Gratitude, Jen's Musings, Manifestation Workshops, Mindwebs, Vulnerability

Don’t Judge Your Pain. Or Anyone Else’s.

June 2, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-blackBy Jen Pastiloff.

I broke my foot three weeks ago.

I intend to mine that break for any and all material so watch out. It sucks so I at least better get some “life lessons” out of it.

I haven’t been able to put any weight on my right foot due to the break and, because I have severe carpal tunnel, the crutches have slayed me. I have barely been able to move. I’ve alternated between this chair (I’m sitting at my desk and have done for so long that my arse is numb), my bed (many many hours), and the sofa (I’ve stained it like a toddler would and indented it as if I hadn’t risen from it in 35 years.) Chair, bed, sofa. Chair, bed, sofa. I also have a terrible injury in my left leg and have laid off doing any exercise on it for years so I have no strength in it. So basically, I have only one leg to hop on and that leg is kind of crappy. Wah. I know it could be worse but my God, I have been feeling low.

My friend who has also broken her foot and struggled with anorexia texted me yesterday that the inner torture of a break cannot be comprehended. For me, it’s been the inner torture as well as the physical. It’s scary to write because I am 100% clear it could be worse and I feel like who am I to talk about pain? I know nothing of pain. Look at So and So. Or So and So. Now, they are in pain. They know pain. Who am I to speak of such things?

But the thing is, most people do that all the time, so everyone walks around swallowing their pain. They eat it and they fake a smile and go on with their day. Keep calm and carry on.

Way too much time to think. Way too much time to look on Facebook and make up stories and get caught up in my head. Way too much time to think about irrelevant things. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve written a few essays and worked on my book Beauty Hunting and read a few books but the bulk of the time has been spent wallowing and feeling stuck and broken and then being mad at myself for wallowing and feeling stuck and broken.

The truth. I hesitate to write it, but hell, I have a reputation of being a truth teller, so here it is: I had been struggling with depression (and written copious amounts about the struggle as you guys know) before the break. So the break kind of sent me into a tailspin.

I had gone off my antidepressants last year and a lot of my “stuff” came up with this break. Imagine: being immobilized and having nowhere to “run” to. Having to sit with it all.

Not. So. Easy.

A few days ago I posted something on my Facebook. I woke up the next day with what Brene Brown calls a “vulnerability hangover.” I wanted to delete it but didn’t because it seemed to strike a major chord with folks. And because I was telling the truth and I know that’s important.

Here is what I wrote:

Feeling grateful for the people who’ve been supportive during what has been a shitty ass motherfucking time for me. Feeling equally disappointed by the people I have yet to hear from. Not even a text or an acknowledgment. Which makes me question why I give a shit? Why do we let ourselves create expectations of people based on how we think we’d act? I understand that people have short memories. Also, that it’s easier to be with people who are “doing great, everything’s fine,” but my God, what an eye-opening experience this has been. I am sure I will write a piece on it, but meanwhile, a public thank you to the people who notice when another person is in pain. Truthfully, that’s the kind of person I am drawn to anyway: the kind who pays attention. May I always pay attention. And, may I be willing to be with someone even if it’s messy, even if feel like they are broken. Thank you. You know who you are. Nothing, and I mean nothing, goes unnoticed with me. I may have bad ears but I hear it all.

Here are a couple little lessons I learned:

1) If you are in pain, let people know.

2) If someone is in pain, reach out. Even a text. A card. A nod. Some form of acknowledgement. Anything. A balloon. A cookie. Wine. (I like wine.)

3) Never feel like you shouldn’t say something because why would your voice matter? Because that person already has a lot of support. Because you think you will be a burden. Because you don’t know what to say. (I got a few texts from people that said they didn’t reach out because they thought I was probably inundated. Or that they didn’t matter.)

4) Pain is pain. Even though I am not dying and I don’t have cancer or whatever else it may be, I have still been going through a hard time. That’s not nothing. Don’t judge your pain. Or anyone else’s.

5) Be willing to be with people even if they are not fine, good, happy, perfect, rainbows, unicorns.

6) Notice your tendency to pay attention to the one who doesn’t text/call/like you rather than the loads that do. Notice that.

(I have an exercise in my workshop I call “The 1 and 100.” I ask the room if there’s a room with a hundred people and they all love you except one, who do you focus on? Yup. Most say the one. Notice how this exemplifies say times one million when you are stuck on your ass for weeks on end with a broken bone. Notice that.

7) It sounds corny but Mr. Rogers. Mr. Rogers said “look for the helpers.” So yea, do that. Pay attention to them.

8) Kindness matters. Teeny tiny minuscule baby kindnesses. Or large as the sea kind of kindnesses. They matter. Act like they do.

9) Empathy. Compassion. Those words.

