Can we talk? I mean really talk, the kind where we are truthful and honest and cover some hard topics? You know those topics that stay off the list most of the time. We need to discuss one of them today. It's the topic of pain. It is going to be a lengthy chat.
Since pain in all forms causes some kind of hurt, I want to clarify a bit. We have all experienced some form of hurt or pain in our lives. Whether a broken bone, or a broken heart, we've felt it. Sometimes we can take a pill and it goes away, sometimes we can take a pill and it stays anyway, and sometimes there is no pill at all.
We never want to talk about it either. At least the big hurts. We will gripe incessantly about a paper cut, never bothering to mention our heart is in shambles. It is this big pain I want to talk about.
For years I quietly lived my life, not sharing with others what was going on that caused me pain. I hate to share that I often said I was fine, when I wasn't really. I did this for any kind of pain. Physical, emotional, mental, relational, spiritual. They were all off limits to others. I didn’t want to appear weak, didn't want to have people pity me, didn't want to be 'different' or be told I lacked faith. (I hate those words - you just need to have more faith!)
I had a whole different post ready to go today. God had a different idea. See, I've been in a lot of pain recently. Physical pain as a result of a diagnosed condition. Pain I have lived with for years. This time though it is taking a lot more out of me. That in turn is causing me emotional pain. I am watching my family try to be positive, like I taught them to be.
They are trying to be brave, like I expect them to be. But…. We are all a little scared. It's the worst it's been. I even did the unthinkable and asked for HELP! Can you stand it?! I need it and I have accepted it. I am facing my own reality and at peace with it.
For those with chronic illness, health battles of all kinds, PLEASE hear me on this clearly - there is NO shame or weakness or inconvenience when we admit we need others. This is where the real strength is. When we realize that pain could be a gift for someone else. Radical idea I know.
I got a little brave this week and came clean with a few people. Not for pity or sympathy, but because I had no choice. I have to protect some pretty big boundary lines right now for the benefit of others and myself. I had to say no to some things, equally unthinkable isn't it? (I HATE pity! I don't give it and will not accept it!)
I had to get really clear, really fast, on what I can actually do and on where my priorities truly are. I had to let go of my guilt and shame and had to face some truth. I am simply not able to do everything I want to do, as I want to do it. People may be disappointed, oh well. I'm facing some hard decisions also.
I refuse to accept anyone telling me how strong I am…nope, I'm not. I made a choice a long time ago to never let anything get the better of me. I am too stubborn to give in, even when I probably should. I will NOT allow circumstances to beat me, I will beat them. My choice is to refuse to give in to the pain. It will not win.
Pain may keep me physically down, it may take away my ability to walk down stairs today. It will not rob me of my joy, it will not take away my ability to choose to smile. I will NOT allow it to dictate who I am. It is not my identity. My identity and value is wrapped up in who I choose to be and who I choose to follow. No pain, or fear, is too big for my God. He knows what's going on.
My name is Kim. My name is not my illness. I am a wife. I am not an illness. I am a mom. I am not a condition. Your identity is not your name, or your condition or your illness.
Often those who do not have to walk in our shoes do not really want to know how we are. They aren't really asking us, they are making small talk. So we learn to say we are fine, because most people cannot handle the true answer. I may be fine mentally today, but physically I am worn out. I do not want to be chatty and talk about the weather. It is a waste of the precious energy I do have. That energy is reserved for my family today.
I also do not want to hear about some magic solution you have for me. It is exhausting having people constantly trying to "help" by offering the "solution". Yes, I've already tried it. Thank you for the suggestion. Here again, there is the answer you want to hear which is not what I want to say. What I want to say is, "Do you honestly think I’m sitting here purposely ignoring your suggestions because I LIKE this? Do you really think I haven't already tried every single stinking thing in the universe? Does the ridiculous number of doctor's visits, blood work, etc.… seem like I am just being stubborn and am unwilling to do something?"
For many people the battle they fight daily, whether you see it or not, is one of great pain. We are not refusing to help ourselves. We are not lying to you or hiding the truth. We simply can't waste any more energy on worrying about the opinions of others. We have no energy.
Our conditions and illnesses rob us of the very things you take for granted. We already struggle with the idea of being a burden to those we love. It doesn't matter if it's cancer, or mental illness, or fibro, or lupus, or arthritis. We have limitations. We have set-backs. We have relapses. We have issues. We face hard decisions and hard truths and hard choices.
That is WHY we needed to have a lengthy chat today about this hard topic. There is too much comparison. A splinter is not a broken bone. A headache is not a mental illness. The splinter and the headache hurt. They cause pain. They can indicate bigger problems. They are not bigger pains. They do not require the same level of understanding. They do not require special treatment. In fact, we usually mention them for sympathy, not because they actually are problems. A splinter does not impede your ability to function. A headache is not even a migraine. Just take a pill and move on.
Sadly, most people would prefer our broken bone just be a splinter. They wish our mental illness was just a headache. To have to see someone you care about face unthinkable pain, is just that. Unthinkable. So we hide our big pain away. To protect you, to shield you, to care for you.
Here is the bottom line: I have an illness, I am not an illness. My strength is not in my willingness to speak about it, but in walking through it. I am not brave for ever getting up, I am brave for sitting down. I make a choice, as many of my dear friends do, to purposefully find the good. To seek a positive. To be brave enough to STOP worrying about others and focus on me. To let other's help, let them heal, let them get up. I choose today to rise above, carry on, and look forward to every amazing thing I can find.
I am fortunate. I can make a choice to be positive. I have a friend who is fortunate. She cannot choose to be positive, but she can choose to walk down stairs. I have another friend who is fortunate. She cannot choose to treat her daughter's rare genetic disease, but she can choose to be thankful for every single extra day she gets to watch her daughter wake up. Each of us is fortunate and blessed despite our circumstances because it is about perspective. We each feel for the other, recognizing with empathy and understanding, that while the other's pain is not our own, we still share the same battle of walking through it.