The Price of Pain

Yesterday I went to choir. I drove with a friend and it went well. She’s smart and fairly open and we are building a pretty authentic friendship which is something I am learning to value more and more. Still, about half way through rehearsal I started feeling the panic rise in my throat. I tried to focus on singing and music and not on the nagging thoughts I kept trying to push aside like persistent mosquitoes. I decided to take a break, get a drink, and try to calm myself. The stairwell provided a somewhat secluded place for me to process my thoughts and feelings.

Things still aren’t good between me and my parents. My depression and recovery has been confusing and difficult for them. They don’t understand why I am hurting so much. The ways that I am changing and the way I speak out on my blog is upsetting and scary to them. It’s hard for me not to take their pain onto myself. pFor so long I’ve believed that I could fix their feelings; that I could reassure them and prove to them that everything is going to be okay, that I am going to get better and that they will not have to experience any pain in the process. I can’t do that. I can’t fix the pain that isn’t mine. I can’t find the healing path for them. Part of my recovery is relearning the same difficult lessons my brain is so resistant to learning.

I can’t save everyone else. I can’t fix my ward, my church, or my family. I can’t fix the problems I didn’t create and I’m not responsible for. I love people, but I can’t save them from the feelings they experience because of my growth. I can see them and empathize with them, but I can’t take the pain away.

I was able to return to the choir and finish the rehearsal. Then I drove home with my friend and tried to go to sleep. My bedtime routine mostly consists of trying to warm my feet. Either I will do relaxation breathing and guided imagery, or take a warm bath before bed. Last night I didn’t want to take a bath, but even after taking sedatives and a sleeping pill, I was still so anxious I couldn’t warm my feet and fall asleep for over an hour.

This morning I saw on social media that my old friend and neighbor had passed away at 43 years old. I read the obituary wondering what could have happened. I haven’t seen him in probably thirty years. We were never close friends as we didn’t really have the same group of friends. Still, I always liked him and felt like a piece of my heart had been ripped out. Something in my heart said, “This guy killed himself.”

I don’t know why I feel that way. My rational mind says he could have died of many other causes. The fact that it doesn’t give a reason for his passing in the obituary is not proof of suicide, but for some reason I got it in my head that this guy had killed himself, that he suffered from the same thing I have and that it had got him. It made me so angry that the obituary didn’t say anything about it and that people still don’t want to talk about it. I prayed for my friend and the two kids he leaves behind and his sister who is a beautiful person and I have so many happy memories of. And yet, I can’t let it go.

And then I was listening to a podcast while I was cleaning up my kitchen and the podcast took a strange turn and started talking about incarceration and the trauma of being locked up. There is actually a separate jail for people who have been accused of a crime but haven’t had a trial yet. I didn’t know that. People who can’t afford bail have to stay there and it doesn’t have a lot of the facilities that the other parts of the jail have. Even if a person is innocent of the charges, they still have to be locked up. They started describing the psychological trauma that incarceration causes and I started having flashbacks of when I was hospitalized. The trauma came back to my mind like a wrecking ball. I stopped listening to the podcast, but I had already been triggered. People who are incarcerated in this pre-trial jail are seven times more likely to commit suicide than other inmates. And they are presumed innocent until their trial.

It made me so angry. I know our criminal justice system is important and that enforcing the law is essential to our civilization. Still, the imperfections and injustices of it are so glaring; especially for those who have disabilities and/or are living in poverty. The disproportionate suffering of these people is in stark contrast to our President who is constantly whining on social media about not getting due process because he is unable to commit crimes without consequences. He has lived his life surrounded by lawyers who protect and advocate for him while so many in jails and prisons across the nation suffer the trauma of incarceration simply because they became entrapped in a culture of addiction and crime fueled by untreated mental illness. They languish in jails waiting for their day in court hoping that the counsel the state provides for them might be able to help them. I can see them. I can feel their pain. I know how it feels to be locked up. I know what it feels like to be dehumanized, stigmatized, and neglected. I know how it feels to ask for help and compassion and have your cries go unanswered. The memory of my pain and the reality of the pain of others in this fallen world crushed me.

I’ve spent all afternoon crying. Austin will walk into the room after battling imaginary ghosts and monsters and see me with my head in my hands. “Momma, you NOT sad,” then he brings me tissues and towels. He gives my heart kisses. “You feel better now. The bad feelings go away.” I tell him he is a hero man and that he has helped me feel so much better. Then he leaves to play and I continue crying.

I’m supposed to be making his birthday cake and preparing for his party. I can’t focus on anything but the blinding pain in my soul. I put him down for his nap and decided to write. I’m trying my best right now to keep my head above water. I’m trying to find some peace of mind and it feels like no one understands how hard this is.

It is a battle. Every. Day. I don’t have depression to get attention, or to make excuses for myself. I don’t have depression to blame others for my problems. I don’t know why I have it. I wish I didn’t have it. I wish I could take a pill or go to a few sessions of counseling and have it go away. I wish I could be “fixed,” but it just isn’t that simple.

It isn’t that my treatments aren’t working. Its that life is hard when you love like I do. It doesn’t make me a nice person. It doesn’t make me charming and fun to be with. This love costs everything and gives no worldly reward in return. Love like this wants to take the pain of everyone I’ve ever seen and take it on my back. The suffering of the whole world overwhelms me and I can’t bare the pain of it. Love like this hurts so bad.

And yet my Savior tells me to take up my cross. He tells me to feel the hurt and know that this empathy is part of being his disciple. It doesn’t make sense and it isn’t pretty, but that’s okay because HE understands. All I have to do is follow Him and He will turn my sorrow to rejoicing. He will lead me. He will show me the ways I can use my love to bless the lives of others. He can fill me up when I can’t lift my arms another inch. He can make up the difference for me when I faint and fall.

Its hard for me to think that the Savior looked into the eyes of his disciples before he was killed and he knew what would happen to them and their families because of their faith.

If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

John 15:19

The world hunted down and murdered those people. The world hated the disciples of Christ because they were marked as different and judged as wrong. It would be so sad except their love and their faith and their testimony could not be destroyed. Their martyrdom earned them a crown the world can never take away.

Although I don’t understand the process I am going through, I know the Savior will not leave me alone. He counts every tear and feels every pang of sorrow. There is purpose and divine design in it even though I can’t see it right now. This love, this deep and empathetic love that I have, is sacred. It’s a gift that I can feel this way for others. This love makes it possible for me to keep my covenant I made at baptism to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort. I have seen this love mend hearts and soothe wounds. There is great power in great love. It just comes at a price. The price of pain.

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