Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The value of being heard

If there is one thing worse than being depressed, I think that would be: being depressed and being told you shouldn't feel that way. Perspective is important, as is gratitude, and I try to remember this. At the same time, pain is still pain. Whether or not you tell me that I should (or shouldn't) feel a certain way does not change how I actually feel.

Long story short: I recently found out that my ability to run is likely over FOR GOOD. (I still haven't given up hope, and I'm investigating various options, but the prognosis is dismal.)

The thought of never running again just feels unbearable sometimes. I remind myself, "No one cares about how many miles you run, or your 5k time, or how quickly you can get from point A to point B. And you shouldn't care either. It's all irrelevant." It truly is irrelevant. I know this, but still, I feel like I am missing a huge part of myself when I can't run. Running has been a part of my life for a long time (18 years) and it has always been something I could turn to.

I try to explain to non-runners what this loss is like for me, and I automatically hear: "Have you thought about riding a bike? Maybe you could get on an Elliptical. Maybe you could start hiking. Walking fast can give you a very good workout and burn calories. Why don't you try swimming? It's really not that big of a deal that you can't run anymore. There are plenty of other things to do."

I know that the people making these suggestions are trying to be helpful and well-meaning. Still, hearing these suggestions seems dismissive and insulting. I am intelligent enough to problem-solve and have thought of all of these things. I do some of these things already. But, it is not, and will never be, the same. There is no quick-fix or easy solution. This is a loss that I will grieve for a little while before I reach acceptance and move on.

Sunday I was feeling in a bad spot, depressed. I even thought for a minute or so about getting high...Anything just to feel better for a brief period of time...It kind of sucks that I am without my best coping skill: running....So, I took my own advice not to isolate, as that just makes depression worse. I went out to be social. I did the standard, polite, "I'm good; how are you doing?" and talked with others about their lives and their problems and got out of my head for a while. It was helpful. I started to feel better...Until I decided to tell this one friend how I was really feeling.

I said, "my life is for the most part good. But, I'm just really depressed about not being able to run anymore; it's a huge loss, and I'm just having trouble coping with it."

And, this friend said, 'I don't see what the big deal is. Why don't you just get on an elliptical?'

I tried to explain, but it was like talking to a wall. Not only did this friend not 'get it' but he basically made me feel like it was stupid for me to be upset about my inability to run.

I looked around me at all of these people and suddenly felt all alone, disconnected. I asked myself, "Why did I even come here in the first place?" and immediately wanted to flee the scene.

I am not one to cry in public, but I was feeling so frustrated and depressed and alone that it just sort of happened. Fortunately it was dark out, and it was time to go home. So, on the car ride home, I was very quiet, and my friends could tell that I was not right. I tried to say, "nothing is wrong. I'm just tired," but they didn't buy it. I told them I needed to go home.

I was really just trying hard to avoid having all of this pent-up raw emotion leak out. Too late.

They would not let me go home knowing something was wrong with me. So, I sat on their porch and cried, and tried to explain the pain I was feeling: the loss of my greatest joy in life and the added frustration of having people tell me I shouldn't feel how I felt, having my feelings completely invalidated by people who just didn't understand. Pain (emotional or physical) is hard to explain. It's something we can only grasp when we experience it.

I totally expected my friends to discredit what I was feeling, to tell me that being unable to run is really an insignificant problem, that I have a lot to be grateful for; try the elliptical.

They did not say this. In fact, they said very little. They just listened and offered their support. They acknowledged that they did not know exactly what I was feeling, but that they understood the magnitude of this loss for me. They told me that my feelings were legitimate and that my pain mattered...and that I was worth their time.

Then, of course, they told me not to give up hope, to keep trying to find solutions. "You're not the type of person to just give up." (And, I'm not. I continue to search for remedies and to run what little I can even though I'm not supposed to run at all.)

When I finally left their house, I realized that the depression that had been with me for a week or so was suddenly lifted. The whole not-being-able-to-run thing suddenly didn't seem like such a big deal. It still sucked, but the intensity of the emotion was just not as strong anymore. The depression and frustration was replaced with gratitude...Gratitude that I have such truly great relationships in my life, friends in my life that care enough to actually hear me, friends that can handle me at my best and my worst.

It says in the Basic Text that "pain shared is pain lessened." In my experience this is only true when people are able, and willing, to actually hear the pain we are sharing.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, this is really fantastic. I really relate, but you put it into words that I couldn't seem to find on my own!