I wrote words a couple days ago that needed to come out. To be honest, I did not know what they were until they were out. Writing them was healing and defining and painful and invigorating all at once.

As soon as I pressed publish, I was so tempted to delete it. I wanted my words out there. But I also wanted them to stay in. The drama, the emotion, the sadness… Too much. It was too much, wasn’t it? I felt foolish, emotional, needy, dramatic.

But part of me was lighter, relieved, and hopeful, too. The words I had been carrying we’re heavy, and it felt like maybe they were no longer only mine to carry alone.

My mother texted me with the compassion and empathy only a mother can have–a mother whose pain is so much more than mine, so much more life-altering. I’m sorry, she said. It sounds like you are in a terrible flare-up,she said. Please do not worry.

Compassion and love that I needed. Acknowledgement that I needed that yes, this is hard. You are not dramatic.

Another friend texted me that she was so sorry that I even knew how it felt to live in chronic pain. She was there for me if I needed her. She read my words; she felt them. Even in my inability to speak these words aloud to her, she respected the way I expressed myself, and she responded in love. You are strong, she said.

Love I needed. Acknowledgement I needed. I’m strong. I can do this.

I had dinner with another friend–a new one, a woman I want to get to know better. And she said she didn’t know my whole story, that she didn’t need to, but she loved and appreciated who I was and couldn’t wait to get to know me better. I told her the same the best I could with a lump in my throat.

Friendship I needed. Affirmation I needed. You’re worth knowing. You have something good to offer the world. You’re not as terrible as you think. People enjoy your company.

I wonder if I would have heard their words if I had decided to keep my words inside. I wonder how they could have possible known I needed love, support, friendship unless I had told them.

I have to stop expecting that people know what I need while being unwilling to express a need. If I’m going to write about what it means to be vulnerable, I should allow myself to be vulnerable.

To be honest, Nick hadn’t even heard me say anything aloud to him. He read my blog post, and that was the first I he had heard my feelings expressed in any way. He knows I process through writing. He let’s me do that.

He said more words I needed:

First, stop doubting your writing. You’re phenomenal. And second, I knew you were feeling all of this even if you didn’t say it aloud. I just know you.

I am known, and he’s still sticking around. So much breathing room he gives me, and yet he doesn’t push away if I need to cling on tight.

Expressing a need and being open and vulnerable often leaves me somewhere between feeling relieved and feeling foolish. I am so terrified of neediness, of codependency, of weakness and failure, of being misunderstood or discredited somehow, that I tell myself a good friend, a strong person, would just press on and handle things on her own.

But it’s amazing how much easier it is to breathe and be when I let people in once in a while.


Perhaps Pain: Maybe a Memoir, Maybe a Moment

Maybe this is a memoir of sorts because I write this as I look back on 7 years of chronic illness and pain. I reflect on years when I could not remember a time that I wasn’t in pain; I reflect on years before the pain hit. I write this knowing that I’ve felt worse than I do now. I write this also knowing I have also felt better.

But I also write this as a moment in time. I write this as a person that is, in this moment, lamenting a pain that is chronic, recurring, intermittent; it ebbs and flows, and I can’t fight the current. Just when I think it’s gone for good, and I stand up tall, it can come back and knock me down. I write this in full awareness that I am being true to me, in this moment, with drama and angst and all that muck.

The truth is: words of today and several yesterdays need to come out.

Perhaps chronic pain changes a person.

Perhaps the throbbing and aching that keeps a person awake into the wee hours of the morning changes something in the psyche, or maybe it’s the cramping stiffness in her leg when she is sitting, reading her favorite book. Maybe the watching of her eyes fading from blue to grey, or the gradually paling complexion looking back at her each morning is like watching her haunt herself.

All that might change a person.

Maybe it’s the slow moan that she doesn’t even realize is coming from her as she rolls over in bed or tries to stand up, or the way it hurts her fingers to hold her lover’s hand. Maybe making love makes her cry, but not from the intimacy, and maybe the sadness in his eyes when she writhes in pain breaks a tiny fiber somewhere in her heart. Perhaps when he says, What’s wrong, and her answer is always the same quiet, I hurt, she grows weary of herself and of the truth. Because the truth is pain.

Perhaps it’s that pang of fatigue when she walks through the door after an average day at work that felt like running a marathon but shouldn’t have.

You look awful; rough day at the office?

No. Just a rough day in this body.

Maybe it’s the tightness and compression in her chest—anxiety, anger, frustration, piling and beating down on her, crippling her, screaming at her–that makes her wonder if it’s all worth it. Tears burn the eyes, and whispers tell her it’s all too much. Is it too much?

Perhaps not, but it is scary, so she remembers to breathe and she whispers the truth, It is worth it. She inhales; it hurts, but she keeps breathing in and out until it hurts a little bit less.

She runs this marathon well. She trains every day, and she knows the pain, the burn.

Perhaps one day it will be a burn like phoenix fire, and her broken wings will mend.

(Sometimes she wonders if she ever had wings in the first place.)

The waking up and the lying down in pain can transform a person. The tossing and turning, the thinking and groaning, the crying and sighing, the not sleeping, the wondering why. Mussed sheets and tired limbs are her cocoon, but she still awakens wingless.

Maybe it’s the just getting by every day that can make a person feel worthless, lazy, good-for-nothing. The limitations that pain puts on a person’s life can alter the expectations that she puts on herself. Saying, no, and, I can’t, because she had to has made her afraid to say, yes, and, I can, when she wants to.

Perhaps pain puts up a wall, brick by brick. Perhaps taking down that wall is hard for her weary hands, her woozy mind, and of course, a fickle heart.

After all, the wall protected everyone else, too, because pain lashes out, scratching and attacking, taking on her name and her identity, and before she knows it, she and pain have made a mess of it all. Maybe in her efforts to fight pain, she mistakenly fought the people she cares about.

Is it hard to love others well when a person hates her own body? Yes. So maybe she grows sorry, ashamed.

Maybe putting one swollen, aching foot in front of the other, with all its bruises and scrapes, really is all she can do some days. Perhaps being generous with her time as she once was is but a dream, and maybe opening up her heart is like opening up a wound and bleeding herself dry.

So maybe her heart has scabbed over a bit. It is more afraid. More impatient. More jaded. Perhaps out of the overflow of a hardening, scabbing heart, hardened, ugly words are spoken.

Perhaps, when she can feel the fibers of her muscles throbbing, the food in her stomach churning, the burning grinding of joints upon joints, and the heat of inflammation and pain, she struggles to be the same good friend she used to be.

Maybe that hurts like hell, maybe as much as the pain itself.

And even when the pain lessens, perhaps she is left with rubble and residue to clean up.

So much rubble. So many broken things. So much to rebuild.

Perhaps pain changes a person.

And the sick irony of being sick is that, even if the pain fades away, those changes in a person are perhaps as painful as the pain itself.