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It Hurts to Be a Silent Sufferer

Truer than She Knew

I've been getting Botox for chronic migraines for the past 7 years. The doctor injects the medicine-filled needle into 31 places, including my forehead, eyebrows, temples, neck, and shoulders.

The ones in the face are quite painful.

During a recent treatment, my doctor commented, "I know this hurts. You're a silent sufferer."

Little did she know that she was right—but with more than just Botox injections.

Emotions during Childhood

Growing up, I wasn't allowed to express my feelings, unless that feeling was happiness. If I were sad or angry, my dad would say, "You're a child. You have no reason to be sad." Or, "You don't have any reason to be angry."

So I got used to pushing my feelings down deep. When I was really upset, I waited until I went to bed and would cry. If I couldn't wait that long I'd take a shower, because nobody could hear me cry in the shower.

Adulthood Emotional Habits

My burying of emotions didn't stop when I became an adult. I feel vulnerable when I show feelings of sadness, anger, embarrassment, anxiety, or fear. And I really don't like feeling vulnerable.

However, as a parent and wife, I'm trying to do better. Even though it's uncomfortable, I let my husband and 9-year-old daughter know when I'm feeling unpleasant emotions. I tell them when my anxiety is high and controlling my day. I even cry in front of them sometimes.

My husband and I are working hard to create a home environment where expressing our feelings is safe. The only way to do that is to model what it looks like to be vulnerable with our emotions.

Pain and Emotional Recovery

In 2015, I spent 4 weeks inpatient at a hospital as part of their pain recovery program. Depending on the source, experts believe that up to 50-80% of chronic pain comes from emotional pain. So, we had process groups (basically group therapy) every day.

One patient there—Alice—was a very dramatic person. Every day, she came in with something she needed to talk about. She was distraught pretty much all the time. Since she was so visibly upset, I let her vent to the group even on days when I wanted to share.

In a one-on-one session with my therapist, Judy, she mentioned how I wasn't sharing much. I explained that Alice clearly needed to talk more than I did. Judy replied, "Just because she shows it on the outside doesn't mean she needs to process something more than you. She's just more visible about it."

Of course Judy was right. But between my practice of burying of emotions and my habit of putting other people first, it was still hard to speak up.

What about You?

Do you keep your feelings in, or share them with everyone? How is that working for you?


Today I will remember...

even though I may internalize my emotions, they are just as valid and important as those of someone who shows them externally.


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