I love that quote. It's simple and to the point. Pain demands to be felt. Pain doesn't care who you are or if you're a good person or not. Pain doesn't care if you are rich or poor, young or old, and it certainly doesn't care whether you deserve it or not. But despite understanding all of this from a logical standpoint, I have spent most of my life trying to avoid pain at all costs.
In my younger days, I considered myself a pretty good sprinter. I decided the best way for me to avoid pain was to simply to outrun it. I would take off, thinking I had left pain in my dust, only to feel it right back on my heels, and breathing down my neck. And by the time it was, I had already exerted every ounce of energy I had left trying to get ahead of it. My legs gave out, and pain took the lead. Nobody had warned me that pain was such a good long distance runner. I was left doubled over, struggling to breathe, and wondering how the hell that just happened. I couldn't outrun my pain.
Since I couldn't outrun it, I went back to the drawing board and decided I should bury the pain instead. Running collapse aside, I was still highly skilled in the avoidance of pain, and this time I was able to keep the pain buried for years. In fact, so much time had passed that I decided the pain had finally suffocated, and it was safe to carry on with my life. And that's what I did for a while. But one day while walking, I tripped on something. I looked down to see that the pain had started to rise up from the spot where I had buried it. The pain wasn't dead. I began to panic. I grabbed a shovel and began to throw dirt on top of the pain until it was no longer visible. I was pretty sure no one had seen me trip, but now I started to worry every time I left the house. Was the pain really dead this time? I would wake up in a cold sweat some nights, thinking it was coming after me. The nightmares were starting to be a nightly thing, so I decided I needed to protect myself. I kept a shovel and some dirt beside my bed, just in case. My friends told me I was being paranoid, but they didn't understand the damage my pain would do if it ever got the chance. I started to spend more time alone because when I was around other people, all I could think about was whether the pain was still buried. What if it came back up and tripped me again?
What if it knocked me on my ass and people saw it? I couldn't risk it. I needed to be on high alert at all times. I started shoveling dirt on top of the pain daily at this point. I had even stopped sleeping because keeping this pain buried had become an around the clock job. One day, exhausted from all the shoveling, I laid on the ground and closed my eyes. I just needed a few minutes to rest, and the pain seemed to be safely underground. When I woke up, not only was the pain well above ground, it had doubled in size. I jumped up and grabbed my shovel, but when I turned around, all the dirt was gone. I had used it all. I had nothing else to cover the pain with, so I did the only thing I could think of to do. I threw myself on top of it. But still, it continued to rise. I couldn't bury my pain.
At this point, you'd think I would've learned my lesson, but for some reason, I hadn't. Maybe I wasn't thinking straight from all the exhaustion, or maybe it was my ego. (What was left of it anyway.) But hey, at least I had finally accepted that my pain wasn't going anywhere. I hadn't been able to outrun it, and my attempts to bury it had turned me into a shell of the girl I used to be. Yep, my pain was here to stay. So I had to tackle this from another angle, and I had one more brilliant idea left in me. I was going to numb that shit until I couldn't feel it. If I found something really good, maybe I wouldn't see the pain either. Third time's the charm, right?
Sidebar: You can probably see where this is going. And if this were a tv show, you'd be screaming at me.
"Oh for the love of GOD! This Katee character is an insufferable moron! Obviously none of this working, but she keeps on thinking she's got it under control! Am I supposed to believe that a grown woman could be this stupid? Who wrote this shit?! I am giving this one more episode before I move on to Kevin Hart's new tv series. At least that shit show is kind of funny."
*And now back to our regularly scheduled blog post.*
I began to numb the pain. And I'll be honest, it worked like a charm. Not only was I not feeling the pain, I was feeling GOOD. There was no way this one was going to fail. How could it? Why hadn't I thought of this before? Over time, I built up an arsenal of numbing agents, some of which made me forget the pain had ever existed! I had my favorites, but if one of them ever stopped working, I could always find another one to replace it.
There was money, drugs, alcohol, food, sex, fitness, art, music, and entertainment in just about any form that I could want. I also had the option of more traditional treatments. There was love, marriage, and even kids if I wanted. I had heard through the grapevine that kids would work really well because I'd have very little time to even think about the pain. But if I wasn't ready for kids, I could always just live at work. 80 hour work weeks didn't sound especially fun, but at least I'd be too tired to feel the pain. And for a while, this system was working well. I started leaving my house and going out because I couldn't see or feel the pain anymore. I even started to get a little cocky. Okay, I'll tell you the whole truth. I was convinced I had made pain my bitch. And if that wasn't bad enough, I had moved on to trolling the pain.
"Take that pain! HA! You will NOT defeat m--
Oh, you're trying to make me feel a little something, huh? Bitch, go ahead. It's nothing I can't numb.
Yeah, that's what I thought, pain! You ain't shit! I feel good!
Oh, so you wanna go again? Let's go. It may take me a little more to numb you this time, but I always find a way.
Okay, well that one isn't working, so I'm feeling you a little bit, but I'm not worried. I've got another one right here.
What the hell? Let me try this one. What the? Oh shit!"
I could no longer numb the pain.
My pain was demanding to be felt.
