Content warning: mentions of assault.
Amongst various one-liners I’ve typed in the Notes app on my phone, there lies:
“Some things never stop being painful, and you can’t fix everything.”
I don’t remember exactly when I wrote it, but it hits home whenever I read it. We tell ourselves that things will get better with time, a span during which our wounds will turn into scars and said scars will eventually fade. Not necessarily into oblivion, but pale enough to forget about.
However, like many things that we were taught when we were young, this rhetoric has slowly revealed itself as deceptive over time. There are so many degrees of pain to my person; physical, mental, emotional and everything in-between. Very few of them are pale beyond remembrance.
I have to ask myself – what about the wounds that don’t heal and the pain that remains? The things that don’t go back to how they were, deeming them unfixable?
I think that the effect of COVID-19 on young people that have survived it is a good example of this. Our youth seems to have a degree of protection from the virus. However, there are long-term effects on young people that may believe they got away with it – and what concerns me about this is our clear inability to see the future, and the consequent incapacity to know any additional, unforeseen effects that there could be.
The uncertainty is daunting, and creates wounds that we can’t rely on to turn into scars just yet.
“We tell ourselves that things will get better with time, a span during which our wounds will turn into scars and said scars will eventually fade. Not necessarily into oblivion, but pale enough to forget about.”
On a larger scale, it could be the pain that a country feels as a result of hardship. This could be hardship of any kind – from humanitarian and climate crises in one country, to the shockwaves of slavery and colonisation in others. To this day, there are many issues that shapeshift and never take their leave, leaving innocent civilians at the mercy of corrupt governments and tattered economies due to situations that may or may not be out of authority’s control.
The devastating earthquake in Haiti demonstrates this. To this day, the country has not fully recovered from the disaster that happened 10 years ago. This can be attributed to its unstable public institutions and lack of effective and extensive international aid in the wake of the earthquake.
Could it be time to take a closer look, and reconstruct our perception of recovery and healing? Should more attention be paid to the tragedies that still rock worlds, just as much as the day they came to be?
In physics, there is the law of the conservation of energy. In this law, energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Rather, it changes in form. I apply this eternal state of being directly to pain, and I start to wonder if we have been lied to about it all along.
If it really did go away, I wouldn’t tear up at the thought of things which happened in the past, nor live in denial about how I feel about the things I’m too embarrassed to admit still get to me. Furthermore, I perceive a responsibility for my future self to have healed from such experiences. Time and time again, I remember that I am my future self – and nothing about the way I feel has changed. So, the question of what I should do with pain that doesn’t go away arises.
On a personal level, nothing I experience feels real and that’s painful, because I feel like I’m being lied to – yet, I have nowhere to direct my anger. I’ve always felt misunderstood and it hurts because I’m never put in a position where I can prove people wrong – they constantly underestimate me. My heart has been broken countless times and I’m still not over the first one. I don’t know if I’ll ever deal with the rest. I am a victim of assault and I know that that pain isn’t going anywhere – it would be better if I didn’t have to live with such violation every single day.
Unfortunately, there exists the feeling that these experiences must be lived with. Even if their place in my life shrinks over time, they will always be present. This is an invasion of my space and an intrusion of my privacy. No one wants to accommodate for the trauma in their life, yet it seems like we have no choice but to do just that.
“Time and time again, I remember that I am my future self – and nothing about the way I feel has changed.”
I don’t have the answer to how pain can be kicked to the kerb once and for all. My only solution lies in finding ways to de-intensify the suffering that these wounds bring to life. Much like paracetamol for a headache, these things take the edge off trauma when it creeps to the forefront of my mind.
My main antidote is writing. To take pain from the mind and put it on paper subtly reduces the weight on one side of the scale. Sometimes reliving and overthinking trauma adds cream to the coffee of my pain. Writing about it when it becomes too much to handle takes it all away. I don’t necessarily take time to read it afterwards – sometimes writing and discarding is all I need to do to reduce the intensity. But the action itself, a way of working it out of my system as best as I can, is often the best resort in the moment.
Contrarily, another thing I do is to give in to it all. If the presence of pain is louder than usual and this makes me angry, I allow myself to be angry. If it makes me want to avoid talking to people, I do that also. Yet, even this is an emotional labour for me. When in a better state of mind, I perceive anger as a waste of time – an emotion I hate to dwell on, as it feels like something is rotting inside of me. Likewise, with avoiding people, I don’t want anyone I care for to feel alone or ignored as a result of my own struggles. It creates a guilt that I know I don’t deserve. However, I do know that by giving in, I am allowing myself to go through the necessary emotions for things to eventually calm down.
“Not all of my strength must be used in fighting; I don’t want to die trying.”
Although I am unable to fix all of my problems, and “fixing” may be a mere transformation of pain rather than a solid solution; I have still learnt from my experiences of eternal pain. My power lies in the control of how I deal with it. I decide whether I will write, or if I will sit in my anger. I decide if I want to fight it one day and ignore it the next.
No matter how destructive or constructive my solution may be, it’s a decision that I have made, consciously. Exercising this power gives me the autonomy that I feel I lost when the pain first invaded my life, and that is where I find my peace.
Adefela is a 21 year-old Black-British writer from London. @adefelurr