Abby Norman is a kindred spirit and a half, and sometimes we are so similar it freaks me out. I had the joy of getting to know her through Story 101, and she is a dear friend. She has a passion to change the world, and I think she might just do that. It’s a pleasure to have her here:
I spent a long time being sick. At thirteen I got mono. There is nothing less funny to a thirteen year old who has never even held hands with a boy, then bad jokes about the kissing disease. Unfortunately, that was the least of my troubles; I never got better.
I spent the years between 13 and 26 looking fine and feeling terrible. It took three years to find a doctor who would even believe me and another year to find a specialist who could give me a diagnosis and a piece of hope to hold in my hands. I will never forget the thick Indian accent and the kind look in his eyes when he held my hands and told me, “my dear, you are going to get much better.” He was the first person who could promise me that.
At 26 I was miraculously healed. A story I hold close to my heart. It is sharp and powerful and sometimes people who don’t understand end up swinging the story around and seriously hurting someone. Perhaps that is why people love healing stories so much, they are powerful. We need to remember they are powerful, but like a double edged sword. All stories are.
If nothing else, in the thirteen years of sickness and confusion, I learned this: You never know how or why someone else is hurting, but it is holy to honor their pain.
Fibromyalgia, my eventual diagnosis, is still a bit of a mystery. 17 years ago, no one had any clue. More often than not, people would shrug their shoulders and roll their eyes. You look fine Abby; surely you can’t be in that much pain. But I was. That is the funny thing about suffering; no one can experience anyone else’s. You are the only one who knows how much pain you are in.
It is the truth of this world. We don’t really know, for sure, for a fact that other people are experiencing what they say they are. I get it. I do. I looked fine, and on the days I was going to school I acted fine. How in the world could I be telling the truth about my pain? Surely, I could just get over it.
There are 19 pressure points that hurt for no reason when someone has fibromyalgia. Hit the bottom of the feet, the spot down the arm, the shoulder spot wrong and tears would immediately spring to my face. Those were the tears I could always control. It was the next set that left me heaving uncontrollably in the bathroom. The set that came after the bump when someone would insist that I simply could not be hurting, that I should just get over it. I would have loved to get over the unintended bump, but it hurt. Not recognizing my pain as valid, made me feel invisible. It let me know my experience did not matter.
I make the same mistake all of the time. Maybe it isn’t physical, but I often accidentally brush up against someone else’s sore spot. Something I say, an allusion I use, the tone of my voice makes someone recoil in pain. My gut reaction is almost always to defend myself. That person is being too sensitive, he should chill out, she should get over it. I didn’t mean it like that anyway. But I don’t get to decide what hurts other people. We are all broken in different ways. No one really knows what is going to hurt someone else. Sometimes we don’t even know what will hurt our own selves.
But I do know how to not cause the extra damage. I can honor others’ pain. I can believe them when they tell me that something hurts. I can remember the pressure points, and try not to bump them again. Inevitably, I will hit another one. And then, I can say I am sorry again, even if it isn’t my fault. Because honoring someone’s pain can sometimes heal that pain. Wouldn’t we all like to be a little less broken?
Abby Norman lives and loves in the city of Atlanta. She has two hilarious children and a husband who doubles as her copy editor and biggest fan. If two in diapers and a full-time job teaching English at a local high school don’t keep her busy, you can find her blogging at accidentaldevotional.com and on Twitter at @AccidentalDevo.Abby loves all kinds of Girl Scout cookies, and carries a dream of one day writing a book about teaching in her heart.
Over to you:
- Can you relate to having ‘pressure points’ of pain that other people unintentionally rub up against?
- What does it mean in your life to honour someone’s pain?
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