What Happens When Your Pain Is Out Of Control

What Happens When Your Pain Is Out Of Control

Once I forgave and let go, I realized that I had no control over the situation but only over the way I reacted.

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I can remember the beautiful, blue, Texas sky like it was yesterday. Even though everything seemed to be falling together so perfectly, I remember having an uneasy feeling as my sister and I drove to the river.

Even as I stood on the banks, I remember looking over to her and saying, "Are you sure I'm going to be okay?" (as if a Division I swimmer should be scared swimming in a river). When she reassured me yes, I jumped into the crystal clear water of the San Marcos River. I had on a snorkel and goggles on so I could explore the floor of the clear blue. There were plants native only to San Marcos lining the floor, fish were caught in the current with me and for about a minute and a half — I was in serenity.

But once that minute and a half finished it all become fuzzy. I remember going under the bridge, getting pulled out of the water and I heard the voice of my sister, on fire with anger. She was yelling at the boy who I was going to resent for a year later, because unknown to him, he would change the course of my life without even knowing it.

This boy's day probably started out familiar to mine. With the beautiful, blue, Texas sky and a ride to the river. But when he got there, instead of fearing the water, he conquered it by being reckless. They got to the park, someone in his group of pals probably said to him, "Dude, let's go jump off that bridge," and this probably wasn't the first time they done that, because there was a sign placed stating "Don't Jump Off Bridge." What was different from this time to any other time of taking that risk was that they roped a complete stranger into the danger with them – because this boy landed directly on me head.

I tried to google the chances of this happening — and with no luck, I have decided to make it comparable to the likelihood of being killed by a shark, which are 1 in 8 million (there is no science behind this comparison).

I was in pain. My head was throbbing and I was having a hard time forming my words — especially when I woke up the next morning with a stutter. Through E.R. visits and specialist visits, we learned that my eye-tracking was slow and that my balance was off. For an extreme extrovert and college athlete, having my speech and athleticism inhibited seemed to be the end of the world.

I had my stutter for two months and my concussion symptoms stayed with me for six months after the incident. Not only was it affecting my day-to-day life, but mentally I was drained.

As my recovery dragged on, my resentment toward this boy continued to grow. If I couldn't concentrate in class, remember a small detail or if my head was pounding, my mind would immediately shoot to blaming this boy. This injury was out of my control so the easiest thing to do when the recovery got hard was to direct all my anger at this stranger — who probably didn't even think of me half as much as I thought about him.

The resentment got exhausting. Mentally, I was crushed. My anxiety shot through the roof and it was hard to live peacefully knowing that my brain felt like oatmeal.

Once I got back into swimming with my team, the smallest things would trigger panic attacks. If someone jumped into the water near me — I would have to leave practice early. If someone scared me when I was in the water — I couldn't control my breathing. Even now, two years later, I still get jumpy.

But when it comes down to it, it doesn't matter that this boy doesn't think about what happened to me. Holding onto this resentment and anger wasn't going to make my recovery easier. It wasn't until I was fully medically cleared that I accepted that and in this process I learned things about myself in ways that I never would have if I was healthy.

Once I fully forgave this boy who hurt me — I felt free. I learned that I am resilient and stronger than I ever thought I could be. I conquered an invisible pain that didn't stop with the physicality of my brain — but the anxieties and anger that came along with it.

Once I forgave and let go, I realized that I had no control over the situation but only over the way I reacted.

Holding onto anger isn't going to make you feel at peace, but taking control of the situation will.

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Why You Actually Don't Want To Be Prescribed Adderall

ADD isn't all that it's cracked up to be.
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As I'm writing this, I can feel my concentration slipping. Noises have become enticing, I feel distanced from my phone, and every time someone walks by me in the library, I turn around seeing if it's someone I know. My extended-release Adderall is starting to wear off and my brain is starting to relax back to its natural state. My ADD is climbing out from underneath the blanket of focus I had for 10 hours today.

ADD is not all that it's cracked up to be. Sure, we get prescribed the precious Adderall so many people want, but at what cost? Let me put this in context for you. You know when you're at the library and there's a one really, really loud girl talking on the phone? You know the one. The girl that, for some reason, thinks it's OK to have a full-fledged conversation with her mom about her boyfriend in the middle of the quiet section. The girl that's talking so loud that it's all you can think about, occupying all of your focus. Well, that's what every single person in the room is like when you have ADD.

Distractions that are easy to ignore to someone without ADD are intensified and, instead of focusing on the task at hand, I'm listening to the girl three seats down from me eat her barbecue kettle chips. When you have ADD, it's not just schoolwork you can't focus on. You can't focus on anything. I tried to watch a foreign film one time without my medicine, and I forgot to pay attention to the subtitles. I realized about halfway through the movie that I had no idea what was going on.

What almost everyone that asks me for my Adderall doesn't understand is that I take Adderall to focus how you would normally. When you take my Adderall you feel like you can solve the world's problems. You can bang out an entire project in one night. You can cram for an entire exam fueled by this surge of motivation that seems super-hero-like.

You take my Adderall and ask me, “Is this how you feel all the time?" And, unfortunately, my answer is no. I'll never feel like a limitless mastermind. When I take Adderall, I become a normal human being. I can finish a normal amount of work, in a normal amount of time.

My brain works in two modes: on Adderall, and off Adderall. On Adderall, I'm attentive, motivated and energetic. Off Adderall, I can barely get up the motivation and focus to clean my room or send an email. And it's frustrating. I'm frustrated with my lack of drive. I'm frustrated that this is how my brain operates. Scattered, spastic and very, very unorganized. There's nothing desirable about not being able to finish a sentence because you lost thought mid-way through.

