Your Pain is Not Special. It Is Normal.

Self-Care Tip #243 – See yourself as special rather than your pain and know that you will find your normal again.

What is your normal?

When we were kids, we all had a perspective of what normal was.  Let’s say it was “here.”  Let’s imagine we were lovely then, nurtured and emotionally bonded.  We struggled through peer conflicts, social anxiety and rivalry.  We wanted a bike.

Two Sisters

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Then we got a little older.  Maybe our parents divorced.  Maybe, a sibling died.  Maybe we were abused or in an accident and damaged.  Damage changes normal.  What we never would have thought would be acceptable in our lives became acceptable.  We suffered.  We lived.  Life was indiscriminate and ignored our status.  We think there must be a mistake.

What is our normal at one point, filtered through remaining hopes, grew into regenerating fantasies, through real potential and it moved again.  We are older now and more suffering comes.

Where is our normal?  We survive our child, our own dear perfect boy, hanging from a tree.  Normal?  No dear God!  No!  And we continue to live.

Two years.  Two years are what it takes for our biology to catch up to the shock.  Two years are what it takes for us to begin to accept and realize that in this new normal we care again.  We choose it in fact.

People don’t remember his name or talk about him and we can’t remember his eyes.  We are ashamed and lose our breath from panic just trying to see them.  We want to bang our head because we know there is something wrong about feeling normal! Ever! Again! after that.  But we do.

Our normal mutates over financial ruin, abandonment and a growing healthy list of disfiguring illnesses.  We accept them and say yes please.  Live.  We want to live.  This is acceptable.  This is normal.  Our friends die.  Our memory.  We can’t find our teeth.  Our heart stops.  We die and the world finds normal.  The world chooses just like we did.

What we don’t think will ever be allowed to happen while we brush hair, clip our nails and microwave food, happens. We endure these changes.  We find normal again.

What is your normal?

My brother, Vance Johnson MD, is a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist.  He said that during his residency, close to 100% of spinal cord injury paralysis survivors he worked with wanted to die after their injury.  Many of them would beg him to let them die.  They would cuss at him for keeping them alive.

I leaned very heavily on the studies and data during those times.  It was very hard.

Vance said that what kept him faithful to his task was knowing that close to 100% of them after two years would be glad they were kept alive.

Even the ones who were basically breathing through a straw and that’s all that moved on them; even they wanted to live.  These people found a new normal.

Where is our normal?  We will want it.  We will adapt.  Biology will catch up to our reality.

Remember that your pain is not special.  You are special.  Not your pain.  Pain is normal.

Question:  When this happened to you, how did normal find you despite the rubble?  How does this concept feel to you, that your pain is not special?  Does it make you angry or what?  Please tell me your story.

30 thoughts on “Your Pain is Not Special. It Is Normal.

  1. If pain is not special, if it is normal, then it is another place on the journey and I know I will get through it. Many have before me and will in the future. If my pain is normal, not special, then I have fellow sojourners–I am not alone. It’s normal and others can hold my hand and empathize with me. They have felt it too.

  2. I am going to take the flip side here. Perhaps our individual normal
    is what we are AFTER all these abnormal things and misfortunes weather and sculpture us. And in a societal reference ,in the concrete jungle of today’s technopolis there is only anomie(chaos and change) and no normal or status quo. Change is the new normal.

  3. A friend of over forty years teases me because we end almost every conversation with my saying “I’ll can get through this (problem or situation or pain or whatever) and then everything will be back to normal again.” During the years when I was up to my ears in work and volunteering and raising children, that was funny. The last eighteen years haven’t been. I feel better and I’m doing so much more, but I can’t remember what the normal was that we used to giggle about getting back to. I’m not sure I know what normal is for me…or ever was. Or maybe I didn’t know, until today. Maybe pain and suffering and stress and fear ARE my normal and the fact that I have learned how to live with them is special. But why am I suddenly crying?

