This is the third time I’m writing this blog post, which is ridiculous because it’s such a simple concept. Still, it took me half a lifetime to figure out. If I can share this little piece of wisdom so it doesn’t take everyone else as long, it’s worth doing. I know there’s a need because several times in the past few weeks, I’ve had to make it clear.
If it hurts, it hurts.
There is no scale of pain that says anything below here (by length or degree) doesn’t hurt. Neither is there a universal map that ensures the same event triggers the same level of physiological or psychological response. These things cannot be measured because they fail every equivalency test.
I’m not diminishing anyone’s pain in stating this. For those who might not know, I’ve been a chronic pain sufferer since thirteen or younger. I’m used to pain. It’s been so long since it wasn’t a constant, I don’t remember what that feels like. I know what I’m talking about as to severe, long-term pain, and that doesn’t change my point.
If it hurts, it hurts.
We have this sense of everything as a competition. We give weight to severity as if anything less has a lower value. These are false and negative social lessons. They want us to hold on to our hurts, to press them down until they fester and burst. Or until those suffering accept their experiences just don’t rate.
I say that’s a bunch of herd animal leavings.
The people who care about you want to share in your tears as much as your chuckles. That’s part of being a full and complete person instead of the comedic relief (this is the lesson I learned the hard way). It’s life’s experiences, good, bad, and silly, that connect us. The moments of sympathy and commiseration are just as important as the joy, but it’s more than that.
Just because your hurt doesn’t lay you out flat for a month or put you in the hospital… Just because you aren’t bleeding all over the floor or unable to drag a coherent sentence out of your resistant mind… Just because…
Never think your pain is somehow less because someone else has hurt longer or has a more significant cause. Pain is pain no matter the source, and it should be able to be expressed when necessary without guilt imposing a false silence.
This is my third try, and I’m still not sure I’m making it clear, but life affects us. It’s the effect that makes something important, not the severity. As a crazy example, I have had numerous root canals without anesthesia at this point. The reason is simple: anesthesia wears off too quickly and the pain of the repeated injections lasts longer than just getting the drilling over with. The severity of a root canal is much higher, but the effect of the needle pricks is worse for me.
When my boys were young, I would say, “Rub it and make it feel better.” Besides the benefit of spreading out the bruise so it becomes less touch sensitive, this allowed me to acknowledge the injury and resulting pain, and helped them move past it if the injury was minor. And when that didn’t work, I knew there was something more going on. The acknowledgment, though, is key. Something upsetting had happened, and I wasn’t pretending otherwise.
The trick is to accept the pain, to share it when necessary, and to get help and emotional support. That moves you one step closer to healing and strengthens your connection with your community even if it’s just through “hugs” texted on a forum. Modern U.S. society wants us to be islands, wants us to sink and swim on our own, to fight for every scrap. But we don’t have to buy into that mentality. We are stronger with linked arms than ever standing apart.