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Pain and Pretending

shutterstock_49434418-908x397Three weeks ago today I woke up at 3 am with kidney stones. If you’ve never had kidney stones, you’re probably thinking, “that’s too bad, I hear kidney stones are painful”.

However, if you have had kidney stones, right about now your Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is kicking in and your having flashbacks of excruciating, mind-numbing agony. You’re starting to sweat; the room is beginning to spin. You’re nauseas and fear is streaming through your veins. …It’s ok. Breathe. It’s only a memory. Go to your happy place.

During the ordeal, one of my fabulous nurses recalled her own experience with the tiny orbs of evil. She said, “kidney stones…at first you think you will die from the pain, then you are afraid you won’t.”

Before my recent episode with these orbs of evil, I never gave them much thought. Years ago when my sister-in-law got kidney stones, I tried to be helpful and knew she was really hurting. A friend called me once in the middle of the night to take her to the ER because of kidney stones. I felt awful she was in so much pain, and wished I could do something, but I didn’t really understand.

Now I know what all the fuss was about. Three weeks, two hospitals, and one surgery later, I am kidney stone free.

I used to have that if-I-see-one-more-drug-company-commercial-I’m-going-to-scream attitude. Now, I feel a little more like, “hey, here’s a big shout out to my new friends, Morphine and Dilaudid? Can I get a Woot-Woot for Narcotics.”

(Side note: I am officially no longer on those little beauties, but I am in no way responsible for anything I might have posted on this site or any other since Feb 17th.)

With each person with whom I’ve shared the kidney stone saga, I can tell before they respond, if they have or have not had a kidney stone. The extent to which they understand is written on their faces. One fella at work stood in my office for 15 minutes acting out the horrific scene from when he had stones. Another friend just kept saying, “I can hardly talk about it…oh my goodness, I can’t talk about it”. They understood.

The same is true with emotional and psychological pain.

Many years ago, when I was first saw a counselor, I remember beginning to tell my story. I was just learning to tell the truth about what happened to me as a little girl. I was just starting to say aloud, what I had carried in silence for so long. I can still see, at my very first session, my precious counselor looking back at me in a way that said, “I understand”. And she did! I am so grateful she did.

I am not glad that she walked a path of horrific abuse and neglect. I am not glad she’s known pain and shame that feels utterly unspeakable, but I am eternally thankful that she sought healing and graciously shared that with me. Her “I understand”, changed everything for me.

I am reminded, by the pain of those pesky little stones, what it means to really understand. I am reminded that when I sit across from a client in my office, or a friend at dinner, I better mean it when I say, “I understand”, when they are sharing their hearts, because it matters. Words are powerful.

“I understand,” said with honesty and intention, changed the shape of my heart and the course of my life. It provided a freedom, connection, and hope I had never known before. And, it somehow made me feel not so alone with the pain of those darn stones.

Childhood abuse, betrayal, and kidney stones. That I get. But there are many kinds of pain and hurt that I have not experienced that YOU have. I’ve said, “I understand” a gazillion times when, in reality, I understood nothing. It was not out of malevolence, but out of an immature awkwardness and lack of knowing how to handle another’s pain.

For today, I will remember to think before I speak, and seek to understand before I pretend I do.

And, if you have kidney stones, I’m so very, very sorry, and I understand!

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