Speaking Pain in Hopes of Alleviating Some

I’m gradually coming down from an emotionally demanding week.

I could sugar-coat it.

Explain my pain away and remind everyone that I KNOW things could be worse — THEY ABSOLUTELY COULD BE WORSE.

But sometimes I think people like myself spend too much time stuffing away pain, feeling like everyone else’s stuff is more worthy of sharing.

I’m calling bullshit on myself. I need to talk about some of this just to make sense of it all in my head.

***I do feel that a trigger warning is necessary here. I’m about to talk bluntly about mental health, particularly suicide — I’m okay — but below I discuss my personal experience as someone who has lived through loss of loved ones from suicide in a raw and somewhat untidy way. I just thought you should know before going forward. ***

 

 

*****

 

I learned at a young age that a lot of my stuff was entirely too much for others, and honestly I still carry a great deal of that pain with me today — past traumas as well as the pain of knowing that my stuff was more than most people had room for.

I was 20 when my mother and I discovered my dad’s body in the garage of our home. He was done with life. It was entirely too much and he had had it.

Suicide.

Shit got real very quickly. The pain and ugliness of the world showed up  — loud and clear, in my family.

I saw first hand how uncomfortable this sort of incident made people.

Friends were unable to look me in the eye. Even the adults who I looked to for guidance lacked this life experience and were lost for words of comfort.

One well-meaning acquaintance had the audacity to ask me if I had Jesus in my life while a church deacon quietly folded my underwear at my parents’ kitchen table.

I calmly told her that I didn’t want to discuss Jesus, but if she had any vodka in her purse, I could really go for a screwdriver.

She pursed her lips together and scurried out the door. She felt called to witness to a young woman whose life had crumbled, but she couldn’t do what I needed most:

She was incapable of sitting with my pain.

 

 

*****

 

 

My father was exceptionally good at sitting with people’s pain, and he was well-loved for that and many other reasons.

He was an empath.

Kind and generous with his time.

Especially drawn to the downtrodden.

He wanted to take away the troubles of his friends and clients who often shared with him, but it was difficult for him to lay their burdens down.

We empaths are like sponges, absorbing the emotions of those around us. Lately, I feel especially sensitive to the collective cultural pain in our world.

Then there’s my inner, personal pain — the situations that I actually have a bit more immediate control over, yet they feel especially difficult, bordering on unmanageable.

 

 

*****

 

My dad has been on my mind a lot this month. Perhaps it’s because September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. It doesn’t work well for me, though, and forgive me if that sounds selfish.

I am entirely too aware of suicide, and frankly I don’t need a fucking month-long reminder.

I know it’s important and the idea is to promote resources and awareness around issues of suicide prevention. Part of this awareness is helping people learn how to talk about suicide without increasing the risk of harm.

Personally, I find the month nothing but one big trigger.

It is not helpful to me.

At all.

It drums up emotions that I’d prefer to keep stuffed.

For anyone wishing to know, I am highly aware that suicide is a bad thing.

I wish my father’s suicide had been prevented.

I wish that those well-meaning church people had not felt the need to share their views that those who die by suicide are condemned to hell. I don’t believe that and hearing it at his wake was not remotely helpful.

I worry about my mother every time I see Suicide Prevention Month being advertised all over social media.

Is this triggering her? Making her more depressed and aware, leaving her wondering what she did wrong and what she COULD have done to prevent my father’s death?

It makes me examine it all more closely, yet there’s nothing I can do now that will bring my father back. I’m not sure anything would have prevented it. I can’t help but wonder, though, and when I finally get it out of my head, I have an entire month of suicide prevention splashed in my face.

It’s a very painful reminder of everything I lost.

I’ve had the honor of telling the triage nurse that my mother wants to die and that I need help getting her medicated and into the hospital.

I’ve had to spell out for the intake person my family’s sordid mental health history.

Talking about suicide is not hard for me. Sitting with the discomfort of those around me is another story entirely. I know the look, as I call it, all too well.

Sharing my family’s story and pouring my heart out to my friend’s sister as she’s grieving the messiness that IS amplified when the death is from suicide, only to be informed later that the investigators never proved that the cause was suicide, is the kind of thing that’s hard.

She might as well have said, “Well, your dad died by suicide but we cover that nastiness up in our family. My sister is in heaven.”

Because in many cultures, in my experience ones heavily defined by archaic religious doctrine, suicide equals hell. And let me assure you that people who believe that shit have no problem sharing their “facts” with the freshly bereaved.

 

 

*****

This was a hard post to write for many reasons.

I have readers who are struggling with their own mental health conditions, recovery, grief, pain.

PAIN.

So many of us have so much pain inside of us that we contend with daily.

Hourly.

We get through our days sometimes minute by minute.

Breath to breath.

For me, I FEEL so deeply, and frankly it’s an exhausting existence.

Parenting for me right now feels like I’m being set on fire in the deepest parts of cells, and I want nothing more than to flee from this torture.

I watch my children, knowing it’s only going to get more difficult, and all I want to do is make it better and easier and I have no idea how to do that.

The hardest part is that I know that’s not my job. I CAN’T fix it nor do I need to do so.

Parents who work tirelessly to spare their kids any discomfort are not helping, in spite of their pure, good, holy intentions.

I can barely sit with my own pain these days, and maybe that’s my greatest dilemma.

I’m now required to sit with the pain of these little extensions of myself.

Sitting with my own pain is a million times easier because I can somewhat control it. I know the steps to take to deal with my own shit. I’ve spent the past two decades figuring it all out.

I have a toolbox, one I’ve built slowly, added to, adapted over the years as various and inevitably painful situations arise.