      • I’m fine. Maybe more than fine. Tears sometimes are good. I think maybe the tears I shed over this subject were tears of relief. It’s so hard to fight the “normal” of physical and emotional pain. It’s harder to pretend they aren’t normal. I’ve done that all of my 70 years. To suddenly understand that “special” is a better way of looking at what my “normal” is was like removing my world from my shoulders…MY world from MY shoulders. Brought up at lot of good and a lot of sad, but, in the end, after a good cry, I think the good is winning! Thanks.

  4. A profound question today. I like to think that we are none of us normal: that we are either happy or unhappy; that each path is singular, and involves its own trials, its own pools of happiness, and makes us who we are.

    When my sister went through a deep trauma we found that being happy did return: in tiny slivers at first, a beautiful sunset or listening to her children playing. Then it became puddles, then pools. Occasionally she is completely happy.

    I am full of awe at your brother’s fellow human beings who found their way back to the possibility of being happy despite daunting odds.

  5. Emotional pain is difficult. I live with it and accept it, but I’m not alone. Jesus, sweet Jesus. Alone I’d be devastated. The physical pain I’ve endured has always been temporary. I’m not good with it. I’m not sure I’d accept it as normal. Well, I do have physical pain that is permanent and ongoing, but not excruciating pain. I’ve learned to live with that ongoing discomfort. I guess it’s my normal and has been as long as I remember. I doubt that I’d adapt to severe pain. God is good and I haven’t had to deal much with acute physical pain. A gas attack puts me on the floor. Don’t laugh. Please. Blessings to you, Sana…

  6. I feel like I endured so much over the years that my normal is broken. I don’t want to be normal. I want to be happy but there is always something disrupting the normal.

  7. I really don’t know what my “normal” is…I’ve always felt different, never normal. I used to think it was a bad thing, but I’ve come to accept myself as I am and change the things I didn’t like. Somehow we do manage to get through things we never thought we could. Whether it’s our own make up, a support system, or the combination, we manage to stand on our own two feet in time…different levels of pain take different amounts of healing time.

  8. now that would make you a very clever doctor if you could make this stick in my head your pain is not special its normal i was taught that pain doesnt hurt maybee that is wrong so maybee i should think pain is normal but i dont feel it all the time when you say angry the weird thing is i felt i didnt like it but some times in becoming better you have to really test yourself

  9. wow! what a great saying – “your pain is not special, you are.”

    How did normal find me? I’m not sure it ever leaves, even when trauma hits. Like you say, we adapt, and I’ve adapted many times over. I live with physical pain, but I don’t want it to be special. Normal’s ok I guess, if I can’t heal or cure it. It’s not who I am, though [the pain I live with doesn’t define who I am], and if I can’t cure it, then I search for peace in other ways [creative outlets mainly]. I guess I don’t really hope for normal. I hope for peace, peace of mind.

    sorry I haven’t gotten back to you about my regimen. I haven’t forgotten, just had a lot of things come up. I’m heading out of town, so I’ll get back to you next week.

    • thank u bluerose, as ever. your support is special to me too. i actually remembered u said something about your problems not defining u in an earlier comment-blog-post and thought of u when writing this. i luv’d what u said.
      n no worries bout the update on regimen. at your leisure. it will b fun to share w u whenever it comes. keep on.

  10. In my reading the Course In Miracles, I learn we are all Children of God. We live in illusion. We are not real only truth that is real is that we are spirit. We are,all of us children of God or the Christ.
    That is what is special about us. Our pain is an illusion,a dream. Not as God intended us to be.
    So when we feel pain, it is not our reality. I have a chronic back failure condition and need a lot of pain meds and a weekly chiropractor appt. There are emotional issues I deal with on a daily basis. This is not me, I am only as God intended me to be.

  11. Oh My! Precious Dr. Quijada, You have set up a beautiful site for souls to reflect and feel connected. What a blessing!

    My story: I don’t like pain.

    Love, inspiration, creativity and invention are my weapons against pain. Sometimes I win, Sometimes I lose, but I keep fighting. When I fall, and I do fall, God helps me back up when I reach out to Him.
    As I get back on my feet, I look around at the people in my life and I wonder if I am entertaining angels unaware.

    (Dr. Quijada, you are soooo busted! You are clearly an angel!)

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