Emotional pain rivals physical pain every day. We've all been through a breakup and the pain that ensues. But when does it go away? I wanted to write about this for some time, but couldn't find the "right" words for a topic like this. It's easy to write about now that I'm on the "other side". If you're going through something right now, I wanted you to know it gets better. I promise. I hope my thoughts help anyone dealing with this.
This is a hard blog to write about. In order to talk about how the pain goes away (and when), I’ve got to go back to a time when I was going through a LOT of pain. But when you get through it, there’s a world of happiness on the other side. I promise.
pain/pān/noun. physical suffering or discomfort caused by illness or injury.Oxford Languages
Pain is a feeling that nobody wants to experience, but we’ll all experience at some point in our lives. I like to think that it reminds us that we’re still alive. There are some days, weeks, or months that go by, where we don’t experience pain, and then there are some times when it never seems to go away.
Physical pain is different than mental/emotional pain. I’m not sure which is worse (I supposed it depends on your perspective). At this point in my life, I’d take physical pain over mental/emotional pain. Emotional pain has a way of changing you in ways that physical pain doesn’t (except in extend circumstances).
But for the purposes of this blog, I’m just going to talk about emotional pain & anguish.
In The Beginning
When I look at photos of Kailyn as a baby, I think about her life being a clean slate. She hasn’t experienced pain yet, and is filled with happiness. That’s why I like the “baby stage” of parenting. But that thought is quickly overcome with fear. Fear that I need to protect her from all of the pain of life.
Life seems to be filled with pain. How do I protect this innocent child from it? I can’t. That’s the hardest thing to come to grips with as a parent. So what are we to do? In my mind, I just need to prepare her for it. I need to make sure she’s a strong girl/woman who can deal with it, and avoid it if necessary. I’ll talk about that more later in this blog.
But, in the beginning there’s no pain. Same goes for us. When I look at my childhood photos, I think, “there’s little Ben before the divorce, betrayals, and defeat. He’s got the whole world at his fingertips, and all the time in the world ahead of him”. I love that thought. The whole world . . . and all the time. It’s a great position to be in. This child is moldable and hopeful.
Prepare For Pain
I don’t think you can ever prepare for pain. I have a few friends who have been hurt, so they avoid situations where there may be pain, but that’s not the same as preparing. The problem I’ve always had with preparing for pain, is that if you’re trying to shield yourself from something that may happen in the future, you could easily miss something good right now.
I’ve always taken a stubborn attitude towards pain. I’ve always said that I won’t let someone who wants to inflict pain on me, take away some of my best traits. What I mean by that, is I refuse to let anyone shape my destiny. You’ll always come across people in life who want what you have. Sometimes they’ll do whatever they can to take it for you. I refuse to let someone who did something to hurt me, change some of the best parts of me.
In my past there’s been a good deal of betrayal. One of my friends once said to me, “That’s why you shouldn’t trust people so much. If you do, they can hurt you”. I get the reason behind this person saying it to me, but I refuse to let anyone change how I trust people, I care about people, and how I am to people. I would rather be hurt 1000 times over again, then compromise some of the traits that I think are my best.
So when it comes to preparing for pain, I think my advice is to be safe, to always be on the lookout for it, but don’t let it stop you from being who you are, and who you are meant to be.
Deal With Pain
Once you’ve been hurt, it’s hard to deal with. I’m not smart enough to lay out a game plan for you to be able to deal with it, but I can tell you that if you can figure it out on your own, you’ll be a stronger person for it. Every person is going to have their own way of dealing with it. I’ve seen it over and over again with my friends. Some people take what I would consider a healthy approach to it, and others a destructive one.
Here’s the thing. I said above and I really mean it. Nobody has control of your destiny except for you. I look at the pain as a data point in your life. There will be many of these that you come across, and they create a “Y” in the road. You can go left, or you can go right. And the rest of your life is just a branch of this “Y”. I choose to take these choices very seriously. I typically choose the path that’s the least combative. That’s not to say I let people walk on me, but it often looks that way.
In most instances in my life, I also take the road that will lead to peace. I’m not sure what drives me to do this, but I always feel like maybe somewhere down the road there will be a way to reckon with these people. That’s how I deal with the pain. Hope that maybe some day, we’ll reconcile.
Learn & Grow Out of Pain
One thing that I’ve learned from pain, is to identify it. A lot of times I can see it coming now. I want to say that I’m a pessimist now, or hardened because of what I’ve gone through, but I will say I’m more in tune with the signs. The first thing I suggest is listening to your heart. It doesn’t always make sense, but it usually leads you in the right direction.
After your heart, I listen to your brain. Being able to switch from your feelings to your mind is an important part of learning about how to deal with pain, and identifying when it’s on your way. I like to think there’s a point in time where I feel something, then identify why I feel it, then I decide if it’s a good decision for me.
The last component is your gut. Trust your gut. It’s usually right.
In my blogs I’ve often referred to my life as chapters in a book. Or even books in a series of books. It’s less important what that chapter looks like, and more important that the next chapter is smarter, wiser, and moving your life forward. During this social isolation, I spent more time thinking about my life that I have ever before. I’ve been able to make amends with some people who have hurt me in the past, but there are still a few I’d like to reconcile with. I want to make sure that the next chapters of my life make a difference. Now that I’m almost 44 years old, I’m on the “back 9”, and I want to make sure that I have enough time to do what I want to do in life.
