pictureFor many years I pushed away feelings of sadness, rejection and pain by telling myself that things could have been worse.

Sure, things weren’t great, but hey, I was never tortured, I was never deprived of food or made to stand in the rain all night like that orphan in that movie I once saw.

Sure he called me useless, lazy, a bitch, a slut, but he never threatened me with violence.

Sure he threatened me with violence, but he never actually beat me.

At least I was never raped. At least I was never homeless. At least I never lived in a war zone. At least I was never a refugee.

The problem with this is that you end up carrying your pain, past and present, with you.

I am reminded of a story I once read of a hunter who lost the love of his life. Unable to face the reality of her death, he carried her corpse with him wherever he went, even when there was nothing left of her but a skeleton.

As time passed, the skeleton got heavier and heavier. The burden became so great that, eventually, he could no longer run – he could no longer hunt. He realised that he would die if he did not let her go. His pain and his sorrow had become too much to bear.

As we continue to deny ourselves our pain, it, like the skeleton in the story, becomes heavy, cumbersome, more and more a burden, eventually impeding our progress, draining our energy. Stripping us of our potential happiness and preventing us from making the necessary changes that would set us free.

It took me a long time to realise this and even longer to not feel ashamed and self-indulgent, but when I finally dropped the shield of denial that held back the tears, they came in floods.

And it was okay. I did not die, the world did not stop and no-one was harmed.

Today I feel that I learned a valuable lesson.  Now, when my children are sad I hold them and tell them to let it all out and that it will be okay, I promise. And I believe it. Who knows what I would have said to them had I continued dragging the skeleton around? How much pain they would have had to carry while saying to themselves, it could have been worse?

I don’t know how useful telling my story is, if at all. But I will never know if I don’t tell it. Maybe out there somewhere there is someone who can identify with it and who may be nodding along and, who knows, shedding a tear.

Recommended reading: Women who run with the wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés http://www.amazon.com/Women-Wolves-Clarissa-Pinkola-Est%C3%A9s/dp/0345409876