Pain is one of those feelings that I have personally found that never goes away. As for pain, I’m talking mostly about grief, self-hatred, depression, and shame.
I’ve felt grief a lot in my life. My grandmother passed away over 4 years ago. She was my light in a very dark world while I was growing up. No one knew about my abusive home life. My mother tricked me into not telling anyone, because “home life is private and should not be shared with anyone else”. There was a period of time when my mother did not allow me to see my family, but the moments I had with my grandma were very memorable. Her hugs could make everything in the world right for just that moment. I still feel the grief of her death now as I write this. I miss that amazing woman with every fiber of my soul.
I feel the grief of being born to broken parents. I am not sure what made them broken, but I can’t blame them for doing the best they knew how. They were victims of something, and were not able to stop victimizing others. They were doing the best they could with the toolbox they had at the time. I don’t know what they experienced, but I do feel sad that they weren’t stronger. They did teach me a lesson. A lesson about how to treat others.
I feel grief from every relationship I’ve ever been in. Everyone that I hurt because I was broken and couldn’t do better. Every friend, partner and loved one. I wish I could have taken the pain I’ve experienced and not hurt anyone else with it, however I can’t change the past. I can only change the future and create better relationships now. The past is done and gone. The future is today, this very second, this moment.
Self-hatred. I truly believe that everyone has at least an ounce of self-hatred for themselves. Even the most narcissistic have that tiny voice inside that tears them down sometimes. I think it is normal to judge and critique ourselves. There is a fine line however, when it goes from that voice that makes us a better person to a voice that damages us more. I have many self-hating words in my head. I was raised to believe that I was a bad person, not deserving of love.
Depression is a bottomless pit. I find the worst part of depression is the moments where I feel hopeless. Some days I see that light above this pit, it shines down on me and I bask in the warmth of it’s glow. Other days there isn’t any light. Only the close walls of despair, the cold unwelcome quicksand all around me, sucking me in deeper and deeper. These are the moments when I can’t see the bright side of things, I can’t imagine a life other than this depression. There is no light, only the darkness and hopelessness.
Shame is the painful and cruel sister of self-hatred. For me it is that voice deep inside that tells me that somehow I am to blame for the awful things that have happened in my life. The voice that disguises itself as reason and tells me I could have done something different. That voice that tells me I could have reached out to someone growing up and told them I was abused. That voice that tells me maybe I was a bad person that deserved punishment when I was a kid. Shame pretends to be logic and reason. Instead of accepting that bad things happened and I did the best I could at that moment, shame tells me it was somehow my fault.
Feelings never go away. I feel like I am an iceberg. What I show on the surface does not come even close to showing everything that is inside. I have spent the last 34 years, 1 month and 2 days with this iceberg called life. Sometimes I chip away tiny portions of it and release them into the water, letting them go. Other times I can’t deal with things, and the iceberg cracks, or other chunks of ice latch on underneath the water where no one sees.
As my therapist taught me, these feelings never go away. Feelings are meant to flow through you in the moment, and then be gone. So often I latch onto that feeling that I have when something happens, and tack it onto my iceberg because I don’t want to deal with it. I never heal things, I just add them to the stack and the iceberg grows larger and larger underneath the water.
I can tell you from personal experience that moving through life with this enormous iceberg is exhausting, painful, and makes my life much more difficult than it needs to be. I carry everything with me, the loss of my grandmother, my childhood, past relationships. Every mean thing that anyone has ever said or done to me is part of this iceberg.
I started therapy with Talkspace in December of 2014. I would love to say that I am completely healed now, but that wouldn’t be true. I am still floating out in the ocean like a tiny island, but with that huge buildup hidden from sight under the water. However, through therapy, writing in this blog, and dealing with the cracks and ice under the water as it breaks off and bobs to the surface, I am healing. It took me 34 years, 1 month and 2 days to get to where I am now. I could never think that I would be healed in a year, or maybe even two. All I can do is break off tiny pieces of that iceberg, let the feelings flow through me, and move on to the next part.
When bad things happen and we bottle up those emotions instead of dealing with them in the present, they never go away. We can push them down, hide them, shove them in a drawer or dark place, but they will always come back. They come back in the form of being triggered by something that reminds us of that moment that caused us pain. Maybe someone makes us feel the same way we did when that bad thing happened. Maybe something as simple as a smell or taste reminds us. Then the emotion comes up to the surface, sharp and jagged as hell. We have the choice at that moment to either push it back under the water and reattach it to the huge iceberg, or face that sharp painful chunk of ice, let those emotions flow through us, and then watch that little chunk float off into the distance.
No amount of hoping, wishing, or filling our lives with Band-Aids like drugs, alcohol or other people can break down that iceberg. I’ve personally found that tackling those little chunks that break off when I’m triggered is the best way to heal.
When I’m triggered to feel the rejection from my mother, I write about it. I drag those feelings up to the surface and face them head on. I cry, I mentally scream out, “why me”? I let the hurt and pain flow through me until I have cried every tear I have in my body. I write the pain. Then I tell myself that I didn’t deserve to be abused. She was doing the best she could with what she had. It’s not my fault. I could jam that pain back down where it came from, but it will only come up again later. So I do my very best to let it flow. I wasn’t capable of dealing with that pain when it happened. I’m stronger now and more able to cope. I have a much larger toolbox now. So when the pain comes up, when I’m triggered, I get out my hammer labeled “writing”, my chisel labeled “tears” and I get to work repairing and chipping off portions of that iceberg.
My favorite self talk is “Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference”. I have “Serenity, Courage, Wisdom” tattooed on my left wrist to remind me every day that I can’t change the bad things that have happened. I can however use it to help someone else. And I am wise enough to know the difference between the things that can and cannot be changed.
We are strong. We can change and heal. We can stop the cycle of Victims of Victims. We are never alone. Someone out there is experiencing pain as you are. I don’t say that to lessen your pain. I don’t believe in the common, “someone else has it much worse”. I believe that everyone’s battle is the worst to them, and that deserves acknowledgement.
If you truly feel alone, don’t. I’m here with you, I care about you. I know you can heal and become healthier. I want to take the pain I’ve experienced and share it with the world to help others. Even if I only ever make a difference with one person, I’m using bad things to create good. The cycle stops here.
Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.