Dancing with the pain

I wrote this to a trusted friend about two days ago:

“I’m unwell. It doesn’t seem to matter how much I want to be well…it doesn’t matter what i read or listen to, or make art or write or play with my girls or make love to my husband.  In between those activities, I am struggling with headaches, chest pain, peripheral neuropathy (I think that’s what it is), stabbing pains in my brain, panic, fear, dread, shame.

I’ve either got a serious physical disorder, a serious mental disorder, or this is appropriate for the growing journey I’m on.

I’m trying to breathe and accept and I still hurt.  And it’s hard to accept I still hurt because I’ve been hurting most of my life, but before I was able to find some relief from the hurt.  I’m not finding it so much now.

I’ve started listening to Brene Brown’s The Power of Vulnerability CDs. It sometimes made my ears hurt.  Even when I turned the volume down.”

But the content was wonderful and educational and I’ve not even gotten through the first CD.

One beautiful quote that I wanted to share from this researcher on shame and vulnerability:

We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.

Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.

Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.”

I’m becoming more sensitive to everything…and feeling more pain.

I was in bed the other night and reading.  I noticed my left ear was considerably colder than my right ear. It’s that kind of thing that is weird and troubling.

I got dizzy in school when I was substitute teaching the other day. Fortunately, I had an aide with me who could help if I passed out (didn’t happen).

My daughters are emotionally intense and I am concerned about them a lot, too.  One daughter is rather quiet, and emotionally even, but she’s a pre-teen and she is showing signs of frustration.  The middle daughter is Miss Bossy Boots and perfectionistic and is tightly wound sometimes and melts down when overwhelmed.  And when she’s feeling feisty, since she can’t antagonize the oldest, she picks on the youngest, who is, well, tender-hearted and fragile and with the asthma and allergy medication she’s on, can’t easily moderate her anger.  She has frequent nightmares too, which is keeping her up late or waking her in the middle of the night.

My husband has improved a lot in his discipline and behavior, but my youngest is just still so scared of him sometimes.  He used to get over the top angry (as I had, at times) but he would boom so loud sometimes he even made me jump.

I am usually overstimulated by all this on a nearly daily basis.

Our daughters have their innate personalities, and then those aspects of themselves that have been shaped by their parents’ emotional turmoil.  I’ve been attachment parenting and striving for positive parenting practices from day one, but in doing so, I’d also gone against the mainstream and my own husband at times.

The journey to preserve their true selves has been challenged by the patterns that I brought into marriage and the ones my husband did.

And I feel anxious and overwhelmed a lot.   I break down into tears and I feel a tremendous amount of emotional pain in addition to all the weird signals my body has been giving me lately.

So I search and I search for some answers, some kind of guidance to help me help myself.

On my journey I found an essay by Robert Augustus Masters called Dancing with Our Pain.  What has plagued me all along was not the fact that I had to face my pain.  I agree, wholeheartedly with that concept.

And yet, have struggled with the how to endure the intense pain I have felt.  Sometimes when I turn toward the pain and truly feel it, the enormity of it all just is so devastating.  And Masters talks about facing our pain and uses a beautiful dancing metaphor with it.

When we no longer ostracize, condemn, neglect, or indulge in our pain, but instead invite it out onto the dancefloor with us, we are on track, however stumbling or sloppy our steps might be. Then we are relating to, instead of from, our pain — we are apart from it yet not cut off from it. Then it’s no longer just an unpleasantness to avoid, but something that we can communicate with, touch, penetrate, gaze into, bring closer.

When we move out onto the dancefloor with our pain, we begin to recognize in it many fractured or distorted countenances, the long-ago yet nonetheless still present faces — or presenting facets — of our distressed or injured selves. As our heart breaks — that is, breaks free of its “protective” encasing — the faces are no longer cracked or deformed, no longer held in poisonously framed cameo.

We are then broken enough to be significantly whole — and empty enough to be significantly open — making more and more room in ourselves for our pain. And, eventually, others’ pain. The dance continues, and we notice we are stumbling less, and that an appealing warmth is slowly arising, a fledgling feeling of well-being. There’s more room now, more courage, more love, more gratitude. And such rich intimations of a love beyond love.

Dancing with our pain allows a sobering joy to bloom. Flowers of love, flowers of disappointment, flowers of deepening arrival. Compassion, and a deeper compassion. We start to taste the nirvanic peace that is at the heart of real acceptance.

But sometimes it’s hell.

Sometimes the pain is just too much. Sometimes it hammers us so hard that we are knocked flat, broken down, stunned into paralysis, fragmented. The key at such times is not to try to force yourself onto the dancefloor — and nor to deny yourself pain relief — but to simply keep a spark of faith alive, the faith not only that this too will pass, but also that the dance you have begun will continue, regardless of who or what is on the dancefloor with you.

Remember to doubt your doubt. When you have your first experience of keeping your heart open in hell, however briefly, know that it will happen again. Don’t worry about when.

I am beginning to experience many facets of my emotional self.  I am no longer just ‘sad’ or ‘angry’.  I am beginning to feel nuances and changes in the tone and texture of what I’m feeling.  I lay down and breathe through some of the anxiety, but I usually cry pretty fiercely through the rougher parts.

