Pain, Ephemeral

The problem isn’t pain, my mother once said, the problem is our belief that it needs to be managed.  At first listen that seems like such a cold statement.  But, in truth, it’s not.  It’s simply an acknowledgment of a condition.

Pain is our body telling us that something is wrong.  By over-managing pain, we silence our bodies and thus push into the background the message we should have heard.  A woman ignores the pain and ignores the lump until her cancer is no longer treatable, a man ignores the twinge until the tendon tears so badly surgery is necessary.  The lesson there is do not manage- treat the cause.

Emotional pain is much the same.  We like to say, “I’m feeling blue,” when in reality we are two steps from the edge.  We like to pretend that depression, anxiety and all other manner of mental ills just need to be managed the way we manage our physical pain.  I’m not saying that there is no such thing as mental illness, pure and simple, no question- there is, there definitely is.  The question I ask myself is how much of this real illness is birthed from our ignoring the source until it is too great.

I think we ignore because we fear.  We fear that our blues and blahs are too much for us to handle, so we shove them back until they are in fact enormous.  We fear that our anxiety is ruling us, which makes us anxious, so we tune it out.  We fear our hyperactivity and distraction would need medication that would deaden us, so we sit on our hands.  In the meantime, think of how much good we could do simply by naming our problems, by confronting them, by giving them shape and color and tone.

I have a theory.  My theory is that our pain starts out as ephemeral.  It is a shadow, a smear on our consciousness.  It clouds our vision and tricks us into thinking it is bigger and more unmanageable than it truly is.  So we ignore it, and grant it power.  If we could just focus on it, scrape it together, find it’s true shape and color, we wouldn’t be so afraid.

We need to stop letting it be like a fingerprint on the lens of our vision, and see clearly.  See what is really out there, what is really bogging us down.  See that it’s just the world, the world we know and love.  We can deal with this.  We can be here, together.  We can squeegee  each other’s consciousness if need be.

9 thoughts on “Pain, Ephemeral

  1. There is a lot to be said for brain chemistry when it comes to mental pain. There is no denying that people are born with most SERIOUS mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar, schizo-affective disorder, severe depression etc. But yes, in general, I agree that mental pain that we all experience from time to time which are usually varying degrees of depression can be attributed to MORE than brain chemistry. How we tend to view our lives – our perspectives and outlooks, rules the amount of pain we feel.

  2. I would never downplay the reality of mental illness. I’ve seen it’s effects on far too many people- I just often wonder how much of it is necessary. There’s no denying that rates of diagnoses of things like depression fluctuate with the economy, elections, and seasons- so there’s some reason to believe that part of it is just what our environment does to us- and perhaps what we also do to ourselves.

  3. It has been my observation that many negative emotions are layers build on fear– you can find fear if you peel them back like an onion. Fear, anger, hatred, pain and suffering.

    It has also been my experience that pharmaceutical drugs are leverage, speaking as one of the mentally ill. However, it is almost a mobieus strip or a many-faceted geometric shape at times– yes, I suffer from bipolar disorder, but yes, there’s stress, S.A.D., etc. I have known friends that went off meds and succeeded, but I do not feel that strong. Where is the distinction? Do I simply attack all angles, or is it a seeming twist that really only has one side?

  4. I’m familiar with the concept of taking medication to cope, and then slowly weaning until one is strong enough to cope without. It’s sad to me that so many people either can’t or won’t learn to live without the medication.

    I hope that you find a way to treat your bipolar disorder and grow beyond it, instead of just managing. I mean that very sincerely.

  5. The only problem here is that there is not ONE MI in the world that has a cure. In regards to meds and serious mental illness – Would you tell someone with diabetes to stop taking their insulin? Medication isn’t for coping, it’s for treating. BUT it’s not JUST medication that treats serious mental illness. I’ve always maintained, as a mental health advocate and as the daughter of someone with bipolar disorder, that the seriously mentally ill need three things:

    1. Medication (The cases of people being able to manage their MI with out meds are few and far between)
    2. Cognative therapy (You must learn to live WITH your illness)
    3. A supportive family that realizes that their illness is not a choice – it’s biological.

    Thank goodness for medication. I know way way way too many people who would probably be dead without it.

  6. I would never tell someone with severe BPD or depression to stop taking their meds- absolutely not. But there in mild cases of things like depression or ADHD there are behavioral therapies that are very effective- and often in mild cases people simply brush off the need to treat their problem. There’s simply not enough research to show what triggers depression, specifically, and ignoring the fact that you have a problem makes it larger.

    which is specifically what this post is about- don’t ignore your pain. Name it, recognize it, TREAT it.

    I hope there is not a misunderstanding?

  7. No, there’s not. I just wasn’t sure if you were making the distinction when you said “I hope that you find a way to treat your bipolar disorder and grow beyond it, instead of just managing.” To me treating and managing are pretty much the same thing considering that there is no cure. You don’t have to be ruled by your illness, that’s for sure. Anyway, clearly you are making the distinction so I’ll shut up now. 🙂

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