Have you ever felt like your pain was too much? The past two years have been a period of incredible hardship for me as I stumbled through this eating disorder recovery journey.
While I would never wish pain on anyone, it is, unfortunately, universal. Every single one of us will experience pain at some point in our lives.
I’m still learning to manage the hurt. I won’t sugarcoat the amount of time and energy it takes for the power of pain to subside. However, over the past two years, I have also learned so much about myself through my pain. And these lessons are important.
Some days I have to remind myself of these lessons over and over, while other days I believe them with ease.
What do you do when it feels like the pain in recovery is too much? That’s what I want to help you with.
Here are 5 powerful facts to remember when the pain feels like too much.
I want every single one of you to remember that these statements are true for all of you.
Take them in. Repeat them. Learn to believe them.
1. You will be okay
I know that when I’m experiencing extreme pain or any intense emotion for that matter, it feels like it will never end. It is truly a horrible feeling.
Sometimes the circumstances causing the emotions are permanent – maybe it’s the loss of a loved one, a trauma that can’t be undone, or a person who simply won’t change. Things like that are truly sad, and your pain is valid.
However, the intensity of your pain will not last forever.
I know that sounds cliché, but it’s true, I know from experience.
Now, this isn’t to say it’s all sunshine and rainbows. The pain in recovery doesn’t just “go away.” Sometimes a past hurt comes back like a dagger to the heart, but it doesn’t last as long as it once did. I have the skills to manage it, and people I can go to for support.
Other kinds of pain are always there, lingering in the back of my mind, but they no longer consume me – and that’s okay.
2. You are not too much
The pain I felt was BIG. And sometimes that pain got expressed in very big ways – ways that overwhelmed me.
Sometimes I broke down into seemingly uncontrollable tears; other times I exploded with anger that I had let simmer for far too long. I often fell into a stubborn mindset where nothing anyone could say would change my mind. The pain felt too much.
I think these manifestations of my pain scared people sometimes. My peers didn’t know what to do or say. This made me feel like others didn’t care, and that I was simply too much. What I have learned, however, is that I am not too much.
Sometimes my pain and the expression of that pain may have been too much for certain people to handle at the time, but that is not a reflection of me.
And that’s okay – sometimes our pain in recovery is extreme and we need professionals to help us manage it. Our friends and family simply may not be equipped to help us in those moments.
This does not mean that our friends don’t care; in fact, they probably care very deeply and simply feel helpless to handle the situation.
But know that you, as a person, are never too much.
3. You are brave
Sometimes being in pain can make you feel helpless. It would be easy to remain in that helpless place, feeling like you’re suffocating; drowning.
I understand the desire to do so. Making a change can seem overwhelming and unbearable. The thing is, staying in the hurt and the helplessness keeps you stuck. It disables you from facing the deep-rooted source of that pain.
For me, there was a situation I had been trying to escape from for 18 years. The pain of remaining stuck in that situation kept me depressed and anxiety-ridden. But in facing those feelings, I realized that the deeper source of my hurt was the desire to be rescued. This also meant coming to terms with the reality that, after 18 years, that wish would never be granted.
Though enlightening, this realization brought on an entirely new level of hurt.
However, it also allowed me to wiggle myself out of that stuck, helpless place.
I realized that I had to save myself.
But that wasn’t what I wanted. Nor was it without pain, but it was a solution. I would never have discovered my bravery had I not had to fight pain head-on.
4. Sometimes the impossible happens
Pain can make you feel hopeless especially when it feels like it is too much. I can’t tell you how many times it left me on my bedroom floor crying, thinking that my dreams were shattered and my life was over. I thought that my mental illnesses and multiple stints in treatment had robbed me of all opportunities.
There was a point, not too long ago, when I was told that I would never get into another graduate school again – that it was simply an impossibility.
It was impossible because I had withdrawn from school too many times, choosing to put my health first. My emotional pain had temporarily disabled me from participating in “real life”.
I felt defeated – I had done nothing wrong other than experience the pain inflicted on me by others (if you can even consider that “wrong”) and I was punished for that.
Yet somehow, in the depths of my pain, I realized the injustice of my situation. So I picked myself up off the floor and used my pain to advocate for myself.
I cannot explain how vulnerable and heartbreaking it feels to fight a seemingly impossible battle. However, I also cannot explain the joy and pride when the impossible happens – like getting into graduate school when you were told it would never happen.
My point is, extreme pain has the capacity to leave you paralyzed on the floor. But it can also be used for good, if you let it.
5. It changes you
I would argue that nobody goes through pain unscathed. It can leave you broken, depressed, damaged, angry, lonely, and anxiety-ridden.
But the pain in recovery that feels like it is too much can also leave you stronger, braver, more confident, resilient – changed.
Most of the time, that change isn’t black and white. I still oscillate between feeling brave and broken pretty frequently. However, in the past I simply felt broken; the progress is in allowing the feelings of bravery to slowly seep into my soul and alter my beliefs.
The journey is slow, difficult, and incredibly scary, but it’s also remarkable. Allow the change to happen.
So feel your pain in recovery, Warrior. Even when it feels like it is too much. Talk about it. Learn from it. But don’t let it overtake you.