I am on the flip side of a week’s worth of a messy, painful, not much fun bout with shingles. A week ago, my left eye was prize-fighter swollen, my skin was peeling off my face, I had a chisel to the skull, scalp burning and tingling pain on the left side of my head. Getting out of bed was an ordeal and there I rested and rejuvenated for several days, dosed with meds and showered with love and prayers. A week later, I am almost good as new. My eye is fully functioning, my appearance presentable with only minor head ouchies. I attribute my rapid recovery to all of the above and to my strong intention and knowledge that “I’ll see it when I believe it,” since I have been affirming that “I see my way clear to complete and total wellness.”
When I posted this on Facebook, one of my friends had commented that some people suffer with shingles for weeks or months and that it was remarkable that I had bounced back so quickly. My answer was that I “straight out refused to suffer.” I find that pain is inevitable in our lives, because we are human and have pain receptors in our bodies, but suffering is optional. She queried about how to address the genuine suffering of people who endure chronic conditions.
I can’t speak for anyone else’s experience but my own. With compassion, I acknowledge that others do experience suffering and struggle. My husband was ill for 6 years with Hepatitis C, neuropathy, chronic pain and bouts of depression as a result. When he died, there was a sense of relief that he was no longer suffering. I felt helpless at times to assist in his healing. In my role as a therapist I have worked with clients who have all types of mental health diagnoses and addictions and sometimes I have felt the same way, that all I could do is be present and witness their process and walk through it with them. I take a page from Victor Frankl who said “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Each person’s experience is unique to them. I know that I experience suffering when I believe that something painful or unpleasant is never going to change or maybe even get worse. Byron Katie says that when she believes her thoughts, she suffers and when she doesn’t believe her thoughts, she doesn’t suffer. I don’t mean for it sound flip or cavalier. One of the things I learned from my parents was resilience. I have come to accept that I have survived everything that has ever happened in my life and so has everyone else. Like any other situation, this one has made me stronger and more flexible and resilient.
How do you define suffering?
How do you move through it?