Divvying Up The Pain

Mom, don’t read this one.

There was once a time when I was thirteen or fourteen…I was walking through CVS pharmacy when the sudden taste of metal filled my mouth and my vision started to go white. I began stumbling to find my mom…I don’t believe I was able to speak from the excruciating pain that was suddenly radiating from my abdomen. She dropped everything and drug me out of the store. I was blacking in and out from the pain….thrashing around in the front seat of the car as she drove…somewhere. She was speeding down the road…and I reached for the car door handle multiple times to throw myself out of the vehicle. She was screaming at me to stop…and I didn’t care. I wanted the pain to stop so badly that I was willing to throw myself from a moving vehicle. In those days, the doors didn’t lock automatically. I had my seatbelt unbuckled and was going for it, fully committed to the act.

Because when we are in that level of pain, physically or emotionally, there is a very primal desire for the pain to stop. That is where desire to kill oneself can come from…a desire for the pain to stop. I know that firsthand from when I was sixteen and I swallowed close to fifty dangerous pills “just to make the pain go away.” I didn’t care about the next (and very final) step, or how I would poop black for over a week after recovering in intensive care. I wanted the pain to go away. So I took the pills, and guess what? My emotional pain disappeared amid the seizures and the vomiting of the pill dust…my pain shifted to that of physical survival.

Obviously I discussed my struggle with boundaries and ending my last relationship with my therapist yesterday. I was beating myself up for not handling it the right way, for not continuing to endure pain…because “Dave, I could’ve done it; I could’ve handled it for longer…it wasn’t that bad. Why didn’t I just hold on?” And Dave just shook his head and said, “Honestly, I am concerned about your capacity for pain…you have an extremely high pain tolerance…so high that when you try to show yourself compassion and stand up for yourself to stop the pain, you take that area that’s supposed to hold compassion and fill it with more pain and anger at yourself for not being able to…handle more pain. So you think you SHOULD handle more pain…when you’re already experiencing more pain than most people see in a lifetime.”

I said, “Well, there’s lots to unpack there and time is up so…” and stood up laughing. He looked at me sadly and said sarcasm hides pain too.

Well, no shit, Dave, that’s Psychology 101.(see what I did there?)

I have spent the last four days in a lot of pain…physically and emotionally while trying to process this breakup and while holding a boundary that causes even more pain. I am going through the motions, forcing myself to eat food and drink water, staying away from alcohol because I know that won’t help, taking extremely hot and extremely cold showers to bring more awareness to my body, I am laying under a thirty pound weighted blanket, I am playing the flute more, working out intensely, breathing, channeling the Moody Blues with my unsent letters, burning the sage… I am doing anything to ease the pain that feels like my heart is breaking (from ending the relationship or from unpacking all of the abandonment issues? That is a glass coffin, my friends; remains to be seen).

“The thought of suicide is a great consolation: by means of it one gets through many a dark night.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

My first thought when I am in this much pain is suicide. I’ve gotten really good at recognizing that desire for what it truly is…a desire for the pain to stop and for me to feel like I have some sort of control in my life. That is why I try to address my physical senses, touch (blanket, showers, working out), smell (incense, strong spices from cooking), sight (beautiful flowers, a clean house), taste (chocolate, tacos), and sound (playing the flute, which is also helpful for breathwork, good music). I engage myself so intensely physically that I try to override the emotional pain I am feeling so I don’t jump off the Coronado bridge. 

It kinda works. The pain is borderline manageable, enough that my desire to die would abate by the time my car reached the Coronado bridge. Friends help, and I am sure to receive an onslaught of calls and messages about this post. But there are spikes in pain that send me reaching for that door handle…

So the last few days have been a crucible of emotional pain. That isn’t the point of this post. The point is what happened tonight. I received more painful news, more trauma-inducing, heart-aching news….and I was grateful. As I texted my girlfriend about this newest development, her response to my relief surprised me. “No,” I told her, “This is good, it is a different kind of pain.” I get to spread the load across multiple emotional wounds instead of just one. I was relieved…and I felt like I could breathe while the pain shifted.

Many hands make the burden light…

Maybe that is why I have so many avenues of pain in my life…because having only one release valve for emotional pain is sure to place me at the bottom of the San Diego bay. Give me emotional pain of all kinds, because then what does it matter if I am sobbing on the floor of my shower in excruciating pain…there is going to be something else along shortly that will help dull the sharpness of one pain knife…

And maybe that is why I am terrified of commitment to one person and lean towards polyamory. The ability for one person to hurt me, to leave me…that’s too much potential pain to place in the hands of a single other person.

So thank goodness for this additional pain. It feels better.

Lots to unpack here.