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A Raincoat for Pain

"Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always." - Robin Williams.

I have always appreciated this quote. It is even more impactful given that the author was the funny man who entertained us for years and yet was in so much pain he couldn’t go on. What a jolt that was for many of us. If Robin Williams was in pain then who else was and is? Well, the answer is clear. ALL OF US. Whether it is mental health, physical health, grief, worry, chronic or acute, we all experience pain. Sometimes that realization, that we are not alone in our pain, can be quite comforting. Knowing that despite the smiles on instagram or the seemingly happy joggers in the park, there is a story behind those faces and somewhere in the story there is likely pain. And yet they jog and smile on.

When I or someone I love is in pain I like to imagine a humanity sized yellow hooded raincoat.

It is big enough for all as we weather the various storms of pain. It's cozy in this yellow coat, like a hug of oneness, acceptance, compassion and acknowledgment. The coat lessens the pain and it reminds us that we are not alone. The coat image is in contrast to the other image that my mind occasionally wanders down. On dark days I see myself standing alone in the rain, unprotected from the elements while “everyone else” is together, carefree, and of course pain free. Being alone in pain is isolating, scary and not surprisingly the pain feels worse.

Where do you see yourself? Together in the raincoat? Outside in the elements looking in?

As we begin to take steps towards normalcy I encourage everyone to be acutely aware of the fact that "Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” That battle may be loneliness, anxiety, grief, depression, physical pain, stress, grief.. Sadly this list could go on and on. But no matter the size of the list or the pain, the approach remains the same.

Check in : Check in on your loved ones and open a door or a window for connection. If you find they are in pain, offer some empathy and a safe space for whatever they may need. Let them share with you in that space as you listen without judgement. Remember to have an easy entry into your time with them. Take some time to understand the place they are in and meet them in that place.

Give others the benefit of the doubt. We all need this. Have trust that each person is doing the best they can in the given situation. Some call it grace, others call it faith, but no matter the word choice believe in the positive intent of others and it will come back to you.

Remember impermanence: As my sister always says, “This too shall pass”. Our bodies and our brains can heal themselves, it may take some time, some grace and some compassion, but we will heal.

Smile more: Smiling gives off feel-good hormones like dopamine, serotonin and endorphins. These feel good hormones reduce stress and act as a mild pain reliever and antidepressant. When you smile others smile back at you. These are mirror neurons taking over. These tiny neurons mirror back what they see so if you smile others will smile back.

Hug more: Hugs are not only about deep pressure. When two humans embrace they release a hormone called oxytocin. Often referred to as the bonding hormone, it makes us feel wonderful.We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.

Be Grateful: Be grateful for the moments when you are not in pain or if you are lucky, for knowing that for now the pain has passed.

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