The worst thing that you can say to anyone with ADD is, “I think I should start taking Adderall." Having ADD isn't a free pass to get super-pills, having ADD means you have a disability. I take Adderall because I have a disability, and it wasn't a choice I had a say in. I was tested for ADD my freshman year of college.

My parents were skeptical because they didn't know exactly what ADD was. To them, the kids with ADD were the bad kids in school that caused a scene and were constantly sent out of class. Not an above average student in her first year at a university. I went to a counselor and, after I was diagnosed with ADD, told me with a straight mouth, “Marissa this is something you're going to have to take for the rest of your life."

When the late-night assignments and cramming for the tests are over, and we're all out in the real world, I'm still going to be taking Adderall. When I'm raising a family and have to take the right kid to the right place for soccer practice, I'm still going be taking Adderall. And when I'm trying to remember the numbers they just said for bingo at my nursing home, I'm still going to be taking Adderall.

So you tell me you're jealous that I get prescribed Adderall? Don't be. I'm jealous that you can drink a cup a coffee and motivate yourself once you lose focus. I'm jealous that the success of your day doesn't depend on whether or not you took a pill that morning. The idea of waking up and performing a full day without my medicine is foreign to me.

My brain works in two modes, and I don't know which one is the right one. I don't know which mode is the one the big man upstairs wants me to operate in. So before you say you want to be prescribed to Adderall, ask yourself if you need and want to operate in two different modes.

Ask yourself if you want to rely on medicine to make your entire life work. If I had a choice, I would choose coffee like the rest of the world.

Cover Image Credit: Flickr

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Picking Up The Pieces After Half A Year Of Grief

I learned how the strongest people still standing are the ones that are limping, barely holding themselves together, and those are the people that walk with peace and wisdom. Yes, I identify as one of these people, and by the grace of God, I know what it means now to trust and feel joy. For all this, I am the luckiest person in the world, and I wouldn't have had it any other way.

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Half a year ago, my entire life changed in the split of a second. Almost every part of myself as I knew it went away and fell apart. I got depressed, really depressed, and at times woke up at night close to 4 a.m., shaking with terrible panic attacks. I lost friends. Almost all of my relationships changed. I questioned everything: who I was, my belief in a benevolent God, and whether I could still be a good person, a good friend, and a positive contribution to society, and a beloved child of God after I'd hurt people so badly.

No, I don't want to talk about what happened, and most likely never will except to the people I love. Instead, I want to talk about picking up the pieces and getting my life back together. No, there was no getting over it. No, it wasn't easy. No, the task isn't even complete. It might never be.

But now, in reflection, I learned more outside the classroom through having my experience than anything I learned in a classroom.

I learned that everything is complicated, absolutely everything. I learned that you have to withhold judgment and trust your gut about people until you have all the details. I learned that life goes on. It always does, but that isn't always a good thing, and at times, for me, it really wasn't. But at that moment, I also learned that God is good, even if life isn't. I learned that life is inherently confusing. Everyone is telling the truth, even if those truths are in direct conflict with each other.

I learned that life doesn't get easier. You get stronger, and life just gets different. I learned, in the words of William Faulkner, that the past doesn't go away. It's not even past. I learned that there isn't always a resolution to problems, and even though it hurts, you have to be okay with that.

I learned, after all, that life will never be the same. It never can, but that's not always a bad thing. There's a whole world out there ready to be explored. I learned, in an extreme way, that it doesn't matter what other people think about you. It matters what you think and what God thinks. I learned that sometimes you just have to stop and let yourself feel the pain and grief instead of pushing it away, because that's the only way you can go through life without people seeing that you're only a shred of a person lost and not all there. Sometimes, you just have to stop and know this: you're doing the absolute best you can. You're acting according to God's plan, and there's a bigger picture for all this.

I learned that picking up the pieces means accepting that life is sometimes good, sometimes bad, and at its worse, really ugly. I learned that picking up the pieces means that the story is never over. Yes, a traumatic moment or death re-organizes and re-charts your life entirely. Your plans are destroyed, but the beauty of life is that it won't go according to your plans. I learned that grief comes at life's most unexpected moments, and that even if that's embarassing, it happens that way for a reason.

I learned that life cannot go on if you sit in your room all day and cower in shame, unable to let yourself confront your demons. I learned that picking up the pieces means treating people with respect, like you would want to be treated, and saying hi and smiling even if they won't return that grace. I learned that life is about never giving up on people, even if your relationship with them is not the same and destroyed. I learned that life is an amalgamation of "so whats," a combination of accepting the notion that "so what this happened. What now?" to live in the moment.

But above all, I learned that picking up the pieces means owning your story. Every single part of it couldn't have happened to anyone else. But yours can help other people as long as you let it. I learned that the only reason you feel this much pain and love is that you loved something and loved people so much in the first place, and it's important not to lose sight of that love.

I learned, perhaps most importantly, that it's more important to be kind than right. Even if you're right, it's important to not get stuck in the pain. It's important to not defend yourself and stand down and surrender to the people that want you to suffer and rip you to shreds. What can they do to someone who already died over and over again, who can withstand anything through the grace of God?

Six months later, I'm eternally grateful. I'm more alive than I've ever been. I know what it is now to not need to control my life. I learned what it means to surrender. I learned how the strongest people still standing are the ones that are limping, barely holding themselves together, and those are the people that walk with peace and wisdom. Yes, I identify as one of these people, and by the grace of God, I know what it means now to trust and feel joy. For all this, I am the luckiest person in the world, and I wouldn't have had it any other way.

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