So, while I was coming out of a really, really nice dose of legal narcotics, the foot surgeon was giving my wife the lowdown on how the surgery went.
It was a good news/bad news kind of chat.
The good news: he cleared out the arthritis and bone spur that had been causing me so much pain.
The bad news is a direct quote from the guy who recently taught me that there are 26 bones in the human foot:
“I wish he would have come to see me five years ago.”
When I finally sobered up from my narcotic-induced haze, my very predictable response was denial.
“I haven’t had pain for THAT long.”
As I reviewed the timeline in my head, though, I realized I’ve had pain in my foot for as long as I can remember. I’m pretty sure that means I’ve been living with this problem for MORE than five years.
More than FIVE years.
By the way, I was in and out of the surgery center in exactly three hours. Granted, recovery is a six-week process and a little inconvenient, but not completely life-disrupting. Six weeks vs. five years seems like a bargain.
So why did I put off going to the foot doctor for so long? Simply because I didn’t think the problem was that bad. After all, I was still able to hike and run. I even walked an entire marathon with my wife two years ago. I knew I’d have a fair amount of pain afterward each time, but I just accepted it as a chronic, semi-permanent condition that maybe someday I’d take care of if the pain ever stopped me from doing things I love.
Turns out, that was really stupid advice I was giving myself. And I was stupid enough to believe it, too.
Most of the pain we experience — physical, emotional, spiritual, etc. — is meant to be a short-term teacher, not a long-term companion.
Most pain should be like Yoda in Star Wars — short and wise, yet ugly and annoying enough to push you into action, and then will gracefully disappear when you finally take the action or learned the lesson you needed to learn.
My foot pain is just one example of pain I have been putting up with far too long. I also have habits that need to be changed, relationships that need to be repaired, and some feelings that need to be released. Some of the trauma is recent, some I have lived with far longer than my foot pain. I can’t address it all at once, I know that.
But I also can’t wait five years to make changes that will dramatically increase the quality of my mind, my body, my relationships, and my life. And I know some of it will require the help of people with advanced degrees like my foot doctor.
Or my psychologist.
I’m a big fan of getting professional help of all kinds, and I am an especially big fan of enlisting a good psychologist when you need one.
I have seen psychologists off and on for over twenty years. In fact, I had an appointment with one yesterday. We are only equipped to handle so much on our own, especially when it comes to the matter inside our monkey brains.
I’m not embarrassed to tell you I see a shrink. To me it’s the same as telling you I see a foot doctor. There is no shame in it. There is only humanity. We all have pain. We all have fear. We all tell ourselves crazy stories. We all need help sometimes. Period.
I usually know what I’m going to write when I start a post like this. Other times, like today, I thought I knew what I want to say, but then the previous two paragraphs flowed out of my fingers as I typed. I’ve learned to just let that happen because maybe someone besides me needed to hear it, too.
By the way, I know at least one stretch of my life when my monkey brain waited five years too long (seven, actually) to seek out help. You’d think by now I would have learned to address any kind of pain in my life much sooner. But life is a journey and sometimes we have to learn the lessons over and over before they completely sink in.
Hey, if Luke Skywalker had fully listed to Obi-Wan Kenobi, ugly little Yoda wouldn’t have shown up to bother (I mean TEACH) him the same lessons again, and he would have become a Jedi much sooner.