Being human is tough at times. But it’s what we signed up for. That’s why I do what I do. That’s why my workshop is called The Manifestation Workshop: On Being Human. The On Being Human part is really my concern. May we all work on that a little more.

May we always pay attention to what makes us so.

So, I’ll not only NOT delete my status update but I will share it here. And I will probably have a vulnerability hangover again tomorrow. But I’ll nurse it, ever so slowly, ever so gently, ever so lovingly.


Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her 2nd 2015 Manifestation Retreat Sep 26- october 3rd. Click the Tuscan hills above.

Join Jen Pastiloff  and Emily Rapp at a writing and the body retreat in Stowe, Vermont Oct 2015. This will be their 3rd one together in Stowe. Click the photo to book.

Join Jen Pastiloff and Emily Rapp at a writing and the body retreat in Stowe, Vermont Oct 2015. This will be their 3rd one together in Stowe. Click the photo to book.

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  • Reply sarahj26 June 2, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    I love every one of your pieces.

    One of my sayings “it can always be worse, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t also suck right now. It doesn’t mean you don’t also appreciate the good things.”

    I hate how people expect someone (me) to be happy all the fucking time!!

    Pain is an emotion, sadness, anger, happiness, joy…all emotions. One isn’t better or more right than the other.

    The best and the worst thing in my life was losing my dad when I was 18. Shed light on a lot. Also realized if I could get through that I could get through most anything.

    I love the broken people a little more than the whole ones.

    I am sorry you broke your foot. Injuries suck!!

    If we lived closer I would bring you wine. Or margaritas. 🙂

    Thank you for sharing. Always.


    Sent from my iPhone


  • Reply Charity June 2, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    I adore, respect and admire your honesty and transparency.

  • Reply Patti June 2, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    Hi Jenn, xxoo…sending light and hugs your way….As always your thoughts and writing are from that heart of yours 🙂 the best place…it is open and honest. Hang in there…there are many of us that can relate to your personal journey….im thankful to have found your writings and the stories of others that you share……glad you posted today, I was wondering how you were doing…..Namaste!

  • Reply nancysilverlake June 2, 2014 at 8:19 pm

    dearheart … pain is not an emotion, it’s a subjective experience and depending on our resources in any given moment, we go where we go with it and do what we do with it.
    Such is life … pain and joy intertwined = beauty.

    • Reply sallyj48 June 2, 2014 at 9:48 pm

      Nancysilverlake, sometimes the type of pain is emotional.

  • Reply mamavalveeta03 June 2, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    Jen, I’m so sorry that you are suffering the pain of a break. It’s all too real, as I well know. You see, I broke my back in a boating accident just over a year and a half ago.

    My parents and 12-yr. old nephew had come to visit us for a few days at our new home on the ocean. I had been looking forward to a visit from family to lift my chronic depression and we had all been having a great time so far. It was a gorgeous, sunny day, so how could anything possibly be wrong?

    My 14-yr. old daughter worked for a marina and her boss, a member of our church, had generously offered to take us for a boat trip on the sound. I was especially excited that my nephew, who had never seen the ocean or, for that matter, had barely left his home state in the Midwest, would get to experience a lot of new adventures on this trip. And secretly, I wanted to show-off a little, this fairy tale vacationland that my husband, daughter, and I call home.

    I sat up front in the bow of the boat with the kids, “criss-cross applesauce” as my little neighbor girl calls it, soaking in the suns glorious rays. There was even a huge yacht anchored near the harbor, so we took a twirl around it, hollering hellos up to the deck hands. I remember thinking to myself, “How could it get any better than this?” We gained speed, my hair blowing behind me in the wind, and I felt exhilarated with the sensation.

    Just as suddenly as it had begun, my joy ended. We hit a wake from another boat. I went flying up on the air and then the bottom of our boat hit the water like a car slamming into a brick wall, and I came down hard, feeling a sickening “pop” as I did so. I immediately cried out, “My back, my back!,” and laid over on my right side to avoid passing out from the pain. The driver slowed the boat to a stop and my daughter jumped over to my side, sitting next to me on the cushions and stroking my forehead with her hand. All I could do was moan. The pain was excruciating.

    Our friend, the driver, berated himself for going fast, for letting me sit up in front, for waves…he was beside himself with worry. Of course, hearing another person worry sends me into “caretaker mode” and as I lay there, desperately trying not to vomit, I told him, “It’s not your fault, don’t worry, I’m ok,” which really was the furthest thing from the truth at that moment.

    He gathered his thoughts long enough to call the ambulance and ask them to meet us at the dock, along with my husband, who had to skip the boat trip that day due to work obligations. I don’t recall very much of that part, other than my complete and utter humiliation at having voided my bladder when the accident occurred. The EMT’s removed me oh-so-gently from the boat strapped to a backboard and into the awaiting ambulance.

