Tag Archives: pain

Mother’s Day Pain

By Kim Olver (originally posted May 10, 2014)

Today I want to acknowledge the people who may be in pain on Mother’s Day and in all the days and hype leading up to it. Who may those people be?

  1. A mother whose child has died
  2. A person whose mother has passed away
  3. A mother who has put their child up for adoption
  4. A child whose been adopted
  5. A child living in foster care
  6. A woman with a regretted abortion
  7. A woman who has suffered a miscarriage
  8. A mother and child separated by pride and misunderstanding
  9. Anyone else I may have left out
  10. Couples who are infertile


Experiencing emotional pain is never easy but it is made even more difficult when the world around you is celebrating while you are feeling so sad. Those who have their mothers and their children to celebrate with will be happy and pampered on Mother’s Day. It is a special day set aside to honor the woman who gave birth to us.

If you are a mother without her child on Mother’s Day, you have some choices to make. You can embrace your feelings of grief and sadness and simply allow yourself to experience the loss. You can put a smile on your face, pretending everything is all right when inside you know it isn’t. You can use distraction to busy yourself so you are focused on other things. You can find a way to be grateful for the experience of motherhood, with all its ups and downs, and find the gifts, lessons and opportunities in the experience. Or you can create a new celebration of your own for this day . . . something meaningful to you.

If you are child without your mother on Mother’s Day, you have similar choices. You can embrace your feelings of grief, loss and sadness and just be in that space. You can pretend all is well when you know it isn’t. You can distract yourself with other things, trying not to think about her. You can find a way to be grateful for the mother you had, for better or for worse. She gave you life and taught you things . . . some you will embrace, others you will never repeat but all lessons nonetheless. Or you can find something else to celebrate on this day.

Whatever you do on Mother’s Day, recognize the choices you have and choose the one that serves you best. The world recognizes mothers on this day and your focus may need to be on how to take care of yourself today. You are just as valuable and important as all the mothers and children who will be happy today. Choose well.


By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness                                                                        Desmond Tutu

“I wish I didn’t have hope,” she complained to her therapist. “I feel as though I am continually inflicting pain on myself by believing that what is happening is for the best, or that everything is going to work out. All that seems to do is keep me hoping. Then my hopes are dashed with more disappointment and more pain. Can you help me learn how to stop hoping?”

She was seeing a good, caring, skilled therapist. The best help her therapist offered was providing a safe and supportive holding environment.  Here she was able to express all of her feelings, fears, and upsets, including her unhappiness with HOPE. 

If it were not for hopes, the heart would break. Thomas Fuller

pensivewoman_blueThat was her problem. Her heart was breaking. An essential relationship of more than 25 years was ending, not by her choice. Hoping that it would all get better or that they could end their marriage without inflicting pain on each other and their children seemed to be failing time and time again. Her heart was breaking.

Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better we can bear a hardship today. Thich Nhat Hanh

“Don’t you see? Every night I go to bed following Scarlet O’Hara’s message that, ‘Tomorrow is another day,’ meaning  my world might get better, my relationships might mend and the pain might subside. And every tomorrow I wake up and nothing is better, no relationships have mended, and the pain is not subsiding.”

She was not proud that there were times when she considered suicide. She wanted relief from the relentless pain. There were people who cared, who wanted and did help and yet the pain and despair were relentless.

Having worked as the manager in an emergency service of a mental health center, she was knowledgable of strategies for suicide prevention. During those times when she was dangerously close to acting on her self-destructive thoughts she did her own suicide assessment. She also tapped into all that she knew, including the fact children of parents who suicide are much more likely to suicide themselves. To kill herself was not horrifying to her. But knowing that her action and absence gave her sons a kind of permission for suicide was completely UNACCEPTABLE. It was this knowledge that kept her from taking any irreversible action.

She knew it was vital to use whatever it takes to keep a suicidal person alive.  This included herself. During those dark and painful days she used this as her reminder and strategy. This enabled her to hang on for a little longer. She was beginning to realize that HOPE, including the HOPE that she would get through this time and arrive at a place where thoughts of suicide were a memory, was her ally and savior. She was beginning to be grateful that her therapist did not teach her how to give up HOPE.

