Pain or gain? I’ll have secret option C

Two Shoes Tuesdsay

Pain. Or gain?
These days I vacillate on whether or not the one goes without the other.
As much as I think that the stars were crossed for my life, I’m equally certain that most people don’t have it easy, even in the West, where we enjoy more everyday luxuries than we can name. Our abundance and relative wealth does nothing to mitigate the hardship of the emotional landscapes we grow up in, nor does it relieve us later in life when the scars we receive pull suddenly, or re-open. Our riches do not heal new hurts.
I was a few days old when my world (probably) first fell apart. My mum required some surgery, which was scheduled and delayed as she waited, fasting and trying to nurse her newborn. And so it came to pass that mid-feed and still unsatisfied, I was taken from her and given to my dad. She was wheeled off elsewhere to wait. And wait. And wait. And meantime, I can only imagine the frustrated, helpless bewilderment of the new father as his firstborn screamed and screamed for food, the pain of hunger and need and loss overwhelming her.Β 
I was seven when it fell apart again, with the sudden, strident entry into our lives of the beast Depression. We were all sucked under to The Bad Place, and the years were transformed into living death by a thousand verbal cuts, culminating with separate ways being taken, and leaving me with my own, smaller, twisted beast to deal with. Yet succumbing was never an option, because one thing I’d learned was stoicism and the ability to just keep going.
Then followed the first set of working years, where knock followed boost followed knock followed climb followed fall, and a weird breed of succfailuress was born. No matter how hard or how long I worked, my efforts were never enough and my failures quickly pounced upon. I was in a leadership position over a team who didn’t respond and the buck stopped with me, whatever shift of sands had thrown us off that day. I awoke daily with dread gnawing at the pit of my stomach, knowing that 12 hours wouldn’t be enough, and I’d still be for the high jump. I grew weary.
Marriage seemed a bright spot. A change of scenery to take a frivolous, fascinating course in something I’d long loved was the perfect escape, and yet the catastrophic re-entry of the beast Depression sucked the wind out of even those shining sails and turned it into a forboding, terrifying ghost-ship.
Then loss compounded. And another loss followed. And finally, the loss of all but the tiniest hope.
Even though the beast has been warded off (for now) and those frail hopes are pinned and never said “never” to, I still well up when imagination and wistfulness catch me off-guard – the sunshiniest day can be plunged into darkness by the errant thought of the babies I didn’t get to keep. Of the name we wanted to call our daughter (were we ever lucky enough to have one). Of clutching, paralysing envy at seeing a mother with her children. Of the long, long stretch of life ahead which might be ‘just us two’.
And all too often I’m overwhelmed, dragged back down into the Dark Place, hearing the siren-calls of depression and alcohol and the desire to just not be in my brain any more – to turn off the hurting and screaming and blur everything out, and weariness creeps into the bones of my soul and life grows cold and unfriendly.
Yet somehow, because occasionally, if we look hard enough, there is light to be found even in the midst of darkness, and a queer light which kindles and flickers and glows the more it is focussed on, as though the gaze is oxygen to its ember, and none of these pains is without their gain.
Rejection: a deep-seated fear of being left behind or left out or shown I’m unwanted makes it all the sweeter when the opposite is true, and gradually, with time and the now-consistent drip-feeding of love from family and friends, this spectre appears dimmer, and her clutches less powerful than before. This love provides a framework within which to cope with new rejections, and the reinforcement in words from those who matter allows me to shrug things off which before would have pierced my heart and shaken me to my core.
