“Why don’t you just get over it already?”
“Suck it up and deal with it!”
“Stop being such a baby.”
I cringed. The words stung like pure acid on a gaping wound. My own criticism was executing revenge.
A few months ago, I had spouted those words in great confidence to the “whiners” around me. Their chronic distress was a damper to life and I was convinced they were bluffing. I justified my sentiments by thinking real people can deal; they just move on with life.
But now I was the one in pain- real, physical, chronic pain. What was worse, no one could decipher the symptoms. Nothing showed up in the blood work, CT scans, ultrasounds, or any other test the doctors could think to run. As the evidence for my condition vaporized, my pain became suspect. “Just man up and deal with it, Laura!” My mind reeled with the hasty assumptions I had made about others in similar situations.
The truth shamed me: I was wrong.
I was wrong to assume others didn’t have real pain. I was wrong to expect them to “get over it” and be happy. I was wrong to criticize. Pain hurts. Perhaps that is obvious to most, but without experiencing it myself, I could never have imagined the awfulness pain creates.
Trying to be tough and acting like there is no affect only worsens the wound. Being brave doesn’t mean you wear a mask. True bravery is honesty. It’s okay to have a horrible-no-good-rotten day. Or several. Be real and tell the truth. I had so many bad days I wasn’t sure if they would ever end.
Have you ever noticed how intense pain, whether physical, mental, or emotional, alters your capacity to think clearly and make logical decisions? One of the wisest statements my dad made during this season of sickness was, “We never cry alone.” He knew I would inevitably cry when the pain would cross a certain threshold. And he knew beyond that point I would not be able to process the situation and get the help I needed. It’s true of all of us. When the pain intensifies to the point of irrational thought, we need someone to do for us what we cannot do ourselves.
I regret every pep talk I quipped. Forgive me. Pain tenderized my heart and silenced my judgment. Now I can’t help but pause to empathize with others. I feel your pain.