Lessons of Pain

Pain teaches you things. Sometimes, the more intense the pain is, the more it teaches you. Today I have been in excruciating pain, and I have been thinking about the lessons pain has taught me.

  1. My body is amazing. Sometimes we tell ourselves how much we hate our bodies because they are not what we want them to be. When it becomes hard to move because of pain, you realize just how amazing your body really is.
  2. My body needs just as much love as I do. I learned this by  unintentionally starving my body. Eating causes me pain and time is a short commodity, so I simply did not eat meals for two weeks. By the time I realized what was happening, my body needed a whole lot of love to get back to normal.
  3. Everyone suffers. Most of the time, no one knows I am in pain. I resist the urge to slide to the floor and curl up in fetal position when I’m talking to someone. It has made me wonder how many other people resist similar urges and what unseen pain they may be suffering.
  4. You may never fully understand the power of a hug. When I am in intense pain, physical touch can sometimes be unwelcome. But a hug is almost always something I want. A hug releases some of the tension, alleviates some of the pain, and above all, let’s me know I’m not alone.
  5. Compassion and empathy. Everyone experiences pain differently, but because I know what pain feels like for me, I can sympathize when you describe what pain feels like for you.
  6. Gratitude. When I have a good day, when I feel well enough to do something extra, when pain doesn’t describe my state of being, I am so grateful. It makes me grateful for the little things like being able to stand and able to eat and sleep, etc.
  7. Pain is temporary. Even though I am almost always in some kind of pain, I have realized that the intense pain is temporary. It may feel unbearable in the moment, but eventually it will become bearable again.
  8. Sleep is my friend. Sometimes I delay sleeping because of depression. Sleeping seems like a darkness that I do not want to enter, but sleeping almost always helps me feel better.
  9. People care. Pain didn’t really teach me that people care, people taught me that they care. But pain made me realize and notice people caring.
  10. Service. Pain makes you realize the frailty of life. It helps you realize what is most important. To me, what is most important is other people. If I can make someone’s life better, if I can make them a little happier, if I can help someone, I want to do it. My pain does not disqualify me from trying to help someone else.

Sympathy and Empathy

Do you sympathize or empathize with others?

Probably… but most likely not all the time. There are things that we just don’t understand. If you have never known someone who died, it’s impossible to empathize with someone who had a loved one pass away. If you have never had the experience of being teased or bullied, you can’t really empathize with someone who goes through that every day.

So… why do we ask if people with autism can empathize?

I don’t understand the dichotomy between what questions are appropriate to ask of people with autism and people without it. If you feel sympathy, why wouldn’t someone with autism feel sympathy? If you can empathize, why wouldn’t someone with autism be able empathize? We’re human too… We may not sympathize or empathize in everything, but no one can. We all have different experiences and can only understand what we’ve somehow experienced.

Anyway… rant over… I just had to get that out.

My best friend is homeless right now and just had her phone stolen… and I am definitely empathizing… And I just don’t understand how anyone could not empathize at some point. Empathizing is part of being human. Just because I may not be able to express my empathy like others or relate to certain things doesn’t mean I don’t empathize. I empathize as much as anyone I know… and I think everyone else with autism does too…