*****

There’s no point to this meandering shit storm. I’m sorry to say there may be more ahead. I simply need to write real and even that feels difficult.

I’ll continue in another post….

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21 thoughts on “Speaking Pain in Hopes of Alleviating Some

  1. Dear one, once again I’m amazed with the quality of your writing, especially about this topic. I’m catching up with your blog posts; I never want to miss a single one no matter what you write about. Everyone else wrote such insightful remarks.

    I completely agree with you as far as not needing an entire month of reminders. I feel that way about both bipolar disorder and suicide. I’m thinking of you, and I’m going to go catch up with your latest posts. I’m really glad that you’re writing about what matters. Xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing your shit-storm. Many of us have lived or continue to live in shit-storms. This week, I had to bring my son into his psychologist’s office for crisis intervention and evaluation. He’s hanging in there, doing better, but I hadn’t even considered that Suicide Prevention Awareness Month may have triggered him. He’s more of a gamer and YouTube watcher, though. I’m meeting with his school administrators today. Anyway, sorry for sharing my shit-storm with you here. Can’t go into the details on my own site. Here I imagine them somewhat hidden. My son is private. Obviously, I’m not.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I appreciate you sharing! Though I’m truly sorry you and your son are going through that. I sort of trailed off at the end of this post but hope to post the other part once I finish it — I’ve been dealing with kid stuff as well and it’s sucking the life out of me and breaking my heart in ways it’s never been broken before. I know that awareness is important and I of all people want suicide prevention — but I did feel so much in a negative way this month from all the awareness raising. I’m not sure what the proper balance is, or even if balance is possible. It did make me more aware of my own hot buttons and has pushed me to think about some personal healing that needs to happen. Thinking of you as you deal with all that’s involved with loving a child. I hope things get better for you guys soon.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think that those of us who sit with as much pain as we do have a better understanding of other’s pain. And I know that, for myself, it’s easier to deal with the pain of others then it is to deal with my own.

    This is a beautiful post. Pain isn’t linear so I don’t expect posts about pain to be either.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. I think you are right that those of us who sit with as much pain as we do have a better understanding of other’s pain — a heightened sensitivity to it perhaps. And you are so right — pain isn’t linear. I have to remind myself of that AND in terms of grief, there is no exact time line. Thank you again for taking the time to read and comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think writing as honestly as you did here gives those people who, as you noted, can’t sit with someone else’s pain, an incredibly valuable opportunity to sit with yours. Facilitating the entrance into another person’s very personal headspace and emotions (as you’ve done by writing so openly and generously about yours) is, I think, one of the most powerful responses there can possibly be to the frustration you describe. I imagine your goal in writing this wasn’t to be some sort of activist driving change – but I feel really strongly that a post like this is a vehicle for exactly that – and that that’s HUGELY important. It’s impossible to read what you wrote and not feel something of what you feel/have felt. But because it’s a written piece, there’s nowhere really to PUT the emotions that your words raise. You have to just feel them – and, thus, SIT WITH THEM, as you talked about. That can only increase compassion and sensitivity – and, as you illustrated with some of the interactions you described, those are very good and extremely necessary qualities to grow!

    And I think too that talking – openly and honestly and fully – about pain, sharing that, is one of the most powerful things we can do for our kids. Like – to create and perpetuate an environment in which it’s okay and perfectly acceptable to share painful emotions and experiences. I feel so much for you (and have had some similar experiences myself), feeling that your emotions and feelings, all that deep capacity for empathy that you have, is “too much” for people – like YOU’RE the deficient one for containing the capacity within yourself to feel so fully, or for being so self-aware. That’s just sad on so many levels! But what I’ve realized I can do for my kids is make sure that they know, in a really deep way, that their pain and their emotions are NEVER too much for me. I can give them that. And I think (I hope) that knowing that can function as a means of respite for them. I know that I can’t shield them from all pain – and, as you noted, that’s probably not actually a bad thing (as much as that idea troubles me!) But I CAN provide them with a safe place to “lick their wounds” and rebuild their strength when they’re fragile – and they can count on that.

    I’ve never really thought that through before – but that might be my primary parenting goal: to be that for them. So that they can go out into the world and experience things, good and bad – but be able to count on having a “safe haven”, always, with me – where they’re understood and supported and can be completely themselves, without worrying that they’re not welcome, or “too much” or anything of that nature. That’s what I want for them.

    Thank you so much for writing this – and making me think some of this through! I’ve been reading your stuff for a couple of years now – and your willingness to write so openly, without sugarcoating, just RAW, still blows me away! I respect and admire that so much!

    Thank you for doing what you do!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I loved everything about this response. Honestly, I’ve read over it multiple times and it evokes SO much that I can’t exactly put into words. So…please know that my short response to your eloquently expressed words isn’t because I have nothing to say. I have a lot to say, but I’m still sort of marinating in your words. Thank you again for reading and for offering such a heart-felt comment with an incredible amount of depth.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I think it is so important that you shared about. Those who judge those who suicide have NO FUCKING IDEA of what people with generous hearts and souls go through on this earth. Both of my sister’s tried to take their lives. I cannot honestly imagine the pain if they had been successful. My heart goes out to you. I know feeling it is very hard but it really is the only way, that and taking time out to find the beauty and joy in the life that remains.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you. I’m glad I was able to offer another perspective. Still, I get that Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is an important thing and I’m certain it helps lots of people, so I don’t want to take away from that. At the same time…yes…it makes me extremely uncomfortable and is a tragic reminder of something I feel I’ve dealt with in the best way I know how. More than anything, I think, writing this raw post made me aware that I have a lot more healing to do. Thank you for reading and commenting.

      Like

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