I was listening to a preacher on the radio talk about how he had counseled so many people that dealt with their pain for a very long time before finally asking for help. He said, in so many words, that in this American society, it seems we have been taught in many different ways to feel shame about our pain; to hide it, internalize it, pretend it isn't there. The feeling we get from most of those around us is that showing our pain means we are weak somehow, that we don't have what it takes to deal with it and be stronger than our pain.
It's sad, really. Pain is a normal part of our human existence. Not that we should wallow in it endlessly, but one should feel free and unashamed to express one's pain, save a completely inappropriate situation for doing so (a business meeting, for example, though expressing the pain of boredom might be a much more appreciated freedom at that time). Our expression of it should, as well, be met with open arms, plenty of empathy, a listening ear, and a genuine acknowledgment of the pain, not a "hush-hush now, pain is not allowed, it will all be okay so don't worry" attitude. After all, if we hide it and don't talk about it, aren't we, by our inaction, wallowing in it endlessly on the inside? Because talking about it, getting it out in the open, helps us to deal with it. One can't "deal" with something that "isn't there," after all.
Of course, one has to be careful not to go to the other extreme and make the pain ALL one talks about, 24-7. That's a good way to alienate those around us. We all need a break from pain now and then to breathe, or at least let those around us breathe, and talk about something positive and uplifting, something that will give us hope again, even in the midst of our pain. Imagine a book where the entire story is about a woman who does nothing but cry, talk about how hurt she is, wail, sigh, yell, scream, talk about how unfair it is, then cry some more and she doesn't stop until the end of the twenty-chapter book. You might survive the first chapter, but after that you'll either put the book down and regret buying it, or keep reading and start pulling your hair out, one strand at a time.
I thought it was so interesting how that radio preacher ended his teaching. He told those in his congregation, "Now turn to three people and tell them, 'Shame off you.' "
It made me realize how much I internalize my own pain and feel shame when I want to express it. It has been quite painful watching what Alzheimer's disease has done to my dad, and yet, I have only allowed myself to talk about the actual pain of it on occasion. I tend to want to avoid pain, and I guess I have assumed other people feel the same way.
But I need to break out of that tendency and allow myself to express my pain more openly, without shame, especially in this Blog. After all, I started this Blog for two main reasons: 1) To have somewhere to express my thoughts and feelings about my Dad having Alzheimer's and everything that entails, and 2) To give others out there who might be dealing with something similar a Blog they can relate to, and be encouraged by some of the same things that I'm encouraged by.
On that note, I would like to share what happened this morning. Just before I woke up, I was dreaming about my dad. In the dream, he was better again to the point of being able to go home (his home) during the day, and would only have to be taken to the assisted living home at night, to sleep. After being home during the day for only a couple of days, the color returned in his skin again, he gained some weight back, was happier, could walk again, and was able to communicate better again. In the dream I was talking to someone (not sure who) about how happy I was that my dad was able to be home again during the day and how much better he was doing as a result. It seemed so real, I could literally feel the tears of joy welling up in my eyes. Then I woke up, and realized it wasn't real. And it made me so sad. It hurt. I hate seeing my dad have to live in an assisted living home 24-7 and the effect it has had on him--though I am thankful for the small blessings like a friend of his working there now.
When my husband woke up, I wanted to tell him, but there it was again--that "shame," of not wanting to share the pain. I could feel myself starting to cry, but I pushed it back down. I didn't want to get out of bed, and overslept some. I felt so tired, despite a good night's sleep. Later while pouring myself a quick bowl of cereal for breakfast and my husband was in the kitchen getting his own breakfast (he likes to make his own on work mornings so that I can focus on getting myself and my daughter ready to take her to school), I finally shared the dream with him. He gave me a quick (albeit genuine) arm rub and said, "I'm sorry," but then had to finish getting ready for work. I didn't let on just how much it hurt, and pushed back the tears again.
I can see it will take awhile to break the habit of not wanting to share my pain, of wanting to push it down and pretend it's not there. Even the Good Lord in Heaven wants us to share our pain with Him, even if He does know about it already. All you have to do is read the Book of Psalms in the Bible to realize that, not to mention others in the Bible who cried out to God in their pain.
And oh how thankful I am to God for the many ways He gives us comfort... through people, through His Word, through situations. We may not understand the "why," of it all (and it's okay to ask Him "why," by the way), but in His perfect wisdom He knows. We just have to rest in Him and remember that one day, the pain will all end, forever. Until then, let's not be afraid to share our pain. We'll get through it, together. ;-)