Fresh out of ideas, I looked around at the chaotic mess that was my life and wondered "How did I get here? I thought I was a good person? I thought I had this under control?" And before I knew it, I was in the fetal position. Too exhausted to run, too weak to pick up another shovel, and hurting too much to numb it away.
I woke up to find myself behind bars. Who put me in here?! WHEN did they put me in here?! I didn't know, but I knew I wanted out. I started shaking the gate of the cell. I screamed at the top of my lungs, "LET ME OUT OF HERE RIGHT NOW!"
I attempted to escape on my own a few times. I was smart, so most of my ideas were pretty good. But every attempt to escape only left me feeling weaker and more exhausted than the time before. What was worse, every time I thought I was crawling to freedom, I'd look up and find another wall around the prison cell.
It was finally time for me to surrender to whoever put me in this prison.
"I GIVE UP! YOU WIN!"
No one answered. But something caught my eye in the corner of the cell. Whatever it was, I had never noticed it before. I crawled over to get a better look. I couldn't believe it. Hanging on the wall, right above my head was a key! But where did it come from? Had it always been there? There was no way! I would've seen it! Was it possible that this was the key to unlock MY cell? Was this a trap? For all I knew there was someone outside the gate, waiting to kill me. Maybe they should, I thought. What did I have left to offer the world anyway? I barely recognized myself anymore. My hands were shaking, my body was bruised, and I wasn't sure what was on the other side of the gate, but I had run out of options. This was my only hope. It was at that moment that I felt a fear unlike any I had ever felt. A fear that was so intense, I was struggling to breathe.
"Maybe I should just stay in the cell."
Sure, I was miserable, but I was alive... sort of. Ultimately, I decided it wasn't a life I was living in this prison, it was a death sentence. So I took the key, and with a sinking feeling in my stomach, I turned the lock. I immediately started to feel the pain wash over me. The pain that I had tried to avoid for so long. And it hurt like hell. It wasn't long before the pain had brought me to my knees. What the hell was happening?!
"I wish I never found this damn key!", I screamed.
All I could do at this point was breathe in and out. So even though it hurt, I focused on my breath. In and out. In and out. As the time passed, with each breath, it gradually started to hurt a little less.
And as the pain began to subside, I noticed the gate was now unlocked. I slowly pulled myself back up and pushed the gate open. My face and hands were dirty, and my body was covered in scrapes and bruises. But none of that mattered to me because I was finally free. As I walked out of the prison, I was met by a group of compassionate people who rushed to my aid. They had been preparing for my arrival for quite some time. As they treated my wounds, each person told me a story of how they had gotten there. Every story was different - except for one common theme - they were all former prisoners that had lived to tell about it. They had all been wounded at one time or another, and they had the scars to prove it. But now, they were warriors. And they assured me that I was going to survive. I let out a sigh of relief. Not only was I free, but I was also on the path to becoming a warrior. And my new tribe would show me the way.
My desire to never feel pain kept me trapped inside that prison. A prison that I unknowingly had built for myself. I so badly wanted to feel love, passion, adventure, success, health, joy, and satisfaction... or so I thought. In the end, it was not the pain that held me captive for all those years, it was my FEAR of the pain. My fear had built those walls. My fear had left me for dead in that prison cell.
I had to be willing to fully feel the pain, despite the fear, before I could see the truth. Giving in to the fear had caused my weakness, and standing up to the pain had given me strength. My pain was, and always had been, the key to my release.
So what is the pain that you are afraid to feel? Is it something from your past? Is it a broken heart or the loss of a loved one? Is it the pain of self-improvement through diet and exercise? Maybe it's a number of things. Whatever the case may be, I am begging you to stop giving in to your fears. Because I can assure you that nothing hurts worse than a life lived in fear. It took me years, but I've finally learned that I can feel the pain and keep going. In fact, pain has made me the warrior I am today. So bring on the pain. It hurts, but I can handle it. And even if you haven't realized it yet, you can handle it too.
I don't believe everything happens for a reason, but I do believe the pain that's forced on you when shitty things happen in life can be reutilized for good. Pain often stems from awful and terrible things. Things you didn't deserve. But if you are willing to face the fear and feel the pain, you will get through it. But please do not try to do this alone. Dealing with our pain alone is always our plan A. It's usually our plan B, C, and D as well. Logically, most of us know better, so why do we still try to go it alone? Because there is a form of pain that we are ALL afraid to face, and that's the pain of vulnerability.
"What will they think of me? Who will love me? If I ask for help, they'll know I'm weak."
Right now there are people out there that have faced the fear and felt a pain that is similar to yours. They were also scared and didn't know if they were going to make it through. Their hands trembled as they dialed the doctor's phone number. Their voice shook when they told their loved one the truth. They felt anxiety when they finally left that toxic relationship. But they decided to turn their weakness into strength, and they are living proof that it's possible. Maybe you are one of those people that HAS worked through your pain. The world needs your story. The world needs to know that there is HOPE on the other side. The world needs more people that are willing to feel the pain. The world needs more warriors that choose freedom over fear.
John Green was on to something when he wrote that line. But I'd like to add a little something of my own to it.
Pain demands to be felt... because that's the only way it can start to heal.