Hunger: once uncontrollable, it controlled me and the satisfying of it was the only way to quell the panic and suppress the pain. The senses were fooled by the positive input of food, translating it as safety and comfort. Now better understood, hunger is a friend to be embraced – a co-worker on the way to a healthy lifestyle and a reminder that food, appropriately portioned, will follow. When I work with hunger and allow myself to feel it, I know it no longer controls me, but that I control it.
Depression: never a friend and always a liar, a cheat and a saboteur, it nonetheless allows me to see how strong, how determined, how full of perseverance I’ve become. It allows me to connect, in a unique way, to a community of people who have experienced it, and to offer my support and encouragement where possible. It has allowed me to empathise and attempt to provide insight based in my own experience. And even though it sometimes still calls me and threatens to overwhelm, I know from the past, that it will not win me, and that it too, shall pass.
Low self-worth: this puzzled me for the longest while, for how dare I attempt to stand up for the validity, dignity and inherent worth in human life, just as it is, if I denied that worth to myself? And yet nothing could make me see that I was of value; merely a shell full of useless thoughts and trivia who could play the clown and sometimes make people laugh. Again, the consistent-drip feeding of positive input from those who care and the idea that I could hold a positive opinion about myself were key, and though work is still in progress, the foundations are strong. The light side is that I have a hyper-awareness of the actions and words which can build people up or tear them down. Shamefully I’ve willfully used both, but am learning to stick to the side which supports, blesses or encourages others.
Grief: a profoundly painful, lifelong membership to The Invisible Moms’ Club might appear to have very few bright points and yet the compassion and empathy I feel for my fellow members is beyond any I could have expected to feel before. We are a sisterhood of grief, and it is as fragile and beautiful as it is painful, and in it, we reach out through our tears to take the hands of those who fall, and pull them once again to their feet. In turn we can reach out our hands when we stumble and know that we’ll be caught. Another side (though tinged bittersweet) is the utter joy when I see parenting being done well and done right, and parents and their children living the beautiful moments together. Even with empty arms, I can still celebrate those times.
Weariness: for so, so many years, my forte has been my strength and ability to just keep going, to keep supporting, to keep doing the things which need to be done. And with the roller-coaster of the past few years, my ability has been compromised and I now walk through life gently, as though cracked and held together with tape, ready to fall apart at any moment. This weariness and the overwhelming nature of my thoughts has led me to some destructive behaviours, forsure, but it’s also led me to admit weakness; to admit inability to cope; to admit I’ve failed and need help. In developing strategies and reaching out to others for support, I have learned that there is a different kind of strength in weakness, and that in those desperate times, power comes not from isolation, but from connection and community.
I’m a huge believer that life is a series of stepping stones, some which harm us, some which help us, but each of which shapes us. The thing is, I’m gradually learning that we aren’t (or don’t have to be) victims to our past. I’ve lived that way and it sucks. In taking stock, understanding the impacts of the past, particularly of past pains, I have found it possible to (mostly) take on board the positives which can be found in them. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to sit back and say “I’ve done it”, but my character is changing, slowly and surely, into someone who seems to be a better person – more likeable; more compassionate; more patient and understanding; more willing to go the extra mile to encourage; and ultimately, happier.
I have been through the fires of life, and they aren’t over yet, but as the process continues, the dross becomes apparent and is seen, then discarded. I am being refined, and as painful as it is, I’ll come out better and shinier at the other end.
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32 thoughts on “Pain or gain? I’ll have secret option C

