Life in General

When the pain goes deep…

So, I have this rare disease called Eosinophilic Esophagitis. Thankfully, someone decided to abbreviate it EoE. Apfed (which is also an abbrev.) defines EoE as “a chronic, allergic inflammatory disease of the esophagus”. Basically, my esophagus is allergic to things that the rest of my body isn’t, like apples and mushrooms. What’s even weirder is that EoE most often affects men and children, and I am neither. But it is what it is.

Along with EoE, I have chronic acid reflux. Either of these diseases can be enough to make a person go, “That’s it! I’m never eating that again!” But the combination of the two is particularly bad because the symptoms of EoE can be exacerbated by acid reflux. It’s so painful, one suffering from both may up the ante and profess, “That’s it! I’m never eating anything again!”

Now, there’s medication out there that helps with acid reflux. Tums? Those do me about as good as eating a package of smarties (and, as I have their candy cousin, I’ve grown to hate the antacid’s chalky fruitiness). But Omeprazole? That’s the gold. That little purple and white pill will cool my stomach like aloe vera on a sunburn.

But do I take my Omeprazole like I should?

So, there I was today at lunch, eating my cucumber and tomato salad with vinegar (in case you don’t know, vinegar and tomatoes wreak havoc on acid reflux), and I’m like, “Dang. This is hurting my stomach, but it’s so good.” Chomp, chomp, chomp. Not only did I finish my first bowlful, but I went back for seconds. And that was on top of eating three taquitos for breakfast. Heartburn central up in here!

So, when I finished my blow-torch salad, I was like, “It feels like my stomach’s on fire- and it’s moving up my esophagus. Daggum.” So, I opened the fridge and got out two slices of cheese, hoping those would extinguish some of the flames.

**Spoiler alert!!**

They didn’t.

An inferno was raging in my stomach and my esophagus was beginning to melt. I needed relief fast. So, what did I do?

I just tried not to think about the volcano inside me that was growing more volatile with every second. But that was a challenging task. So, to distract myself, I grabbed me some dessert and got on Facebook…

I wish I could say I had remembered to take an Omeprazole right after I ate the cucumber salad or before I ate it or right after breakfast– or yesterday when I was having heartburn, for Pete’s sake! But, I didn’t. I didn’t reach for the one thing that could’ve relieved my pain. And, not only that, I kept adding to my pain by consuming more irritating foods and I tried methods that proved ineffective (not to mention, added inches to my waistband).

So, why do I share all this?

Mainly because I went to counseling this morning and my counselor brought up a good point.

She told me, “People often don’t want healing. They’re afraid of it, because healing comes from a place of pain. When people feel that pain, they often run from it or they use counterfeit comforts to try and stop it. But the pain is actually a part of the healing process and, if people would acknowledge it, they’d find true healing.”

She says a lot of excellent things, but this one particularly resonated with me. As I stood there in my kitchen writhing in pain, I realized I’d spent two or three (or more) days saying in the back of my mind, “Geez. I really need to take an Omeprazole,” but I hadn’t actually stopped what I was doing and taken one. What an idiot!

I share this example of my physical pain to illustrate what happens when we ignore emotional pain. It’s just the same, isn’t it? Like physical pain, emotional pain won’t go away if we ignore it or try to cover it up with something else. (FYI- there are any number of counterfeit comforts out there. Alcohol. Work. Food. Screen time. Drugs. Gambling. Sex. Image obsession. Et al.) Emotional pain can be as painful and debilitating as physical pain (and if left untreated it can, in fact, cause physical pain.)

So, now, let me ask you. What emotional pain do you feel? Have you spent days/ weeks/ years ignoring it? Have you tried to numb it with counterfeit comforts? Have those things helped?

If what you’ve tried hasn’t made the pain ease up or go away, then it’s time you tried something different. Because, seriously, there is a cure for emotional pain, and I earnestly desire for you to experience that healing. Instead of painful, it’s peace-filled. Instead of brokenness, it’s restoration. Instead of doubt, it’s assurance. It’s everything you’ve sought after in all the wrong places.

Where can you begin to find it?

Start with acknowledging you feel emotional pain. Tell yourself you’re feeling something you wish you weren’t. Then, tell yourself you’re going to do something different, something you haven’t been doing. Tell yourself you’re going to find the healing you desire, not just ignore it or cover it up.

This goes without saying, but if you want to heal from your emotional pain, stop indulging in counterfeit comforts! Once the “high” wears off, not only will you feel your emotional pain resurface, but you’ll likely feel more guilt and shame. Beyond that, indulging in your counterfeit comfort could- worsen your health, steal time from loved ones or other things you enjoy, cause you to have legal trouble, decrease your happiness, cost you money you would prefer to spend elsewhere, embarrass you later, alienate you from people you admire, make you lose your job- and there’s plenty more negative where that came from. Just remember that counterfeit comforts = bad things happening to and around you. (Two slices of cheese = 76 calories + no relief. Omeprazole = 0 calories + 100% relief.)

Replace counterfeit comforts and avoidance techniques with some of these:

Find a counselor. Or find a new counselor if you’re not making progress with your current counselor.

Attend a recovery group meeting. Celebrate Recovery is my jam, but there are lots of options.

Go to a support group for people who share similar emotional pain. By the way, online support groups can be phenomenal, but they can’t compare to the benefits you’ll receive from speaking with people face-to-face.

Read books on healing. Like the support groups, these should be fairly specific to your needs. You might even get lucky and find a hybrid group that blends the feel of a book club with the camaraderie of a support group.

Journal your feelings. You can go old school with a pen and paper, or type it out on your device. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc. It’s not meant for anyone but you.

Get into a hobby (new or old). This can especially be helpful if you were used to spending a large portion of time with your counterfeit comfort. **Bonus points if you can do your hobby with a friend or family member.

The list of tools and resources you can use goes on and on, but what I hope you’ve seen is that avoidance techniques and counterfeit comforts will not erase emotional pain, but healing is possible.

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