It is a good thing when all you have is hope and not expectations. Danny Boyle

She was beginning to realize that things may be happening for the best, that things would work out. But that might mean that her expectation for her saved marriage could be replaced by the hope of a genuine and mutual love with another. She was learning how to embrace her hope, release her expectations, and to even give thanks for this tragedy as the start for greater hopes and fulfillments.

I share this personal story with you, dear reader, for those of you who may be feeling self-destructive presently. Please wait. If the world turning into more and more tomorrows doesn’t change your perspective, you can always choose suicide later. But if you choose it now, you will never know when a moment of glimmering hope might expand into love, light and laughter again.

Laughter is the best Medicine

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

I don’t know if it’s the season of the year, my aging age group, the present zodiac constellation with everyone’s Mars in retrograde, or simply random moments coinciding, but something is going on in my world. Too many of my family and friends are experiencing challenges with their health and physical well being. For example: one friend’s husband of many years is finally recovering from a life-threatening illness. Another friend is watching her parents’ health and lives decline. Still another was in a serious accident breaking both of her ankles.

                                    A merry heart doeth good like a medicine — Proverbs 17:22

Knowing that all of the magic wands I own would not provide the immediate help or cure, instead I offer my love and support. And I continue to seek the opportunity to find humor and bring laughter.

A good laugh heals a lot of hurts — Madeline L’Engle

Several months after my father died and my mother was recovering from a heart attack I listened to the audio version of the best book for my Mental Health & Happiness: Sweet Potato Queens by Jill Conner Browne. I laughed out loud listening to the author’s sweet, mellow southern accent read the outrageous descriptions in her book. When one of my sisters was suffering from the same deep grieving I loaned her the audio book telling her she had to go to bed and listen, staying there until she had laughed out loud three times before getting up again. Our grief was still central in our lives, but the laughter had given us temporary relief and healing.

Laughter opens the lungs, and opening the lungs ventilates the spirit — Unknown

In his highly acclaimed and well known book Anatomy of an Illness, Norman Cousins states, “I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep.” At the time the medical community was skeptical although his readers were inspired. Now, thirty years later there are more than a few who are researching and validating Cousins’ personal discoveries.

Your body cannot heal without play.

                                    Your mind cannot heal without laughter.

                                    Your soul cannot heal without joy. — Catherine Ruppenger Fenwick

Are you facing some challenges, tough or hard times, or a moment of grief in your life right now? Perhaps it’s time for you to purposely pursue laughter. As I did research to write this blog I found a website, www.laughteryogaamerica.com where I also found my smiles and laughter. There were more than a few websites and YouTube videos that can also assist if you need. laughingdog

To improve your Mental Health & Happiness for now, absorb these last two quotes.

Earth laughs in flowers — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Laughter is the shortest distance between two people — Victor Borge

Pain is a powerful teacher

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

After falling to make a challenging tennis shot I was left bruised and shaken. My partner and I won the game but at what cost? I hoped that rest accompanied by alternating sessions of applying ice then heat on my injured arm would help me feel better. After a painful evening followed by a sleepless and painful night I knew I needed a different solution. I went to the doctor to discover I had broken my elbow and wrist in two places. Pain was a powerful teacher I could not ignore. 


During my life not only have I experienced physical pain, I’ve also had my fair share of emotional, mental and spiritual pain. Just recently I had to put my 17-year old cat down. She was really my mother’s cat, but before my mother died she asked me to take care of Molly. The death of Molly was sad and hard. Not only was I losing my companion cat, I was also reminded of the sorrow and loss of my mother.

It has taken me a long time to understand that pain is not just part of my experience, but pain is a teacher. 

Prior to this realization, there were too many painful moments in my life that I treated as something to avoid, to relieve, to cover up or to cast off onto another so as not to feel the pain. After all, considering that pain is a teacher means that pain is my teacher offering me the opportunity to self-evaluate, learn, grow and change.

