Friday, August 30, 2013

One benefit of surviving pain

As I get to know Hawk, I'm realizing that pain is pain. There is no such thing as comparing the validity of the experience or who gets to say they had it worse.

He suffered too, which may be why he gets it when I talk about the things I learned from my marriage. But when he talks about his experiences, he knows. He knows that feeling of not being able to bear it, of having nowhere else to turn, or having to give up and not knowing how.

I'm so thankful that those experiences woke him up instead of ...

Well, let me back up to how I used to deal with the pain so you can see the contrast.

I used to block the pain by filling my mind with a variety of things that effectively kept me numb to my experiences.
  1. Anger, blame, bitterness. - When I could simplify the problem as someone else's fault, giving me no choice, then I felt there was nothing I could do.
  2. And so I felt free to fill my mind with distractions.- I could forget. I could even feel happy and pretend I enjoyed my life, so long as I didn't think about it. 
(Now, as a temporary measure distraction is excellent. I use it every month when my moods swing into depression because I know the source and that it is a rise in sensitivity that will go away on schedule. Recognizing when someone is actively causing harm is fine, too, since it's not healthy to take the blame for problems you didn't cause.)

When blame and distraction become a constant state, they're not so helpful. I was emotionally numb, cognitively asleep, and unable to function in stable relationship with anyone.  It wasn't until I broke down and faced my pain that I began to heal. Because facing it for real forced me to change. I knew if I didn't alter something, I'd go right back to the numb cloud, and by that point I was suicidal, so it wasn't comforting to stay there. (I had a lot of help ... but that's another story.)

So, Hawk took his pain and faced it. He let it wake him up from the general sense that everything can be handled if you just manipulate life enough. He realized "there are problems I can't handle alone."  Facing the destruction of his dreams changed his perspective. And now he is even more compassionate than before because he knows how painful it is to face such overwhelming odds.

People who haven't been there rarely know what to say to someone at the breaking point. It's one of the benefits of surviving ... that you can then help others make it through and begin healing.

Like me, he has scars and unhealed wounds. I feel privileged to be connected to him, because he has every reason to keep others away, to close them out. Yet we are friends, and I am trusted with his story.

That's amazing!