Pain is a funny thing. It has a way of changing you over time without you realizing it. It reminds me of growing taller.
You don’t really notice it happening until one day,
you’re standing on a scale at your doctor’s office being measured by a nurse wearing elephant scrubs and you’re told that you’ve grown an inch since your last visit.
How do you measure pain? Certainly not with a measuring tape or a scale.
When do you first realize its presence? When you’re 8 years old trying to figure out how to ride your bike without training wheels, and you fall off and scrape your knee.
The pain is sudden, sharp. Maybe next time you get on the bike, you’ll make sure to be more steady and try to maintain your balance. Or maybe you don’t get back on the bicycle at all.
When you're 11 years old and your stepdad is looking at you with that "look". The look that makes you feel like your stomach is tied in a knot. That makes you wish you would have work jeans and a sweater that day. But it's summer, and you're hot. You feel his hands on your waist and you wish you were a thousand miles away. So you shut your eyes and wait for it to be over.
This is a different kind of pain. It's not physical, it's not in your gut. It's the kind of pain that creeps in like an icy January breeze slipping through a crack in the window pane. The kind of pain that makes you feel dirty, and no matter how many showers you take, you can never quite scrub that pain entirely off of your skin.
When you’re fourteen years old and you’re at the school dance, watching the boy you like locking lips with another girl.
It’s a different kind of pain, to be sure, but you feel it deep within your gut and it hurts all the same. Maybe you walk up to him and announce your feelings.
Maybe you retreat seven layers inside yourself and avoid eye contact in the hallway. Maybe you stop going to school dances altogether.
You’re seventeen, sprawled on a chair at Planned Parenthood, legs wide. The boy you love accidentally got you pregnant, but he didn’t want it.
If you’re being honest, a part of you is too scared, too immature to want this baby. You know this is for the best.
The doctor asks if you’re ready and you shakily nod your head yes, although how could you ever possibly be ready for something like this? To have a life inside of you ripped out like a cavity?
You feel the metal prongs inside of you, and you’re certain that this is the first time you have ever truly felt pain. It’s hot and searing; it burns and scrapes.
Your cheeks get hot and sweat is beading over your brow. You can’t tell if the pain you’re feeling is purely physical or emotional. You decide that it’s a terrible combination of the two.
Tears are streaming down your face and you make a promise to God that you will never allow yourself to be so reckless ever again.
You’re eighteen and you’re sitting in the corner of your living room in your very first apartment, listening to the screams and shouts bellowing from the mouth of the man that you love.
The man you thought loved you. You’re waiting, hoping for this fight to be over. You don’t like it when he’s mad.
Before you know it, you feel a hot stinging on your face and a red handprint blossoms where his hand hit your face. You don’t want to move or make a sound.
You can’t believe that love can hurt like this. You don’t know what you did to provoke such violence. At this point, you’ve felt pain before, but not like this. This is visceral. Violent.
Sudden. You flee the room and peer at yourself in the mirror. You wonder why love can make you feel so small. So worthless. You wonder if it was ever really love at all.
You’re twenty years old, and you get a phone call in the middle of class, informing you that your very best friend has overdosed and passed away.
You drop the phone, and you sit there feeling as though someone has plunged a knife right through your stomach.
You don’t know whether you should cry, scream, or just sit there pretending that your world hasn’t just imploded. You are imploding.
A sob climbs up your throat and you try to choke it down but it morphs into an audible yelp that causes all the eyes in the room to turn to you.
Your face is hot, and you can’t hear or see anything, anyone else. All you can see is white-hot pain. A pain that you swear you’ve never felt before.
You run out of the room before anyone can see how broken you suddenly are. You’re twenty-three and it’s 4AM.
You get a phone call from your mother in law, but you ignore it, thinking it may be an accident. Part of your mind goes to that “dark place”, wondering if something might actually be wrong.
This button-size worry begins to grow unil it’s a boiling volcano in your stomach and the anxiety will not subside. Something is wrong.
You pick up your phone and you call your husband, the man who saved you from your abusive past, the man who promised you forever. No answer. You call again.
Before you know it, you’ve called him fourty-four times. You fall to the floor with the realization that the love of your life will never pick up the phone again. He’s dead; gunshot to the head.
You’re supposed to be on your way to work, but you’re laying on the balcony of your mother’s house, surrounded by your family who want to console you,
but they know that there is nothing they can say to make this pain subside. You know you’ve felt pain before; in fact, you’re no stranger to grief or loss at all.
But until this moment, you know that you have never felt pain in this capacity. This pain has no capacity. It’s a quiet, fatal, final type of pain.
It’s the type of pain that changes you instantly. You feel a dark and empty void where your heart used to be. All you want is to die, because ceasing to exist must be better than this feeling.
You know that no matter what happens in your life, this is the worst thing that could happen.
You question over and over if you’ll survive this, and every time, you’re faced with a bold faced “no”.
How could you possibly survive a loss this big? This unexpected? You fall into your father’s arms and your body shakes with sobs, although you don’t even realize you’re crying.
You hear the voices of your family but they all sound faint and far away.
You see your mother crying, gripping your hands and you feel you sister’s hands combing through your hair, but it’s as if you’re floating above your body, watching this happen to someone else.
This can’t be you. It can’t be. If this is you, you won’t survive. You couldn’t possibly. Everything you know and love has been ripped away from you in a matter of seconds.
One phone call has changed your life forever. One phone call, and you are no longer you. You’re not even a different version of yourself. You’re just… gone. Null and void.
A skin suit, masking an infinite amount of nothingness. You’re not sure if you feel numb, or if you feel everything too intensely. All you know is that you want to be someone else.
Someone who isn’t posessed by the type of pain that consumes you.
You wish you could fast forward five years into the future so that you don’t have to spend another second in this clone of yourself. But you can’t.
So you lay there, and you wait for the pain to finally take you.
But how do you know when it does? You’re eight years old again, and you’re meeting pain for the first time. It leaves a sour taste in your mouth.
You skip ahead to year twenty, and you don’t think you could ever feel this low again. But then, you do. And you suddenly realize that you’ve lost a piece of yourself, every time.
A small piece, though it may be; a portion of yourself is gone. And you never really notice it happening until you go to look for it and realize that it’s no longer there.
You don’t notice it until you’re looking in the mirror, studying your eyes, and you no longer see the vibrancy that your innocent self once posessed. You see a dark void where hope used to be.
You want to feel sad; hell, you even want to feel scared, because feeling fear must at least mean that you still care. But you’re not scared, and you don’t care.
Because when tragedy is the composer that has strung your life together with a string of meloncohly ballads, and when loss is the painter that has painted sorrow into every stitch of your being,
from the time you fell off your bicycle until the time you laid in the dirt before your husband’s grave, pounding your fists into the soil and cursing God with every foul word you can muster,
you lose something inside yourself that you soon realize you can never retrieve: your soul. And what happens when you lose that? Anything. Anything can happen.