    When I saw my husband’s face and felt his calming presence, I was finally able to let go and cry. Cry for the trip I had “ruined,” for worrying my family, for the expenses I knew we’d incur, for scaring my daughter, and for being “weak.” Because, if I’d been stronger/smarter this just wouldn’t have happened, right? Why I am so hard on myself is another story entirely…

    I don’t even like to think back to those hours in the ER following the accident. It was impossible to get ahead of the pain, and even more impossible to keep my oral pain meds down long enough for them to take effect. Only the IV drip with the morphine helped calm me down enough to relax a bit so that the doctor on-call could get an x-ray of my spine. Sure enough, I had broken my L1 vertebrae in what is known as a “compression fracture,” and herniated the L3-5 discs.

    I’m not going to bore you with the details of the 3 months I spent in a custom-made plastic brace that went from my hips to just above my breasts, giving me an odd Wonder Woman-like appearance (Or, as a friend’s son said “The woman with the plastic breasts”), or reiterate what I know you’re going through now, barely making it from bed to chair to bed again. And forget about going to the bathroom alone! Of course, my depression worsened, but I was unable to visit my therapist for the treatment I truly needed.

    But I do share this with you, Jen, to give you the hope that things WILL get better. The coda to my story is this: Last summer, I was able to dance (!!!) at my eldest daughter’s friend’s wedding..she being like another daughter to me and my husband. My whole family was there, sharing a tiny cottage on one of the most beautiful farms in upstate New York, along with my new baby granddaughter and future son-in-law. I wouldn’t have missed that for anything in the world! And I didn’t have to.

    Thankfulness and gratitude are my new mantra. Doctors are good. Friends show love with food, wine and visits. Family equals unconditional love and infinite patience. And time heals. Be kind to yourself and believe!

  • Reply zoezolbrod June 2, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    Thank you for your honesty and for sharing the lessons you’re learning from this experience. I know I’ve had a hard time reaching out to people beyond my closest circle who are dealing with grief or pain, and I need the reminders. I’ve often told myself it’s for the reasons you mention in lesson 6, that if I’m not a true intimate, my expressions of support will be an imposition, a presumption, etc. etc. I’ve been working on it, and the years seem to bring more opportunity to extend myself to people who are suffering from loss or illness. And of course I’m finding that the human connection that can result is so affirming, that my self-consciousness serves no one. I’m also familiar with the feeling of coming in a loser in the misery Olympics, believing that our knowledge of how much worse things could be should obliterate any feelings of pain we might have, or the emotional consequences of it. But what use is that? I’m sorry you’re having to go through this. Wishing you healing.

  • Reply Danielle Ricciardi June 2, 2014 at 10:27 pm

    Wow…thanks for writing this. It really hit home at this time in my life. Wonderful, honest, and REAL. THANK YOU!

  • Reply Melinda June 3, 2014 at 2:56 am

    Whoo-weee. Thank you for taking the time to write and publish this. It inspired me to send a note to an acquaintance tonight who has recently experienced loss, about which I had told myself, “I know she has plenty of friends taking care of her, and I don’t really know her that well…” THANK YOU for breaking down that little excuse and helping me connect. You reminded me of what every single little note and kindness meant to me when my father died when I was 25 – literally, I think those gestures are how God steps in and heals us, a bit at a time. Bodies and souls. Thank you!

  • Reply gaelicangl June 3, 2014 at 4:53 am

    I understand your pain. I broke my foot many years ago and was unable to use crutches do to rotator cuff surgery prior to the break. I was basically in a chair in my bedroom. I walked to the bathroom and the bed. I put a dorm size refrigerator next to the chair stocked with yogurt, string cheese and water. I was terrified that my foot wouldn’t heal due to my Diabetes and that if I had to have surgery I would surely lose my foot due to poor healing. Of course this was all my ruminating and catastrophic thinking. My father in law had lost both legs due to Diabetes and poor healing and I was determined to heal. So I barely moved for 2 months. I was a stay home Mom and my children of course acted out due to my neglect of their needs. It was a dark time and I felt guilty most of the time that I SHOULD be able to handle it all and do everything! After all I wasn’t dying, I didn’t have cancer, my kids are healthy etc. you get the picture! Most of my friends we’re helpful with rides for my kids etc. then there were those who we’re judging me for not being able to get around. IT’S not like you’re dying! “What would you do if you we’re working?” Which is judgemental of my stay home Mom status. After all I don’t have a REAL job! I had days when I was so depressed, guilty, angry and my own worst enemy. I was the most judgemental of my own situation. I beat myself more than anyone else. Ugh!

