On honouring pain {guest post }

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  NormanAbby 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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24 Responses to On honouring pain {guest post }

  1. Michael Montgomery 7th September, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

    Abby, thanks … Having been recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia recently after years of exhaustion & pain I was just happy to have a name to something so invisible, so intangible. After years of feeling guilty for not being able to engage fully in my family and missions call and trying to explain to people about feeling so exhausted I couldn’t get up the stairs and saying “thank you” to peoples well meant but hurtful remarks and eye-rolling, I am now liberated in my diagnosis … Isn’t that strange!?

    I found your article encouraging and I know that my next stage is seeking Papa for His solution to this … After years of this and it’s “fuelling” effect of my depression I am ready to be healed … but I know there’s His perfect timing in all of this and in the midst of suffering there is much to learn … So … I wait …

  2. Liz Eph 4th September, 2013 at 10:29 am #

    thank you so much for this wonderful post. it’s sooooooo true. thank you for not just saying about the miracle at the end – tho that is wonderful. xx

  3. Liz Eph 4th September, 2013 at 10:26 am #

    hiya folks, would those of you who pray, mind praying urgently for a lady calld christine. she’s the mum of an old school friend of my daughter. i’ve just had her on the phone. she has ME and has just come out of hosp again having been told there’s nothing wrong with her. she’s been sectioned 3 times too but they can’t find anything wrong with her, despite a positive test for lyme disease but no one will treat her for that. nurses and doctors have shouted at her to eat more and get up and go to the toilet herself. even her family are doubting her honesty now and can’t understand why she’s deliberately starving herself. of course she’s not doing it deliberately. she’s really really high risk of taking her life she’s so frightened and lonely and hurt and angry. she got home from hosp today and found my card so phoned. only i and a bloke from a lyme organisation believe her. thanks xx liz xx

    • Tanya 9th September, 2013 at 11:27 am #

      I just wanted you to know I have been praying ever since I read this.
      I really feel for her.
      I believe her.

  4. Tedd 4th September, 2013 at 3:09 am #

    There is another aspect of this. We cannot know another person’s pain. We can honor that pain when they choose to honor us by trusting us with that pain.

    But we need to leave room for God to use those unintentional pain-causing events.

    I had an experience where I unknowingly touched a deep well of another’s pain. I was a speaker on a renewal retreat. My given subject lent itself to revealing a little of my childhood sexual abuse. Several men came to me afterwards and told me of their stories. One man had never told anybody. We talked for three hours. He then said he needed to be alone for a bit.

    I left him sitting on a pew in the sanctuary. It couldn’t have been more than three minutes until somebody came and got me. My new friend was curled up on the floor in the sanctuary shaking violently. He was unresponsive to our words. We could only pray.

    As I prayed, I thought, “You need to be careful about what you say. Look what you did.” Immediately, I heard, “You didn’t do this. His abuser did this. You’ve just given him a chance to be free.” With that, I realized that the first “message” was from the enemy.

    I met with him for three years. Following those three years of healing, my friend and his wife went to Ecuador as missionaries. First, he helped HCJB World-wide radio stabilize their power production and then expand it. They broadcast 240 hours of Gospel programming across the world each day in various languages and frequencies.

    He and his wife are now building Christian schools and curriculum in villages in the high Andes mountains.

    And it happened largely because my pain triggered his.

  5. Aimee 4th September, 2013 at 1:48 am #

    This is wonderful Abby 🙂 I have fibro too and you have articulated so well both what it is like to feel the pain and what it is like to have folks just not understand. Well said!

  6. Sheila Seiler Lagrand 4th September, 2013 at 12:09 am #

    My friend Diana Trautwein pointed me here. I’m so glad she did. I just got confirmation that “the f word” (as I’ve been calling it) is in fact what’s causing my symptoms. I guess I should get over that attitude and get my arms around learning to live with this instead of raging against it.

    Thank you for some hope that I can do that, Abby. And Tanya, thank you for giving her this space. I’m grateful.

    • Abby Norman 4th September, 2013 at 12:58 am #

      That diagnosis was truly the first step towards healing. Now that it has a name, it very well could be manageable.

      • Sheila Seiler Lagrand 4th September, 2013 at 1:41 am #

        Just now, that sounds like the most encouraging words I’ve ever heard. Thank you.

  7. Debbie 3rd September, 2013 at 9:53 pm #

    Thank you so much for writing this guest blog. What a blessing to find another Christian suffering from Fibro, the same as me, God bless you. I will now follow your blog too.

    • John France 3rd September, 2013 at 10:40 pm #

      Paul was right when he told the Corinthians,”Love bears all things, Believes all things, Hopes all things Endures all things.” 1 Cor 13 abt vs. 8 KJV ( caps mine) This post proves much of Paul’s observations. ‘specially the believes all things part.

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