Who am I without my pain?
I asked myself this question as I sunk below the scorching water in my bathtub, bubbles covering my vision. I was tipsy off of white wine, alone with my thoughts and the new music blaring through my iPhone speakers.
Water spilled over the sides of the tub and onto the floor, but I didn’t care, like I usually would. Instead, I laughed, sat up, and grabbed my glass for another sip of Pinot Grigio.
I smiled and sang, finding comfort in my solitude until, in an instant, I started crying.
There it was — the pain that always crept in.
I never seem to enjoy happiness without this deep gnawing inside my gut. To feel anything, I must feel everything. Is that simply a result of being alive, or is there something wrong with me deep inside?
As I stepped out of the bathtub, my face was bright red, flushed as if from embarrassment, but there was no one else there to see me. Am I so ashamed of my own being that I feel shy just staring at my own reflection? If so, where did this stem from?
I wanted to know, so desperately, why I hurt. Why must I escape into visions of my future self, dancing with her lover on the beach by the ocean? Why must I resort back to fiction to escape the present? Why do I feed notions promising only external validation?
I don’t like labels, and so I won’t call myself a victim. But it’s hard not to feel like one sometimes.
Who am I without my pain?
I’m not sure, because I was only 4. I was only 4. I was only 4, when he saw me as such.
“Victim: one that is acted on and usually adversely affected by a force or agent.”
If the shoe fits, I’d have to wear it. Right? Or could I choose to walk barefoot, sidestep all the shattered glass I couldn’t seem to sweep under the mat?
What if you fit the exact definition, you wear every symptom on your sleeve for the world to see — does that make it true?
I don’t know where it all started, but I do believe we all have access to the darkness. Maybe we can’t all cry on a whim, maybe they’ll label that “depression,” but aren’t we all victims?
I choose not to see it that way. I choose to find beauty in every emotion. Because while it hurts to smile, and it’s comfortable to cry, it’s a release all the same. When there’s no place to put the pain, we wear it — and that can be dangerous.
It can be dangerous to identify with your pain. I always preach to tell your story, to share what makes you feel proud and most empowered. But it’s important not to give away your power.
“It’s better to feel pain than nothing at all,” according to The Lumineers.
To feel is to exist. To bleed is to be alive, for there’d be nothing to release if there was no life in us in the first place.
It keeps you suffering. It keeps you revisiting those who perpetuate that suffering. You start to feel at home among those who break you down. And you stay because it feels safe.
It’s not safe. It’s just familiar.