Re-Framing Our Pain

Mariah survived a violent childhood, but she’s still dealing with the aftermath of abuse today. Sometimes people tell her to just get over it and move on with her life. These same people wouldn’t think of telling her to get over a broken leg. We all carry our childhood wounds with us–either in denial or in awareness until we find our healing.

I am all the ages I have ever been.
-Anne Lamott

These wounds might fester for decades before we wake up and realize our lives are not working. The only way to open these wounds is to re-frame the pain. To be able to do re-frame, we must find safe people who are non-judgmental to walk with us on this journey. Perhaps it would help if our friends understood the statistics of childhood trauma.

As the number of traumatic events experienced during childhood increases, the risk for the following health problems in adulthood increases: depression; alcoholism; drug abuse; suicide attempts; heart and liver diseases; pregnancy problems; high stress; uncontrollable anger; and family, financial, and job problems. (1)

People who have experienced trauma are:

  • 15 times more likely to attempt suicide
  • 4 times more likely to become an alcoholic
  • 4 times more likely to develop a sexually transmitted disease
  • 4 times more likely to inject drugs
  • 3 times more likely to use antidepressant medication
  • 3 times more likely to be absent from work
  • 3 times more likely to experience depression
  • 3 times more likely to have serious job problems
  • 2.5 times more likely to smoke
  • 2 times more likely to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • 2 times more likely to have a serious financial problem

These statistics came from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They confirm what happens in childhood, never stays in childhood.  Yet whenever someone tells a sad story, someone is sure to say “She is stuck in the past.” Perhaps she is not stuck in the past as much as the past is stuck in her. Perhaps her pain occurred at such an early age that it effects everything in her life today. If she is an Adult Child of a Narcissist, chances are the person who abused her in childhood might still be in her life today causing even more trauma.

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Emotional wounds are just as painful as physical wounds, but the problem with emotional wounds is we can’t see them. If someone has a piece of nail in their body and the wound is festering, we clean it out. We don’t say, “That old nail wound is twenty years old, so why can’t you get over it?”

We have empathy for someone with an gaping wound because we get a visceral reaction, but we should have empathy for emotional wounds too. Pain is pain. So I think it is time we re-frame emotional pain to stop the stigma that people who talk about their childhoods are mentally ill or in some way unhealthy. As a matter of fact most families are dysfunctional in some way. Some families just hide their sins so well the members are not aware of why they feel bad.

People who join recovery groups, share their stories, observe their pain and are working on their junk are actually healthier than those who accuse them of living in the past. We are all only as sick as our secrets. Apathy kills. Denial kills. Our past relationships and especially childhood affects our health every day so we owe it to ourselves to get to the bottom of why we struggle with good self-care, why we have no family to celebrate with on holidays or why we feel sick when we enter a church.  This doesn’t mean there is no hope for healing, but the pain we have must be addressed and re-framed if we are to heal and move on.

Whether you are a believer or not, I have found comfort knowing Jesus was a man of sorrows. He knew what it was to endure pain. He entered into our human misery to bear it with and for us, so no matter what you are going through, consider that you are not alone. Jesus came so we can re-frame our pain and find our healing.

God of all comfort,
who comforts us in all our affliction,

so that we may be able to comfort
those who are in any affliction,
with the comfort with which
we ourselves are comforted by God.
-2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Want to read more about how childhood might be affecting you today?

(1) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (http://www.samhsa.gov/children/social_media_apr2011.asp)

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/somatic-psychology/201104/the-lingering-trauma-child-abuse

http://www.asca.org.au/WHAT-WE-DO/For-Survivors/Resources-for-Survivors/How-can-abuse-affect-me

http://www.everydayhealth.com/sexual-health/dr-laura-berman-childhood-abuse-and-adult-relationships.aspx

https://www.mentalhelp.net/blogs/the-deleterious-effects-of-child-abuse/