April 22, 2020

Finding the Root & Stopping the Spread: Dealing with Emotional Pain in Isolation.

Elephant’s Continually-updating Coronavirus Diary. ~ Waylon

Everyone throughout the world is suddenly experiencing more free time—it’s called isolation.

For many, this dark moment in history is also bringing us face-to-face with our greatest fears—our thoughts and emotions. During times of such stress, it is natural for people to notice aspects of their mental and emotional well-being that were easily ignored before. For me, this time of isolation has highlighted some challenging and ugly emotions.

When we are faced with our issues head-on, we can take one of two paths. We can stuff it in a box, hide it away, and hope to deal with it another day—or we can take the emotions by the horns and deal with them as a matador conquers the bull.

Of course, my preference would be something in the middle. I would love to be able to stay busy and focus on other things, but isolation has not-so-kindly presented me with all of my feelings, all at once—like a slap in the face. Even though I hate it, I can see the benefit of having to take intentional and extended periods to deal with difficult emotions such as anger, betrayal, grief, and deep sadness.

When I was seven years old, I started having extreme pain and swelling in my right wrist. I had to learn how to do everything left-handed or one-handed. And being the stubborn human I am, I was determined not to let this inconvenience my life.

But it did affect daily life in many ways. My parents took me to doctor after doctor, Xray after Xray, MRIs, and bone scans, but no one could figure out what was causing the pain. Three years went by. My pain didn’t decrease, but I grew more tolerant of the pain and was able to live with it each day. Even as a child, I grew so accustomed to hurting that I couldn’t even address the extent of my pain anymore. The pain became normal and expected. I adjusted quickly to the symptoms, yet the problem still didn’t go away.

Eventually, a remarkably patient and diligent surgeon discovered the bone tumor. The bone was removed, and a bone graph was set in place. That’s when my healing truly began—but that’s also when I experienced more pain in my wrist than ever before.

Emotional pain is not much different from my bone tumor. It attacks many aspects of our daily life. Unlike a bone tumor, the emotional pain has an even more significant effect on who we are, how we grow, and how we treat others. Like a slowly growing disease or constant pain, we adjust to the symptoms, ignore the problem, and allow the disease to spread to other aspects of life. It’s easy to become unaware of the condition until it has infected so much of our life that a build-up of emotional pain taints everything.

The problem is that to stop the spread of the disease, significant pain is required. Healing is not a pleasant process. It takes digging out the bone, or the infection, and cutting away at the sensitive nerves and tissues. It is uncomfortable. But, just like the intense pain of my wrist surgery allowed me to heal fully and gain movement in my hand, choosing to do “surgery” on our emotional pain will bring freedom.

The events or the people who caused our emotional suffering doesn’t go away, but our hold on the issues can be released, and our hearts can be healed. Freedom from this disease takes time, but each supportive friend and family member is a rose, and each step of healing is a sweet smell of renewal. The thorns are ever-present, but the focus is shifted to that which is beautiful—the hope that is within.

While the comparison of emotional and physical pain brings perspective and understanding, it doesn’t make the process any easier. I will admit that I might rather have another bone tumor than be face to face with my heartbreak right now. Somedays, I am not able to shift my focus to the positive elements of healing, and I utterly despise the process. I want the healing to be fast, quick, easy, and logical.

The reality is that each person’s healing is unique, but it does take time and intentional work. It is work. It is not natural but necessary for living a life that is not infected and does not infect others with our pain. So, as you are social distancing to stop the spread of the COVID-19, address the roots of the emotions slapping you in the face and prevent the spread of hurt in your own life.

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