When I started this post it was going a very different direction than it’s going to end up going… I was thinking about pain and about the patients I see in the ED(emergency department). Most people who come to the ED come because they are experiencing pain in some capacity. One of my first shifts multiple patients we were assigned came in for headaches and to be totally honest, I was shocked because I think twice in my 6 mos of chronic headaches did I contemplate going to the ED because I was so miserable but there would be people and bright lights and noise so I just opted to lay in my bed with my ibuprofen and various other comfort measures and wait out the more intense bouts of pain. So it was a foreign concept to me to choose to go to the ED for pain. I eventually asked my preceptor why people come in for a headache. Turns out there are a few things we can do for them… But people come into the ED for pain all the time because “we’re not supposed to have pain” or “pain is bad”. And so as I started this tonight I was thinking about pain, and what it seems people’s perception of pain is and I got on good ole pinterest and typed pain into the search bar to see what I would find. And I honestly found myself getting annoyed. It was a bunch of these “whiny” quotes about pain (says the girl who lived with a migraine for 6 mos…).
But as I sat there reading through these I noticed a theme – there’s this perception that we have to have ‘it’ all together, whatever ‘it’ is. We, as an American culture, have so much pressure for individual success. So many of us feel like failures because we don’t measure up to some insane media created standard. We end up feeling guilty and anxious and depressed because we don’t measure up, because we don’t have it all together.
This quote to the left here – hmm yep, I’ve been there. I cried in the shower all the time after my emotionally abusive high school boyfriend broke up with me. After his controlling and manipulative behavior caused me to essentially sever all my relationships with my friends, after my whole world revolved around him and his schedule. After constant fighting because I was too stubborn and obstinate to put up with his shit after so long. Yet I still managed to feel guilty and like I didn’t measure up, and like I wasn’t enough. Yeah, after that relationship ended I cried myself to sleep every night for months. I cried in the shower because it felt safe to cry there. No one could hear me and when I got out my red face wouldn’t get questioned, at least not as much. So yeah, I’ve been there. And at the time I was embarrassed. I hid certain aspects of my pain, especially after a certain period of time because “it was long enough that I should be okay now”. But I didn’t realize how much I had been through from that relationship. And the people I was talking to about it didn’t realize how much I had been through in that relationship. I felt like I needed to have it all together after a certain point… that I shouldn’t feel the void anymore. But really, I had to rediscover myself and recreate my dreams. (and I don’t share this for your pity, but because it’s part of my story and I don’t want or need to hide it anymore)
But the thing is – we don’t have to have it all together. It’s okay to say “I’m doing okay” when someone asks you how you are. Honestly I think it’s better to answer that you’re having a bad day if you are rather than just say you’re doing great, especially if the storm clouds just opened up and unleashed on you.
This semester started off with many challenges because when does anything in life come easy? With my aunt dying unexpectedly, family drama with my brother’s wedding, challenges to starting school, and moving after being quasi-homeless for 6 weeks… but instead of saying life was good when all that was going on I chose to say I’m doing okay. And I think the other important thing to remember is that you’re not expected to have fix the problem that’s making us just okay vs great. In my experience, when I tell someone that I’m just okay, I’m not asking for them to do anything for me. I don’t need them to fix my problem. Having someone aware is helpful because being reminded that you matter is important. Getting words of encouragement can be helpful. Knowing that someone is willing and ready to listen when you’re ready to talk… these are important things. It’s not that I want to bring people down when I’m having a hard time, but that I don’t want to put on the mask. It’s that it’s too much effort and not worth the energy to pretend that I’m dandy.
But the thing is that life is painful. Pain shows we care. Pain reminds us that we’re human. Pain teaches us that we’re still alive. Pain … pain sucks. But it’s good because if we allow, it makes us stronger, wiser, softer, and tougher.
There seems to be this notion that we’re not supposed to feel, that we’re not supposed to hurt. That we’re supposed to be cheery and happy all the time and that the only emotion we’r allowed to experience is happy. And so we bury…we bury and we bury and we bury.
But what if.. what if we faced our pain when we experienced it? What if we cried when we were sad or angry? What if we took allowed ourselves to stop? What if we actually said no to things so we could work through what we need to work through? What if we admitted to what we were going through and lived genuine, authentic lives and we honest with the people we have trusted to be vulnerable with, to let in to our lives?
I want to finish with this quote from Grey’s Anatomy:
“Pain comes in all forms. The small twinge, a bit of soreness, the random pain, the normal pains we live with every day. Then there’s the kind of pain you can’t ignore. A level of pain so great it blocks out everything else, makes the rest of the world fade away. Until all we can think about is how much we hurt. How we manage our pain is up to us. Pain, ride it out, embrace it, ignore it. And for some of us the best way to manage pain is to just push through it… Pain, you just have to ride it out. Hope it goes away on its own. hope the wound heals on its own. There are no solutions, no easy answers. You just breathe deep and wait for it to subside. Most of the time pain can be managed but sometimes the pain gets you when you least expect it. It’s way below the belt and doesn’t let up. Pain, you just have to fight through because the truth is you can’t outrun it and life just makes more.” -Meredith Grey