Wouldn’t life be easier if I could just cover up the pain by ingesting some legal or illegal pain reliever? The hope is that smoking enough cigarettes or dope, drinking enough alcohol or taking enough pills will diminish or temporarily mask  the pain. Sometimes this works but too often it doesn’t work well enough.  The pain still gets through. And, as too many people have discovered, there is the secondary pain that comes from using any one of these pain relievers too frequently. Now you’re stuck with two different kinds of pain: the pain from the original problem; and the cycle of pain that comes from using, abusing or being addicted to the pain reliever.

Perhaps the strategy of avoiding the source of the pain all together would work. This is often done in combination with deflecting the source of pain by blaming another person. How many times have your heard the story about a cheating partner? In an attempt to avoid the pain and avoid discussing his unhappiness, Jack decides to cheat. Of course now he feels even more pain compounded by guilt and shame of cheating on Jill even though  he experiences some temporary relief of enjoying the pleasure of a budding romance. If and when Jack gets caught, often he will blame his cheating choice on Jill’s indifference and distance from him. These attempts to avoid pain ultimately end with more and a different pain that needs to be addressed. Eventually this pain can also become a powerful teacher for those who are willing to learn from it.

Even though pain is a powerful teacher, not all of us are ready and willing to learn the lesson. For some of us the pain needs to get bigger and bigger, greater and greater, louder and louder before we consider change. And sadly, for some, their best solution to end their pain is to commit suicide.

However, a better solution when experiencing pain is to self-evaluate. Pain is a loud signal letting us know that we are out of balance. We need to take some positive action in order to get back into balance. Sometimes getting help is necessary, like when I went to the doctor for x-rays and he applied a cast to mend my broken arm. Sometimes it is necessary to spend some quiet time alone and listen to your own inner knower that directs you to apologize and work out your differences with a loved one..

Remember pain can be a powerful teacher not just an experience. When you open yourself to learning the lesson that pain can teach, you will improve your Mental Health & Happiness.

Pain, Wisdom and Resiliency

By Barnes Boffey

People who hope that life will be filled with only smooth moments and pleasurable events are actually working against their own happiness. We should be praying not for smooth roads, but for the strength and resiliency to handle those roads in ways that will allow us to be proud, strong and successful. A life well-lived will have its share of tragedy, sadness, failure and struggle. Mental health is a reflection of our ability to face these events with clarity and strength, and to cope with them in reasonable ways within a reasonable amount of time.


As parents  should be praying that our children do have difficulty in school and with friends, and in groups and in situations where they are trying something new. We obviously don’t want these difficulties to crush them, but without difficulties as children, they can never learn the resiliency needed in later life. People whose roads are too smooth learn to expect that smoothness, and then when life throws it’s inevitable curve ball, they are knocked off balance and unable to understand what has happened or what to do.

Many of us aspire to be wise in our older years, looking at the lessons of life and being able to abstract thoughful lessons about the meaning of life and how to thrive as human beings. Wisdom does not come from success. Wisdom comes mostly from failure and pain. Wisdom is distilled pain, just as maple syrup is distilled sap. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup. It takes many painful experiences to create a drop of wisdom. Looking back over the many painful moments that I have had in the midst of addiction, divorce, family death, illness, depression and failure, I am grateful for the wisdom that has come from that. I am finally ready to be a healthy person myself and to be able to help others in their struggles.

We cannot be much help to others unless we can understand their struggles. The most powerful understandings do not come from books; they come from having personally failed and succeeded in the situations our clients, friend and families are in.

In the words of and unknown Confederate soldier:

I asked for strength that I might achieve;
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy;
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life;
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I had asked for,
but everything that I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself my unspoken prayers were answered;
I am, among all men, most richly blessed.

Trusting-Part Three

By Kim Olver

This is my third and final blog about the healthy relationship habit of trusting. This is something that works for me and I hope it can also work for you. I know in the area of trust, one of the things that gets me through is a faith in the balance of all things. I believe that just like the naturally occurring elements, situations are equally balanced with positive and negative charges.

