There are things in life that we all understand. We understand the difference between sunshine and rain. We understand the difference between daylight and nighttime. We understand what it means to lift something that weighs 5lbs as opposed to something that weighs 50lbs. We understand the sensation of touch and taste, sights and smell. These things make sense to us. Intellectually, we understand why time flies when we’re having fun or how it drags when we’re stuck in a place where we’d rather not be.
The truth is we always want to understand, but life doesn’t always make sense. Then again, intellectually we might understand. Intellectually, we get this. But there is another part of our brain that gets stuck on the incidentals. There is the emotional part of our brain that doesn’t understand.
There are people in this world that are physically strong. They can endure pain. They fight and they can lift heavy things. There are people that can engineer a rocket to land on the moon. There are creators and scientists. There are builders and manufacturers. There are athletes who are capable of amazing things. They play when they are hurt. They endure. They have the physical ability to spend all of their energy on the field. They can move until complete exhaustion. They can run fast, throw a ball, hit hard and they are heroes because this is who they are in their arena.
This is true with anyone that has perfected their craft. They understand their talents. They understand the rules of interaction. There are no unexpected surprises. Even still, someone that has perfected their craft would know what to do if something unexpected should arise.
I have met people that can endure the physically unthinkable. To them, this makes sense. I have known people that lifted an incredible amount of weight. They’ve built their bodies to endure. Yet, there was an event I attended to listen to a woman speak about the loss of her child who passed at the age of six.
After the event, I stayed to help fold the tables and chairs and put them away. The woman that spoke could not lift as many chairs or carry the tables because they were too heavy. However, the depth of her strength had nothing to do with the weight of the tables or chairs. She could not carry much weight, yet I swore this woman was the strongest person I had ever met.
We understand the physical aspects of life. We understand why it hurts when we stub our toe. We understand physical pain because this makes sense to us. Plus, we can make a connection between us and the incidents of pain.
Emotional pain does not come with the same physical proof. Meanwhile, the mind does not recognize the difference between physical or emotional. All the mind understands is pain. Intellectually, the pain makes sense however, emotionally, there is no physical way to manifest or explain the roots of heartache.
Life and its complications leave an imprint. This is true. And there is something called, Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy. Ever hear of this? It’s called a broken heart. According to St Vincent’s Heart and Health, this is a temporary heart condition that develops in response to an intense emotional or physical experience. It’s called Broken Heart Syndrome in which the main pumping chamber in the heart changes shape, affecting the ability to pump blood effectively.
So to answer the famous question, has anyone ever died from a broken heart? The answer is yes. However, in fairness, this truly physical diagnosis is rare. But still, at least the physicality of this makes sense.
Otherwise, emotional pain does not range on the typical physical pain scale in your doctor’s office. And deep down, all we want to do is understand. All we want is to understand the rules of engagement. We want to feel comfortable. We want to be able to have an answer to our problems the same as we would if this were a problem in the arena of our perfection. But then again, nobody’s perfect and life does not fit into an arena.
Back in December of 1989 when the Old Man passed away, a close friend to the family and co-worker of my Father’s had to respond to an emergency house call on the morning of the Old Man’s funeral. The Old Man was in the plumbing and heating business. Unfortunately, one of his accounts had a boiler in need of service.
Rigo was the Old Man’s foreman.
Rigo said he took care of the service call but he burned his arm during the service. He said something afterwards, which made sense to me.
Rigo said, “I felt like I needed the pain.” He said he needed the pain to make sense of the loss he felt in his heart.
I think we live this way. I think when we feel broken or beaten, I think when we hurt inside or feel empty, we need something to surface and substantiate the pain in an understandable and recognizable way. We do this to understand the hurt, meanwhile, we just want the hurt to go away. Ah but, how can we get the pain to stop when the hurt we feel does not come with a clear or understandable approach to be measured.
I can say I know what it feels like to break my collarbone. I broke my ankle when I was a kid once. I had a kidney stone. And that hurt. That hurt a lot to be honest. But at least I could measure these pains. Heartache is not something we can see or find in an x-ray. Aside from Broken Heart Syndrome, there are no physically recognizable symptoms. There is no way to measure the pain we feel when losing a loved one or having a fallout that breaks us up or splits us apart. There is no way to solve the ache in a parent’s heart when losing a child. These are not physical problems that one can solve.
Now, when we face life or when we talk about depression or the different depressive disorders, there is no clear or obvious way to see someone’s pain. There are those who seem obvious and self-destructive. Yet, there are those who under the utmost torment and regret and with all the burdensome tragedies that result in emotional torture and thoughts of anguish, the truth is, you would never know.
You would never know until one day, you find out from someone that says, “Hey, did you hear what happened to Benny?”
Sometimes they say this because they care. Sometimes they say this to feed the gossip mills in the rumor factories. I get it. I’ve been there too.
Keep in mind, I use my name here with the intention of making this relatable.
The reason why we have so many labels for different mental health disorders is to identify and understand the problem. This helps us make sense of our heartache.
Once we identify this, we can treat and diagnose but do you know what we else we can do? We simplify ourselves by realizing that the truth is life hurts sometimes. There is no way of stopping this. We live and if we are lucky, we experience enough greatness that when tragedies arise, at least we can counteract them with the recollections of love and memory. The idea is to compensate and incentivize ourselves to find the best course of personal recovery.
During a conference call with a parent of a teen that struggled with cutting, I was asked my opinion of the child’s behavior. As a parent, they wanted to understand. Intellectually, they understood. It was clear that they understood what the lead clinician explained. I mentioned that I do not speak for anyone else, but to be helpful, I explained why I used to do this when I was younger.
See, the reason is nothing else made sense to me. I knew I was hurting. I knew that I felt something which I lacked the ability to verbalize or explain. I did not have the understanding or the know-how to talk about this. Plus, I felt shame. I was ashamed of who I was and how I looked. I was ashamed of myself.
This had nothing to do with a shortage of love from my family. My family tried to help me to the best of their ability but I was otherwise unreachable.
This does not mean that there was no support for me because the truth is, there was support. I have been a part of the mental health world in one form or another for a very long time. I’ve gone through different therapists and doctors but yet, there were no answers that made sense to me.
The cuts made sense to me. I could understand them. There was a release. The sting from the blade wasn’t so painful as much as it was a release of toxins. And the blood, well, the blood was an understandable way to materialize the things, which I had no words for. Plus, I felt like I needed the pain. I swore I deserved the pain. I earned the pain because at least this pain made sense to me.
The truth is there are more forms of self-harm besides cutting. There is behavioral harm which is guided by the subconscious that leads us to places of desperation, which makes sense because behaviorally, we are where we’ve always been. Although desperate at times, “more of the same” experiences come with a sense of comfortability. Isn’t that what everyone wants? To be comfortable?
The need for understanding about the rules of engagement and the need to understand what we feel and why as well as the chemical responses we feel when say, reliving the past or feeling loss or shame, regret and rejection is a step closer to recovery. To recover is to accept and understand our position.
To recover is to solve the emotional dilemmas that keep us from reaching our best levels of personal perfection. To recover takes time. So does the ease for pain.
We just want to understand . . .
Is that too much to ask?
Actually, the answer is no.
It’s not too much to ask.
The answers are out there at the fingertips of our freedom.
We just have to reach for them.
Trust me . . .