A while back some friends took me to try Vietnamese Boba tea. It was the sweetest drink I’d ever had. But my friends treated me, so I drank the entire thing. A few minutes later I was hit with a migraine, stomach ache and lethargy all at once. Obviously, sugar is bad for you.
Then an idea struck me, my body being sick was a sign that my body was actually healthy. I was a clean-eater (working on the return) and this sugary drink was clearly a toxin.
Something good must be going on if my body recognizes that a harmful substance has just entered. The headache, nausea, drowsiness of the sugar coma were unignorable, if that’s a word. They were basically three obnoxious alerts from my internal security system. My was body aware AND on alert.
Okay, so, no big deal.
Headache? Take ibuprofen. Bad mood? Drink some coffee. Stomach hurting? Take a pep-acid.
Our society is keen on eliminating risk, discomfort, pain. Any slightly undesirable feeling and you can bet that the market is busy working on a way to remove it. Everything is over-the-counter, now.
The pain relief market has changed our culture, which once prized overcoming difficulty. Our pain-averse culture has changed what it means to find success. Because success is not getting it done and over with it, success is the purpose found in seeing something through. Life meaning can be found in those moments you sit with a challenge and choose to beat it.
How did we go from headaches and nausea to success and conquest?
First, let me say that I do believe pain-relief is necessary when it’s necessary. If you really need the migraine to go away to finish your work day then pop your pills, the safe ones, please.
Getting sick is a product of something going wrong. So, for me, I might not want to take the medicine until I know that the cause of my ill-feelings was sugar. Next time somebody wants to treat me, I might think twice before indulging in what will later harm me.
If I view the headache as a random, annoying event that can be remedied by a pain reliever then I might continue to eat really sugary foods and end up with you know, cavities, autoimmune disease, or diabetes. Shoo away pain and with it goes valuable information about what to avoid.
The connection to life philosophy lies in our response to adversity. We fear pain. Pain is not pleasant, but it’s also not necessarily evil. It’s an effect of some cause. I think of what this means for who we are as a people, now, where most of us cannot even endure somebody disagreeing with us. The fear of discomfort is not only physical, it’s emotional, mental and spiritual. So it goes deeper than sugar and migraines.
The big talking issue is mental health. We have to be honest here, a lot of people are misdiagnosing their discomfort as disorder. This is definitely a byproduct of confusing pain reliever manufacturers as healers. The idea that anything uncomfortable is illness can be dangerous. Discomfort is not illness in and of itself, discomfort is actually the painful indicator of disease.
Dis-ease. Uneasy. Not easy. Adverse. Difficult. Challenging. Something to overcome!
Now, I’m not saying go on and put yourself in harm’s way. But I find it important to think about pain in a way that doesn’t prioritize your own feelings.
Thinking about pain with humility (usually an uncomfortable emotion) might teach us a thing or to about consequences and resilience. Imagine the humility Jesus had about pain.
One of the most common mental illnesses, depression is characterized by feelings of hopelessness, inability to move forward, extreme lethargy to the point of irregular sleep and eating habits and more. Depression is defined by 9 criterion that must be evaluated by a professional so we have to be careful about diagnosing ourselves when we feel anything remotely sad or hopeless.
Depressive feelings can be rather uncomfortable leading to self-medicating, beyond ibuprofen, by way of drugs and alcohol.
I urge you to fight the nihilism before you reach for a substance. Attempt to understand where it’s rooted. Maybe you’re hopeless because you’re in a dead-end job or you haven’t participated in your favorite hobby for over a year or your friends are really not your friends.
Now, I understand, it’s not always easy to see beyond pain but that’s because we are accustomed to removing it without analysis. Just consider what a bad mood might mean. Some hours or a few days of a dampened mood may be a signal from your soul to get moving in a different direction. Change is needed. Start exercising again. Meet new friends. Build a career that fits your personality.
NONE of that is easy. All of it requires hard work and beating uncomfortable situations, some situations that might even be painful. As the saying goes, growth happens outside of comfort zones.
The self-medicating culture of quick fixes might deter you from reaching your potential because if you can’t handle a funk long enough to realize you might need to remove sugar from your diet, then you might not be able to endure a funk trying to push you towards a more meaningful life.
What I really want to say from this is that you’ll never learn that you’re eating poison (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually) if you refuse to assess the symptoms. It’s easy to mask the symptoms. Masking the symptoms makes it easier to continue consuming what’s bad for you.
I hope you can see the implications of that cycle.
I also hope that you know I am here to encourage you forward because the fact that you are feeling pain [as opposed to being completely numb] is an indication that your body is healthily doing its job. It’s healthy enough to ring the alarm.
If you can understand that then you can accept the strength give to you to handle pain in any of its forms.
Ahem, you’re not even required to handle it alone. I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me…
“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.”
Because it’s so much more rewarding to overcome pain than it is to be overcome by fear of pain.
Moxie (noun): force of character, determination, or nerve.
This is my first installation for Moxie Monday. I started Harvesting Hope as a way to contrast life struggles to the more powerful hope. I’ve found courage in sharing my story (see my early posts) and want to keep that going by sparking the flame in others. These Monday posts are motivational in essence to start off a great week!
Disclaimer – I am not a mental health professional. My blogs related to mental health are not intended to diagnose or give medical advice. I have experience with mental health albeit limited, as someone who has studied psychology, volunteered in behavioral healthcare settings and has personally seen a counselor.