Don’t let the pain of life determine the path you choose to take
By Steve Wildsmith | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I have the pleasure of interviewing a young singer-songwriter this week named Anna Johnson.
If you were in the audience last fall when Amy Grant performed at the Clayton Center for the Arts, then you saw Anna sing and play as the opening act.
I wasn’t there, but I’ve heard nothing but good things about her, and next weekend she’ll return to the Clayton Center for a performance that will benefit the Coulter Grove and Montgomery Ridge orchestra programs.
One of the organizers reached out to me this week and told me about one of Anna’s songs.
It’s called “Damaged and Bruised,” and it’s a powerful account of someone in a lot of pain.
“I’m sitting alone / pretending to read / don’t come near me / I am bleeding / I live by myself / I eat on my own / I don’t take chances / just leave me alone ...”
According to the person who dropped me a note, when Anna sang this song at the Clayton Center last fall, a woman sitting behind him was so moved that she sobbed.
He went on to suggest that many people — addicts and non-addicts alike — are damaged and bruised in this life, but like the protagonist in the song, are too ashamed to admit it.
That got me thinking: Why is it so hard for us to reach out for help?
Why do we find it so difficult to bare our souls, to show a little vulnerability and ask for some comfort when our insides feel like a shattered mirror?
When drugs determined my every waking action and every unconscious dream, I was terrified of anyone finding out about my “secret.” Of course, more people knew than I realized, but I worked very hard to maintain the appearance of propriety, to make it seem as if everything was “normal.”
It’s one of the most difficult things imaginable, to go through the motions and pretend as if all is well when inside, it feels as if your very soul is being torn apart by hurricane-force winds of emotional anguish.
I remember distinctly reaching that point in my addiction that the literature of the 12-Step program to which I belong talks about: I was too tired to keep living, but too scared to die.
I broke open a disposable razor, took the blade, crawled into a lukewarm, half-full bathtub and pulled it tentatively down one wrist. The first incision barely scratched the surface; the second was deeper and longer, and it stung. I thought digging into my inner thigh might be better, but it hurt even worse, and I chickened out.
I sat there for a little longer, watching the water turn red and hating myself even more for not having the courage to go through with my own death.
I thought I was doomed to undeath — the sort of listless existence in which life has no meaning and everything good and light and beautiful in this world would be forever hidden from my eyes.
I remember wrapping rags around my wrist and leg, getting dressed and going into work, killing time until my heroin dealer showed back up on his corner.
No despair, I don’t think, could ever quite compare to those few agonizing hours of shuffling through the motions, making small talk with co-workers who asked if I felt alright, smiling and nodding and feeling the blood soak through the makeshift bandages beneath my clothes.
I’m very grateful today that plan didn’t work out.
Drastic measures like suicide are permanent solutions to temporary problems, but sometimes we can become so damaged and bruised that those measures seem like the only way to find solace.
When we’re trapped in the depths of despair, we begin to think, “This is how it’s always going to be.
This is how I’m always going to feel.”
And we’d rather not carry on at all than to carry on in such pain.
“Damaged and bruised like a toy that’s been used / I am nothing to him / I’m nothing to you / broken and torn / this is your warning ...”
But it doesn’t have to be that way. We don’t have to suffer in silence, to direct our screams of agony inward, to continually stagger onward through spiritual darkness without a hand to hold.
All it takes is a glowing ember of courage and the willingness to reach out for help.
Because it’s there, I promise you.
None of us wants to see another person suffer, especially those about whom we care so deeply.
When friends and loved ones reach out, we don’t think less of them, we don’t think them weak, for doing so — do we?
And if not, why should we think others will think that of us?
Life is a beautiful, precious thing, but it can also be a painful thing. But it doesn’t have to be a thing we endure alone. We all may be damaged and bruised in some capacity, but we can help heal one another, and in so doing, find a little more meaning to our own lives.
Steve Wildsmith is a recovering addict and the Weekend editor for The Daily Times. Contact him at (email@example.com) or at 981-1144.