I'm no stranger to physical pain. Having Crohn's Disease, I am accustomed to being in pain, as sad as that is, and perhaps luckily, I can't really remember what it was like before I had this illness. This definitely keeps me from dwelling on the past. There are good days and bad days of course, and now that my medication is working there are days where I don't feel any pain, and even forget that I am sick. Every time I have a bad day though, it's like I'm reliving it again for the first time. Because, for some reason, every time I feel better, my body and mind immediately forget what it was like to experience a bad day.
A few weeks ago, my sorority had a mixer. As soon as I got there, my stomach started to hurt more than I have been accustomed to. While not as bad as pre-diagnosed pain or pre-medication pain, it hurt enough to make me think "Ow, something is wrong. I'm not going to make it through the night." Despite my best efforts of trying to soldier through, I left early and went to bed.
When I woke up the next morning, I couldn't remember my stomach ache. But I could remember the tears that I had held back as I walked back to my car, and how alone I had felt when I went to bed. It got me thinking back to all the other times I could recall emotional pain, but not physical pain.
I can remember the pain from when a boy told me he didn't love me anymore, and when my friend died. But when I try to remember any sort of physical pain, my mind (thankfully) doesn't let me re-experience it or even really remember it. I don't know if this is some kind of natural coping mechanism, but at least in my case, my memories are unable to recall physical pain. However, it is incredibly easy to feel emotional pain in complete clarity whenever I remember a distressing event.
This perhaps, is one of the reasons why emotional pain is considered to be worse than physical pain. As soon as someone's physical pain is over, it is relatively forgotten, but emotional pain can return. Add in the fact that physical pain garners more empathy and attention, while emotional pain is often an afterthought, and the recurrence of emotional pain can cause long-term issues. It is why people can develop mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, and emotional pain can even stem from physical pain, especially if an injury or surgery was emotionally traumatic to experience. However, it is impossible to feel that same type of physical pain from a memory, and in order to feel it you have to go through the exact same experience again.
While physical pain can have an extreme effect on our bodies and even change the way we behave, emotional pain can leave scars too; people just don't think to look for them.