  1. *HUGE HUGS* No, you're quite right – these things shape us so much, and we end up utterly unable to re-fill the spaces we once were adequate for, and yet in our new shape there can also be beauty and productiveness and perhaps in some ways we're better off for having been through it, as we're so much more keenly aware of How Things Are, and operate with such a different mindset. More compassionate; more caring; more empathetic, perhaps.

    Depression SUCKS. There's no two ways about it. And yet, all survivors know it *is* survivable. And we come out the other side changed people, with more facets and scars than we thought possible, yet CAPABLE. Because we kept going under that enormous, awful pressure, and now we can do ANYTHING. (kinda)

    If anything I am or do or write is inspiring or helpful, then it's all made so much more worthwhile. Much love to you – keep overcoming your Beasts as well m'dear x

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  2. Oh how I love you. This resonates with me. While I never walked and survived your trials like you have, I've had my share of hell. I will never be the same Kimberly who could run an ER and a trauma bay without a sweat. Never. But that doesn't mean that I can't do something with the now and the future.
    Depression makes us believe horrible things, in that we cannot move forward. It makes us see that we are nothing but failures and points out every single thing that we have done wrong. All of those things you have listed are part of the package of depression.
    Effing hate it.
    I'm proud of you for overcoming and continuing to do so. It's inspiring and I know that it's helping someone right this minute.

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  3. Ah how I needed your light today. I am halfway through something – halfway down the pit and perhaps halfway out, but not sure. Am I acting vindictively? Am I playing the game? I wish things were simple.

    I got pushed off the edge today, quite suddenly, out of the blue. Right down into the bitterness and something brought air, but I'm not sure it's right…it might be poison.

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  4. I need to read this about 15 more times to fully grasp all the amazing and quite agonizing depth you have shared here, sweet Lizzi.

    Your winding road of terrible twists and horrific turns brings forth a
    wisdom only you and your precious heart can understand- and in your
    plight, you share pieces that we can ALL understand.

    All those facets of who you are… resonate with us all on some level to some
    degree. Some more than others. But all just the same.

    May you always find some ray of light in your seasons that perhaps drill down to
    your pit. There are cracks and crevices for air- there always will be. God will make sure of that, my friend.

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  5. We see it overcome by those who are akin, and in seeing, we know it can be overcome πŸ™‚

    But yes. When we're in it, there *is* nothing else. And that sucks. I hope to stay away for a while. It's so draining to be there!

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  6. Mike that sounds so hard, and I can quite understand you having gone through those things. I hope (as I get to know you) to find that you've also used them as stepping stones to turn you into the person you are today. You seem to be one who is good at making connections, so my gut tells me you might well have learned how πŸ™‚ *hugs* back atcha

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  7. The only other option is to remain stuck, which isn't really an option at all. Life is entirely too short AND too long to remain caught up in the badness. I know people do, and it leaves them miserable. I'd rather not be miserable because on the whole, there's too much fun and Goodness to be had. And yes – we're designed as a social species and made for relationship. Anything I can do to go along with that is alright in my books πŸ™‚

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  8. “if we look hard enough, there is light to be found even in the midst of darkness, and a queer light which kindles and flickers and glows the more it is focussed on, “

    (I have come to believe that), for a clark, the only helpful…. er help, affecting our time in the awful place, is the knowledge of other clarks, the peer group, if you will. and that is not to say that there is a fact or an argument or anything that can directly counter the incredibly toxic event that is 'the return to that place'. The power of the bad thing is that, at the time, it is the only voice in our world, it is irrefutable and totally resistant to logic or argument. ('hey, we're there, right? guess we can't argue against that, can we?')
    But each time I witness another clark persevere and/or survive their own experiences with that place, something within me changes. Not a big fact, not a 'it's not so bad', not a logical argument…nothing like that at all. It's more a matter of 'witnessing' another person go and come back, a person that I can identify with, that is what makes the difference (for me).

    so that queer light might be the reflection of other clarks, struggling against the drawing downward or lifting up out of that place.

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  9. Absolutely awesome post, my dear! No, we don't have to be victims of our past unless we choose to be. I have not worn a victim sign as an adult but I was definitely imprinted as a very young boy with a bio mother who left. Then a series of young child events occurred that instilled a constant fear of rejection and horrible case of separation anxiety. Just in our initial talks that you and I have had it's been evident there is a true warmth emniating from you that often comes from a lifetime of stepping stones. Hugs, Lizzi! πŸ™‚

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  10. This was such an amazing and inspiring read, Lizzi! I know it wasn't an easy thing to write, but I love how real and honest it is! I think you've found the secret that will carry you through life, we can either let our pain destroy us, or we can use it to grow stronger and ultimately wiser. You have come so very far, and I just love that you are using your experiences to support and encourage others. That's really what we're here for. Thank you for sharing your story with us, it was powerfully good!