I think that was the most comforting and real.  To know this process can be hell.  To know that it can hammer us so hard and we can be “knocked flat, broken down, stunned into paralysis”, but that it’s okay to seek pain relief sometimes.

I want to learn to dance with my pain without it devastating me.  I have layers and layers of armor built up, from being in a very destructive family of origin and from living with my husband who would have harmful personality changes after being intoxicated.  He’s growing, I’m growing.

And I want to learn how to keep my heart open in hell.  I want to greet it with tenderness and compassion, but sometimes it is just so hard and I feel shame and self-blame for getting myself into situations that have harmed me instead of getting help earlier.

Masters goes on to say this:

And also know that every time you turn toward and dance with your pain you are injecting strength, dignity, and integrity into your capacity to bear the unbearable. When we’re in hell and don’t forget what truly matters, we may find that even hell can be grace.

Genuine joy is not an alternative to pain, but is (among other things), the full flowering of unconditional, non-passive openness to pain — which renders it so transparent to Being that we begin to realize, right down to our toes, that becoming intimate with — and therefore fittingly accepting of — the painful and distressing elements of our lives serves us deeply.

It is a very lonely path I’m on, at times.  I can’t ask anyone to accompany me on this part of the journey. Though, sometimes unfairly, I did just that with a dear friend of mine.

I know my healing work is not done.  I know I’ll have more opportunities to keep my heart open in hell.  This isn’t something I’m choosing.  I intuitively have known it’s choosing me.

Opportunities to keep facing my issues crop up on a nearly daily basis, though quite honestly, I could use a break, Universe.   Just sayin’.

About Casey

“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’ ~ Jack Kerouac, On The Road Again
This entry was posted in adult child of alcoholics, adult survivors of abuse, anxiety, Brene Brown, Broke Down Spirit, Child abuse, Compassion, Complex-PTSD, Connection, consciousness, depression, Disconnection, Emotional Intelligence, Emotional Self-Regulation, Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, Healing, Highly Sensitive Person, Love, Robert Augustus Masters and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Dancing with the pain

  1. ptero9 says:

    “And I want to learn how to keep my heart open in hell.”
    Me too!

    • Casey says:

      I’m gathering that it’s not going to happen by some Herculean effort on my part, over and done with once and for all, but a learning process with a generous dose of patience for myself. I can imagine it being like that for you, too, and anyone else on this path of healing.

      My friend reminded me of something, “think progress, not perfection”.

      I’m learning alongside my children. I know I missed a great chunk of my emotional development as i had to bypass most of it and grew up much too quickly. I had to be mature because no one in my family could be. I’m learning how to re-parent myself while being a parent to my daughters and hoping my husband can learn a few things that will make it easier for himself and our daughters.

      I just wish I started this healing journey earlier. I had been in counseling, for short periods of time off and on throughout my life, but not the right kind or nor long enough. I didn’t go to Al-anon or anything so I didn’t know how to stop enabling my husband’s drinking and protecting him from himself. I thought I was being compassionate and doing the opposite my mother did with my father and step-father.. I made the mistake of asking another friend of mine who was an alcoholic himself, for help. Instead of urging me to get outside help, he asked me to be more understanding of my husband. I was really helping my husband hide from his problems.

      • ptero9 says:

        Yes, I share your wish of wanting to have been able to have sorted through the rough spots that kept me from being able to have a basic sense of “okayness” – enough to get out of bed most days and clearly feel that I belonged in my body and my body belonged in the world.
        It’s so hard to say what helps each of us get our bearings. I am grateful for finding a therapist who was able to help me and encouraged me to work hard to sort things out.
        I do believe that persistence pays and wish you well Casey!

      • Casey says:

        Thank you Debra.

        I wish you well too.

        I’m only going to be in therapy a few more weeks. My therapist is going back to Georgia soon. She was in my town for her education and training. Because I’m on a sliding scale, I have a newbie to the profession. But I liked her because she was very compassionate and could provide me with some positive feedback. Whereas I tend to focus on the negative aspects of myself and my choices, she was helping me to see the strengths in what I was doing. So, it was nice to have that re-framing going on.

        I’m working hard to re-frame events more compassionately. I’ve been too hard on myself. And, I keep expecting to have an insight, and have things get better straightaway. It hasn’t worked that way. I’ve found that I’ve been challenged with the very thing I had an insight on pretty soon after having it. But, I’ve gotten better in incremental steps.

        And, between therapy and my mindfulness readings, getting better doesn’t mean never getting emotional again. I keep thinking I have to be completely non-reactive. No, what I’m realizing is that I need to let myself have my feelings, and they can be all kinds of intense, but not speak or act on them until the moment passes…and I know it will pass. I’ve been practicing a little bit at a time with this.

        I feel more okay to have my emotions, even the more problematic ones like anger, and realize I can work with it even though it’s been hard in the past not to get caught up in the trigger.

        I’m going to write about this concept soon, too.

Would you like to share your thoughts? I'd love to hear them.

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