I wrote a blog on this . . . it’s called “Time Anxiety“.
Living With Pain
This is an aspect I’m not really qualified to talk about (but I will anyhow). Living with pain is something we’ve all probably dealt with. It’s transformative and changes us. My suggestion is to first identity the source of your pain. That’s the first step. Once you do this, you can apply some of the above tactics to learn, grow, and avoid future pain.
I think it’s important to know you’re not alone. The pile of weights/bricks you feel on your chest as you fall asleep, are shared by MILLIONS of people . . . Literally. Loneliness is a byproduct of pain a lot of times, and “misery loves company”. I’ll say it again. You’re not alone.
This is when friends are the most important and your close circle needs to step up. But you need to let them in and that’s often the biggest road block/hurdle. Ask for help. Grab drinks. Call someone who you can talk to. At the BARE MINIMUM, I’m around if you need someone. I’m easy to get a hold of and I almost always answer my phone (unless it’s before 9am 😂).
No Pain, No Gain
Sure. That’s a nice phrase, but it’s not always true. Sometimes it is, but don’t think you need to suffer to grow. You can suffer AND grow, and you can also just grow.
“That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.”Friedrich Nietzsche
Sometimes, that which does not kill us, just doesn’t kill us. I just feel like pain is a good vehicle for growth, but sometimes we can just grow, ya know? And out of that growth, can come even more growth.
With that being said, the pain I’ve gone through has helped me grow. I’m not even close to the man I was when I started this long painful journey. But I’m 1000x a better man now. As much as my ex and I dislike each other, without her, I wouldn’t be who I am today. So I guess I owe her a thanks. Maybe she’ll read this one day, I don’t know.
Getting divorced for me was shocking. I could have stayed married to her for my lifetime. And we both would have ultimately been unhappy. There’s something magical about a decision you HATE, turning out to be one of the best for you. In the end, she’s in a happy marriage and although I’m not married, I’m also very happy. Growth can happen in ways you don’t even see coming . . . And sometimes it’s disguised as pain. You just have to identify it and use it to better yourself.
The problem is, that if you don’t identify it as an opportunity, you’ll pass it by . . .
Seizing An Opportunity
When you experience pain, it’s easy to become a recluse. It’s also easy to go out and party/drink/do drugs or immerse yourself in anything to dull the feeling. That’s natural and I certainly did my share of some of those things. But when then? What was the purpose of the pain if you can’t make something of it?
For me, after I dulled the pain, I had to FEEL it in order to start my recovery. I had to realize why I was feeling sad and then admit my part in it. What was my part in the divorce? This was arguably more painful than the divorce itself. I realize my shortcomings, DESPITE what my ex had done. I no longer had control of that situation, so I needed to come to grips with mine. And that’s where the growth/healing begins.
It’s easy to place the blame on the other party . . . Even if they truly are to blame. It’s hard to introspectively look at your own part in it, and succumb to your own failures. I realized that I should have and could have been better. The same outcome would have been likely, but I COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER. After you realize this, the guilt that you’ll never have a chance to fix it sets in. And then the annoyance of, “How can I feel guilty, when they’re the ones at fault”. It’s a feeling I explain, but you’ll learn to live with it. In a divorce, I think this is the first step to growing to be a better person.
I just recently wrote a blog on Forgiveness. Without going through the whole blog, I’ll just summarize an important part. Part of moving on is Forgiveness and part of being able to forgive is empathy. Both empathy and understanding why people do what they do. If I can understand WHY my ex would do what she does, then I can understand how to react in a compassionate way. So many times anger is met with anger in divorces. This results in the child (if you’ve got one(s)) absorbing some of the fighting, legal fees (these suck, trust me), and ultimately an anger-stalemate between the both of you.
Most of my forgiveness comes from the desire to be amicable with everyone. I don’t feel the need to be confrontational with her or anyone else for that matter. There’s no reason why we can’t or shouldn’t be able to be civil as adults. We’ve both moved on. No let’s move on.
I’ll leave you with this thought. I remember the pain. I remember not being able to get out of bed because of felt like there was a ton of bricks on my chest. It was a sadness that it’s hard to describe and it was made worse by the fact the everyone else’s lives seemed to keep moving forward . . . While I was standing still. I would wake up, eat and then go back to bed. It was horrible.
So I’ve been there . . .
Then one day, I woke up and decided to get my shit together. And one day at a time, I started to rebuild a new life. It’s important to note that this was a NEW LIFE, not trying to rebuild my old life. And then one day at a time it got easier.
And then one day I woke up, and it didn’t hurt anymore. I was a different person.
I just wanted to leave you with that and I PROMISE you that one day you’ll “remember the pain”, but you won’t FEEL the pain. And hopefully you’ll be standing as a better person. Another chapter of your life to file on the bookshelf. One that you’ll bookmark as a chapter that helped make you into who you are today.
And with that, I’ll end my 33rd blog (can you believe it?). I’ve been writing this blog for over a month now to get it “right”. Hope it gives some of you a glimmer of hope for what can be, and some a reminder that what you’ve gone through does have a purpose.
Until tomorrow . . .
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