    I have grown a lot since those younger days. There really is wisdom with maturity and THERAPY. We all need to be our own best friend and pain cannot be compared or measured. It just is! My epiphany from that experience was forgiving myself and listening to the whispers “slow down”. There are no accidents. Everything has a purpose and growth comes from our darkest days! Most of us hate being out of control. I learned it is ok to ask for help. I learned a lot about slowing down and listening to my inner voice. Imagine if we would approach everyone with love instead of judgement. Oh what a world that would be!

  • Reply Angela Brennan June 3, 2014 at 6:05 am

    Hi Jen, love your writing, this one struck a chord with me as I injured my achilles tendon a few years ago and couldn’t run anywhere either! I had three kids and one was a small baby at the time so I was buzzing around the house in a wheelchair carrying her and whatever else as I couldn’t even carry a cup of tea with the crutches. I couldn’t walk at all for three months and when I eventually started to walk again, my leg was weak and floppy and it took ages to get back to walking normally. I took so much for granted until then, being able to walk 100m to my mothers house, being able to walk on rough surfaces, being able to dance. But as you say, it’s not the physical pain that comes with an injury like breaking your leg, but having the mental strength to get through it. I found it a very long, lonely three months as I had so few visitors, so little help, I started questioning myself and my self-worth but people are busy and sometimes think you’re strong and don’t need help/company. It has made me look at things in a totally different way and given me an insight into longterm illnesses, at least I was only house-bound for three months and if I see anyone now in that position, I try to help out in whatever way I can. I’d be over with wine too but I live in Ireland! Wishing you a super-speedy recovery! Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply c June 3, 2014 at 12:53 pm

    Hi Jen. I couldn’t agree with you more. I broke my ankle February 16th in two places and stretched the ligaments under my foot too. After waiting 2 weeks for surgery due to the intense swelling I had I came home in more pain than I went in with. Which I found to be almost unbelievable. 3 weeks after surgery I fell off my scooter and sprained the one side of many ankle that wasn’t broken. That was pure torture. I’m still not walking without assistance and when I do put pressure on that foot it is very painful. Like u my couch is going to have a permanent indentation in it. My doctor told me it would be 7 months before I was back to normal on my last visit. Talk about depression setting in big time. And like you I look around me and see many people who are much worse off than I am and think what a big baby I’m being. But the truth is this is very painful. It makes childbirth seem like a walk in the park! The real eye opener of this whole ordeal has been you do find out who gives a shit about you and who doesnt. The really sad part is I have found that its not only your so called friends that we are talking about it’s family too! I’m not a vengeful type person but believe me when I say I won’t soon forget who was here for me and who wasn’t! As I sit and reflect on this whole journey (and I say sit quite literally) I still am trying to figure out what my life lesson was to be. Maybe I will never know for sure but one thing I do know is who my true friends are and who just uses me for what they can gain from it. Thanks for the article and allowing me to vent. I hope you are much better soon. Here’s to both of us.

  • Reply Kate M June 3, 2014 at 8:24 pm

    Thanks for talking about the things that need saying–. So many folks don’t have the basic wherewithall to reach out to someone in need. Fair weather friends or just friends without the tools? we are so good at saying “Happy Birthday” (thank you facebook,) saying, “dude that sucks” seems to be unreasonably complicated. A little empathy or even simple thoughtfulness can go a long way.

  • Reply Jane July 14, 2015 at 7:41 pm

    Thank you for this article. I’ve been in chronic pain and dealing with depression for the past two years. I had 3 cervical vertebrae fused and had the one in a million bad out come. I look just fine but am either in a lot of pain or loopy on pain meds. Even the people closest to me don’t really get it. I find that I minimize my pain when talking to friends. Friends get tired of hearing about how I really am feeling. It’s called compassion fatigue. I look like I’m just lazy or whining. People finally are getting the idea how bad it really is as I’m now on welfare and filing for bankruptcy to try and keep my small 1 bedroom condo. It’s important to get the word out that pain is real even if it’s not visible and we need support. I’ve spent 2 years trying to get long-term disability and still need to wait another 6 months. I would happily ever trade my pain for a 60 hour a week job. The stress of trying to deal with the state of California and federal government isn’t helping. The process dehumanizes you and makes you feel like you’re trying to get something you don’t deserve. I’ve worked hard all my life and had a clean but not spotless house. I live alone and can no longer keep my house as clean as I’d like and I can’t afford help on $530 a month to cover everything including the food. I’m embarrassed to have people see the disaster I live in. The only reason I continue to get moving daily is my dog. She has been my rock in all this. She’s there when the tears come and she makes me laugh. The small group of friends and and family who have stuck it out with me are fantastic even when they need to a break. I’m sharing this article is as it really hits home. Thank you again for getting this on paper and sharing it with us all.

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