Monday, April 29, 2024

Where Do I Stand?


Where Do I Stand?


Hello Invisible Audience,


Last week I started a new 6-week support group/workshop for people with chronic pain. It’s from the makers of the Curable App, which is a roadmap of sorts that helps people with chronic pain find their way out of it using mind-body techniques. Basically, the whole program is about healing the divide we have in Western culture that the physical body is one thing and the mind is another; that the two aren’t really all that connected. Instead, Curable teaches its users the science behind pain, and how often people with specific tendencies like perfectionism and people-pleasing (yes, that’s me raising my hand) are the ones who end up in chronic pain.


We’re also the ones who have likely experienced trauma, and the ones who felt like love was conditional. We’re often the ones who end up with chronic health conditions of any kind. Basically, we’re the ones whose nervous systems were already jacked up, and now our danger signals are crossed and anything that feels remotely dangerous—physical or emotional, whether it is or not—will send us into a pain spiral. Or, as has been my case recently, a long-lasting case of fatigue.


So it’s only been two weeks. Two 1.5-hour zoom sessions with a facilitator and a dozen other people like me. Two 90-minute videos teaching about how our identities have been hijacked by pain or how pain works in general, although I’ve only made it through one and a half of those videos. I want to say it’s making me feel better, but it’s not yet, Invisible Audience. Instead, it’s freaking me out.


I watched the first part of the second video today. The first half was actually very interesting, about how pain is in itself something that occurs in the brain to teach us not to do things that are dangerous. But without meaning to, I stopped the video on a specific slide as soon as they shifted from from talking about physical pain to talking about emotional pain. That slide said in big letters:




Last night, in the second zoom session, I got really angry. There are many rules around what we can and can’t say in those sessions. We can say our “symptoms are worse” but are discouraged from going into detail about those symptoms. And although the facilitator has encouraged us to be authentic, I have not found her methods very encouraging, despite what she says. The first class, a woman said, “pass,” instead of answering a question everyone else in the group had already answered. The facilitator tried to press her. “I was really excited to show up for this, but now I’m feeling a lot of mixed emotions. I pass. It’s the most authentic I can be right now.” The facilitator didn’t press again, but at the beginning of our second session, she stated that everyone was required to participate in the next exercise. When another member said she’d realized how she was using pain instead of setting boundaries and how hard boundary setting is for her—something that I also struggle with, and deeply resonate with—the facilitator dismissed her concerns and told her she was just thinking about boundaries the wrong way. That as soon as she realized that she could use them as a way to express love, they wouldn’t feel so hard. I wanted to explode with rage.


This is something I come up against time and again, Invisible Audience. Someone in a position of authority makes a statement that does not reflect my experience, and I start to lose my ability to take in anything they say. Take in, believe, or respect. Which has, I know, made healing difficult. At the same time, the amount of people who have fed me bullshit advice when it comes to healing is very long—especially the number of people who have told me that they know better than I do what I am feeling and how to get out of it.


So what about when the message is good but the messenger sucks?


I know this is a worthy program. I’ve been using the app for quite a while and found it helpful. I know that figuring out how to calm the nervous system—the whole point to all of this—is a logical way to address not just my fatigue, but the revolving door of health issues and symptoms I’ve had my whole life. The premise makes sense to me. And I am aware—VERY aware, Invisible Audience—that the strong emotional reactions that I’m having to some of this content is good. It means I’m digging into patterns and beliefs and emotions that have kept me stuck in a spiral of illness for a long time.


But do I feel safe? No. I most certainly do not.


Fortunately, I am not dependent on the Curable group for all my emotional support needs. I have friends to talk to about this; I can bring it up with my therapist. And it seems like an important step at the moment is to try to separate the message from the messenger, and continue to work through some of the prompts and all of the educational pieces as best I can. I am aware that trauma survivors fall into black and white thinking; that this could be an example of doing that.


I want to rage against the facilitator. But am I actually angry at her, or at the idea of letting go of what I’ve held onto for so long?


I don’t know yet. And trying to figure out whether one of those is true or it’s somewhere on a spectrum between those two extremes is one of my least favorite places to stand.


Love and lost kisses,