I believe some people undervalue the benefits of therapy. Because of therapy, I can admit that I’m lying: to everyone in my life and to myself. Whenever anyone asks how I’m doing, I say I’m fine. Of course, that’s not true, but it’s easier than telling everyone who asks how much pain I constantly feel. It’s easier than having a conversation that’s all about my pain and me. The question is, is that what’s best for me. Is that what’s best for the health and longevity of my relationships? Is that what’s best for anyone living with chronic pain or a chronic illness?
I had a virtual therapy session earlier this week, and as I was talking through my feelings – and fears – with my therapist, the truth of what I do, repeatedly, struck me. I lie to everyone because I don’t want to take up too much space. To limit the amount of time spent talking about my pain I put a smile on my face and brighten my voice regardless of how terrible I feel. Leaving people to marvel at how healthy I sound and look. I hide my pain when I don’t say no to people in my life who ask me to go places and do things I know my body can’t cope with, or will take days to recuperate from. I do whatever I can to appear “normal” so I can avoid talking about my pain in any circumstance that isn’t clinical.
The thing is, I have the right to take up space. Before this illness came into my life, I wasn’t an extrovert but I lived my life more openly with the people who are close to me. I talked more about myself, and the ups and downs in my daily activities. Now, I feel as though I need to keep those ups and downs to myself. I feel the need to hide what I’m feeling and thinking about – a life with chronic pain – from everyone, so they don’t worry; I don’t have to answer questions; and I don’t take up too much space.
While talking to my therapist, it stunned me to realize that I feel this way about myself. I don’t know for sure that this feeling wasn’t alive in me somewhere all along, but I know that it’s not true or right to feel this way now. No illness should prevent any person, including me, from actively occupying her or his space in this world. I don’t know how I’m going to silence this feeling or reclaim and refill my space, but I believe recognizing that I feel this way because of my pain can only help me get better, and stop me from feeling so small.
OneRepublic – Feel Again