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Don't Get Right Back Up

When life kicks you to the ground, resist the urge to get right back up.

Yes, I know that sounds contrary to what instincts tell us, but hear me out.

With emotional pain, like the pain you'd experience by tripping and falling, you have the impulse to rise and start moving again. To brush it off, compartmentalize the pain, and continue with the busy-ness of living. But honestly, rushing back into things isn't always healthy long-term.

A couple of years ago, while taking a lovely sunset stroll down a jetty, I hopped down off a rock and landed poorly on the sand. I was immediately struck by searing pain and a popping sensation high in my left buttock and hamstring. I laid there curled in a ball whimpering, trying to be "brave" and almost immediately I forced myself to get up and "walk it off." I was afraid of being judged as a "baby," I second guessed how hurt I was, and told myself that I was probably exaggerating the pain.

I limped back home, searing pain and all. Ice, topicals for the pain, and some over the counter anti-inflammatories. "Suck. It. Up. Buttercup," I told myself. "You're still walking so you must be ok."

Fast forward to about three weeks later and I was still limping and in pain. Thinking maybe the fall had thrown my hips out of whack, I paid a visit to my chiropractor. As I laid face down on his table, he let out an audible gasp! He took a quick snapshot of the back of my thigh with his phone and showed me the most solid, black bruise I'd ever seen spanning from butt to knee, and traversing the entire width of my thigh. Hmm.... I guess maybe I wasn't overreacting after all? (And, for those of you a woman who lives mostly alone, how else would I have ever seen the awful blackness on the back of my thigh?!) I reluctantly took myself to the doctor, who then sent me for an MRI, all the while the tape in my brain was telling me "stop overreacting!" I was shocked to receive a diagnosis of a full tear and 3cm detachment of one of my hamstring tendons, along with a likely partial tear of another. Ouch! Who knows how much worse I made the injury by "sucking it up" and minimizing the pain those few weeks?!

Fast forward a few years later. My bionic hamstring is better than ever now, after two hellish surgeries and a long and painful recovery, but the lesson isn't lost on me.

Just like with a physical injury, pain is a primal sign that something is wrong - something needs to experience a healing, which usually takes time and tenderness. If you ignore a serious physical injury you may make it worse, and the same is true of emotional injuries.

Part of the emotional experience that is common to all of us as humans is to experience pain; we suffer loss, setbacks, and disappointments. In these excruciating moments or seasons, our deepest primal urges are to crawl back into our caves - to the safety of our inner experience - and lick our wounds. But, it seems these days that society demands otherwise: get over it, brush it off, suck it up.

Pain demands attention; it needs to acknowledged and embraced before you can move on. This isn't permission to wallow or prolong suffering, but it is an invitation to be present, take your time, feel it, and be gentle with yourself. Learn the beautiful lessons to be found by sitting with and in your pain.

Healing takes time.

And, healing often needs support. If you think you might benefit from a little support, reach out!

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