Sometimes, it’s better to feel the pain.
These are the words I said to my husband as I lay sprawled on the floor with a torn disc in my back. He could see I was hurting, and had been for too many days, and offered to get me some pain relief.
“No,” I said. “Sometimes it’s better to feel the pain.”
Those words haven’t left my mind since. I knew there was something far more profound there than just a conversation about pain relief.
Because while I was in physical pain that day, I was in far greater emotional pain. The kind where you’ve had a blind spot in your life exposed, and it’s far from pretty. Where you’ve taken a good, long look in the mirror and actually seen yourself. Where, with painful clarity, you’ve realized you’ve been operating from a place of hurt in your life and, in doing so, have hurt others.
Maybe not everyone has these moments in life. But I sure as hell do. Pivotal, life-changing moments where I am faced with an ugly truth about myself. And I am forced to make a choice.
Do I take a pill, numb the pain and continue on? Or do I allow myself to feel the pain in the hope I might begin to heal?
It’s human nature to want to take the first option. But when we numb the pain and go on with life as normal, we never give the wound a chance to heal. We mask the pain with our vices—alcohol, drugs, work, relationships, gambling, whatever—until we can no longer feel it. But buried underneath all those things is still a wound that bleeds. It still hurts.
And because it continues to hurt us, we inadvertently continue to hurt others.
We don’t even see it. It becomes our blind spot and unknowingly drives all that we do.
We slap on a band-aid hoping to cover it up, when all the while the wound festers and oozes toxicity into every part of our lives. We develop facades and become chameleons, desperate to blend in, wearing the appropriate mask for the appropriate occasion, telling people what they want to hear and doing what they want us to do. All the while hoping they won’t notice the smell of our wound that continues to putrefy under the surface.
And the thing is, we can choose to stay that way. We can fool ourselves into thinking we can pull it off for the rest of our lives, this false pretense that has become the foundation stone for our house of cards. But a wound left untreated for too long becomes an infection that slowly taints not just one part of our lives, but seeps into our entire heart and soul.
We don’t even see it happening. We just wonder why we hurt so much. And our reaction is to run from the hurt, fight to stay ahead of it.
But we often run so fast our lives begin to spin out of control. The road ahead of us blurs. No longer can we see the guideposts, the stop signs or the right way to turn. We just hope like hell that if we can run fast enough, and slam down enough pills along the way, then we won’t have to feel the pain of our wound. We eventually run our way into self-destruction, determined to take down not only ourselves, but everyone around us.
And when we have sabotaged all our relationships and everything good in our lives, we stand back, alone, survey the damage and find some sick satisfaction in knowing we have finally got the life we deserve.
But the second option seems terrifying to us. It requires an abundance of strength, courage and vulnerability. It forces us to be still and lean into the pain when all we want to do is run from it. We try to get back up too soon and become frustrated at how weak we have become. We trip, we stumble, we make mistakes, we fail. We lack the patience to persist. The wound still bleeds and we don’t know how to make it stop. We reach for our old vices and long to feel the comfort of their empty promises.
Although it hurts to rip off the band-aid and expose the ugly, festering wound that we have been trying so hard to hide, it is the only way we will ever begin to heal. We must examine the wound, go deeper and find the cause, poke and prod through the pain and clean out what has become gangrenous to our lives. We must cry saltwater tears that cleanse the filthy scum from our hearts and souls. We must take responsibility for our actions and own that in our hurt, we have hurt others. We must seek forgiveness where necessary and make amends if possible.
We must not run from the pain. We must live it, hold it close, breathe through it and learn from it so that we may eventually move forward in our lives, healed and whole and new.
There is nothing easy about choosing to expose our wounds. It leaves us vulnerable, fragile and raw. It hurts like hell.
The pain gets worse before it gets better. But I no longer want to spend my life running.
Sometimes, it’s better to feel the pain.