It is important for me to share that I am still in daily pain as I write this. I still suffer from chronic migraines. I still wrestle with depression and anxiety. I still experience high emotion days.
This is part of my linear reality. This is part of my truth.
I am not ashamed of this. I do not wish to hide or obscure this part of my story from anyone.
If anything, I want to take the idea of “arrival” and immediately do away with it.
The idea of arrival has been sold to me from the time I was young. It was being peddled within the constructs of religion. My scriptural indoctrination about approaching life as though I was “running a race” and must “get to the finish line” as well as a laundry list of things to strive toward to “become perfect like my heavenly father” dominated my headspace.
It was also being modeled in the media, with the main characters in books or movies only inspiring me because they came out the proverbial “other side.”
It was additionally being reinforced in all my relationships. Whenever I was in pain, and dropped my guard long enough to expression my pain, the commonly held response was for the other person to immediately begin seeking a way to fix my pain.
This seems harmless enough, but it’s actually deeply problematic. Every time we try to fix another’s pain, we are unintentionally attaching a specific expectation to what we think the outcome concerning the pain should be. That is, quite often, for the pain to go away!
This is because, our society as a whole, is widely uncomfortable with pain.
It is understandable that when we see someone we love in pain, we immediately want to fix it. Whether we realize it or not, we are often feeling helpless and our response to this feeling is to begin seeking solutions.
Unfortunately, this can cause damage to the person in pain.
Over the years, I didn’t realize that a very defined and unforgiving idea of success was being hard-wired into my brain. As I began suffering from chronic pain, the idea of “coming out the other side” quickly became my self-made prison.
I believe that this pervasive message of “arrival” along with our chronic unease with suffering needs to change.
For me, it began by acknowledging that I was in pain. This was the first step in my journey. I wasn’t only acknowledging it, but I was also accepting it. And I wasn’t only accepting it, but I was refusing to apologize for it anymore.
This may sound oversimplified but acknowledgement of pain can also mean ownership. This is not the type of ownership that comes with unhealthy attachments such as guilt or self-blame. This is the type of ownership that is willing to recognize the unfavorable reality of a current situation. This type of ownership refuses to avoid the current reality even if it’s something we might consider undesirable. This type of ownership only seeks to serve us by bringing us true freedom.
By taking ownership for my pain, it freed me to carve out space for my pain.
In this space, I could take all the time I needed without other’s expectations disrupting this important process. This was a gift I could only give myself. I was not okay and I hadn’t been for a long time. Now I was giving myself permission to not be okay.
After nine years of trying it everyone else’s way — “trying to be okay” — it was time for me to try something different.
For me, it began with one simple pronouncement: “I am not okay, and that gets to be okay.”
Image Credit: Brandy Kayzakian-Rowe