--hence bloodletting.   I found writing to be a good tool in that regard too.  I had really started to find my inner voice after all those years.   While I know I am not a genius, I believe God blessed me with the gift of perception.  Once again, just like when I turned up the car stereo or ipod or whatever and forced myself to face the pain through sad music, I would write on what was bothering me, even to the point of having it hurt more.   Once again, I was 'bloodletting' or giving the poison of increasing hurt an outlet to flow out.

As an aside, as a child, I faced some real adversity.  Much of it I am not going to catalog here as I am sure I've cataloged it elsewhere and the adversity itself is not the main focus.  Anyway, I used to think of the adversity and the pain it caused as a curse, but now I see it as lemonade from a lemon.  Having faced certain things (and later in the 2010s even more adversity), I realized that had I had an easy carefree childhood and life, I would NEVER have been able to understand, relate or offer sincere encouragement to others who faced similar adversity.

I guess my takeaway from this is twofold:
  • Remember to lean on God when facing adversity rather than pushing Him away.
  • Looking into, stepping into, walking through the pain of adversity, while not very enjoyable, can be one of the best ways to release the hurt it is causing.

I labeled this one Demons, part 3 as I think it fits in with my other posts on "Demons".

Anyway, just my thoughts.  Thanks for reading and I hope my words, will impact at least one person.

-- Rich

* It's closer to 50% these days (2020)

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Pain is a gateway...

When we think about pain, we tend to focus on well, the pain of pain.  We focus on it is as an unfair negative in our life.  Something we are better off completely avoiding.  But is it?  I'm not suggesting that we strive to achieve or feel as much pain as possible, but rather we perhaps look at it a different way at times.

These are they ways we think of pain.  These are the ways you might see them in a dictionary definition.
  • Physical suffering or distress.
  • A distressing sensation in a particular part of the body.
  • Mental or emotional suffering or torment.
  • Etc.

But really, this is just one side of the pain equation. 

Different ways of looking at pain
  • Pain is a sign of progressing
    • When we first start working out, we feel a lot of aches and pains.
    • To be stronger or faster, we usually have to push through much discomfort.
  • Pain reminds us of our humanity.
    • If we went through life without pain, without loss, we wouldn't necessarily feel truly alive. 
    • Without the lows of pain, we would appreciate the calm, the serene.  We obviously wouldn't be able to measure the good times as easily.
    • Without it, we would be robbed of the opportunity to really feel, understand and relate to others.  It is easy to share joy with others as share happy moments.  But often times to truly understand another we have to walk a thousand miles in their shoes.
      • Some of my best friends have lost both of their parents and I could say all the comforting words in the world, but until I was in their shoes, I could never relate to them completely.
      • In this way, we have the opportunity to give a gift back to others.  Sure we can laugh with others, but it is in the moments we listen to, look into the eyes of others and say, "I hurt and I understand your hurt." that we show them compassion and love.  
  •  In my faith, the Father himself sacrificed his only begotten Son in an act of compassion.  A sacrifice which paid a sin debt that we could never have paid ourselves.  Pain was necessary to pay this sin debt. 
    • The Father had the pain of loss.
    • The Son endured the pain and torment of our sins.
Those who know me know that I have been blessed/cursed with a certain sensitivity.  This is very constructive in understanding others, but I sometimes feel more than I'd like as well.   As the loses have mounted over the past few years, I realize that pain has instead of destroying me, has in a way made me stronger.  It has opened my eyes and heart in a way that nothing else could have.