“Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.”
Two weeks ago I had surgery. The nature of the beast was such that minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery wasn’t an option, so mine was the more intrusive kind. Since then, I’ve been at home resting and healing. I won’t bore you with details.
Physical healing comes gradually. I’m uncomfortable and grow impatient at my progress. And I was not prepared for the emotional impact.
I felt bad, at first, for the tears that slipped unbidden from my eyes. The surgery was necessary to tend to something that needed to be tended to, and I was grateful for the speed at which my medical team addressed it. Yet I was grieving.
It wasn’t so much the pieces of myself that were no longer that caused me distress, as it was the vulnerability at having had my body violated. And even as I tap out the word, I feel guilty for claiming it. But that is how I felt. It scared me, and I wasn’t sure what to do with it.
I shared my sense of having been violated with a few trusted souls. One, in particular, facing a violating surgery of her own, whose heart had been knitted with mine years ago. I trusted that she would see my heart through what she was already facing.
And she did, of course, because those who have walked through the valley understand the darkness. Those willing to risk vulnerability to say “hey, this hurts” understand that no one has a monopoly on pain, and know dropping our masks of having-it-all-together is where relationship lives.
Relative, in terms of what others have endured, I might argue that my violation is small, and yet God doesn’t deal in relativity. My pain and fear and grief is just as real as anyone else’s. Yours too. We run into trouble when we compare our sorrows and our joys.
We are not asked to minimize our individual pain. Rather, to take it to our Healer where we find balm precisely suited to our individual need.
I’m still struggling with feeling vulnerable, and I’m treating it as a gift. The season is one of comfort and soul care; of listening, thinking, going slow, and being present. In this there is richness.