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  11. Wow! That might be one of the most beautiful things anyone's ever said to me. Thank you.

    If *anything* I do or write or how I live or what I go through can be in any way turned into something Good, something helpful or light-shining or supportive, I offer it up. And I hope it helps πŸ™‚ I think that's part of why I write so openly – initially for those who might stumble across this site who're experiencing the fall-out of infertility or miscarriage, but increasingly for those who have struggled with difficult childhoods or challenging marriages or brushes with mental illness…it's always my hope that someone, somewhere will take my words and find solidarity in them, and perhaps a little solace. So thank you, so, so much, because it seems like this might not be a pipe dream πŸ™‚

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  12. I think perhaps you are a light, a brilliant shining beacon, to so many who can't express their own struggles the way you so eloquently do. Because of your honest insight into your life, you brighten the stone paths and help to keep those who travel into the darkness from falling.

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  13. I see her point, but the thing I've learned is that perspective is different from comparing pain. Someone will *always* be hurting worse or living a life more screwed up than you. Always. And remembering that there are people in the world living in warzones or with terminal illnesses or drought or whatever else, is good for framing the shape of our problems against a bit of a reality check, but it's worth taking care not to let these things undermine our pain.

    If something hurts us, it hurts. And it needs acknowledging and moving past, rather than burying under a landslide of inappropriate comparison.

    Totally with you on how it's easier on some days than others.

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  14. My grandmother once told me that whatever I was going through, somebody out there was going through something worst and to always always look at the brighter side of life. Some days it's doable, some days not so much but yes, we can come out brighter and shinier. πŸ™‚

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  15. I think it's a good side-effect of having lived through hurt, rather than the point of the hurting. But yes – you're so right – once we've been through these things, we have an aptitude for supporting those who're going through it. I think. Well, perhaps some people. Maybe me πŸ™‚

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  16. So far, so rollercoasterish! But yes – hope is always there – mostly centred in those around me, on whom I rely. Tiny baby steps in any direction of Good will be WONDERFUL and I shall relish them πŸ™‚

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  17. This is a great way of looking at it. We can choose only so much of our path, but we can choose how we react to what comes along our path. Will we help others who have come to those same challenges? Will we drown in self-pity? Will we look ahead, to others further along the path, and asking for a hand?
    Once we figure this out, once we LOOK for the helpers and seek the help, and get the help, then eventually we can turn around and BE the help. Maybe THIS is the path we are all chosen for, and we just need to figure that out ?

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  18. Well it certainly seems you have had your fair share of the downs but in your honest writing I see the hope that things can and will change for the better. I look forward to you writing about that too as even tiny baby steps in that direction will be a joy for you.

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  19. Thanks Dana. I'm glad it made you happy to read. And yes – occasionally I can manage a dollop of hope in amongst all the 'being caught up in life', which makes a pleasant change.

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  20. Thanks Alyson. I like your way of thinking; that is freeing. And possibly what I meant to say. Gosh, that would've been simpler, huh? Why use five words when 1000 will do, though? πŸ˜‰

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  21. Um. Now there's a thought.

    I hope I do, too. Chances are I don't, or I write in lieu of realising the full extent of meaning. Or I realise it for the moments I write, and then forget again.

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  22. As always – amazing. Yes, it took me a long time to realize that the past doesn't dictate me anymore. It was very freeing. Good luck on your journey.

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  23. Thank you Jennifer, that's so kind of you to say. I'm inspired in turn by others who've moved through their fires – I think in the end we all help one another through, and hopefully come out stronger and more capable.

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  24. I read this slowly several times. What a powerful post, Lizzi. As you move forward through the fires, you inspire lots of us and give us hope that we can do the same. Shiny and beautiful you are…

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