This belief especially helps me when I have experienced broken trust. While that is a painful experience, I also know there is equal positivity attached to it. I just have to find it. I know there is a lesson, gift or opportunity that will bring me joy or enlightenment so there is no injury when trust is broken.


An example I just learned about this weekend happened when a woman I was speaking with told me about her father committing suicide. It was a terrible betrayal of trust. She was in serious pain over the experience. When she thought about a lesson, gift or opportunity, she said, “Wow, when my father died my sister and I inherited enough money that we were both able to buy our own homes. This would never have happened if my dad were alive.” Naturally, if she could choose, she would want her father back but we often have no control over the broken trust; we only have control over what we choose to do about it.

Learning how to balance out the pain with a lesson, gift or opportunity is one choice you can make that will improve your relationships as well as your mental health!

Can you think of the lesson, gift or opportunity that came from the last time you felt betrayed?

Symptoms or Causes?

By Dr. Ken Larsen

Imagine a situation where a man, wounded and in pain, staggers into your local emergency room.

The ER doc begins the intake workup.

“Are you in pain?” the doc asks.

“Yes, it hurts a lot” the patient replies.

“When did it begin?” the doc asks

“When I got shot with the arrow in my back–that really hurt.” the patient replies

ER doc strokes his chin, “Hmmm”

“So you’re in pain because of that arrow in your back?” The doc proclaims with great insight.arrowinback

“Yeah, that’s what I said” The patient looks a bit puzzled as he replies.

Doc says, “I’ll be right back.”

The doctor returns in a short while, gives the patient a prescription for Motrin and has the nurse give him instructions for how to put on his shirt over the arrow.

Admittedly this scenario is a bit preposterous but I use it to illustrate a point.

Your immediate reaction is to recognize that the cause of the patient’s distress was not effectively dealt with.  He left with the problem that he came in with.  The arrow in his back.  What’s wrong with this picture?

There is a growing concern that this sort of event is happening far too frequently with the diagnosis and treatment of mental health issues.

I’ll tell you of a personal experience.  About 20 years ago I was unhappy.  I talked to my personal physician who asked me some questions.  I met the criteria for a diagnosis of depression.  I was given a psychiatric referral.  When I met with the psychiatrist he asked me some questions and gave me a prescription for Prozac.  This meeting took 20min.  The fee was $250 plus the cost of the prescription.

What was I to conclude from that experience?  Was I suffering from a Prozac deficiency?  Was that the cause of what had been labeled “depression”?  I didn’t have enough Prozac in me?

Dr. Wm. Glasser, author of “Choice Theory” and “Reality Therapy” has stated that “many people are diagnosed with a disease they don’t have and given brain drugs they don’t need.”

Unhappiness is the most common presenting complaint for depression.  That unhappiness usually has a cause and that cause is most often associated with a close relationship that is not working right.  I have to ask if giving drugs that allow the accumulation of serotonin in the brain changes the circumstances that caused the unhappiness.

There is growing concern that this is not the answer.  In fact there is growing concern that some of these brain drugs that have been so freely administered have made the problem worse or have caused more serious problems.  And most importantly, they leave the person with the arrow in his back.

The issue of mental health looms ever more urgently in our culture, reinforced every time we read about another senseless act of violence.   One report suggested that some of these guys are not necessarily loners but failed joiners.   This is one possible explanation.   All too often these are people who want to be connected in caring relationships but somehow have not been successful.

helpinghandsAs a civilized society we are at a crisis point.  Do we continue to dispense drugs that are non-solutions to lonely, isolated people in distress or do we focus our attention and energy on reaching out with care and love to those we see that are not able to get their needs met.    

The pharmaceutical industry and many psychiatrists have tried to convince us the solution lies in brain altering drugs while ignoring the causes.  I believe this is like the guy who was given Motrin for the arrow in his back and instructed on how to put on his shirt over the arrow.    I appeal to all of us, ordinary folks and especially those we trust with our health care.  Let’s shift our focus from medicating symptoms to discovering and dealing with causes.

I had to do it myself. . . but I didn’t have to do it alone.

By Dr. Nancy Buck

Watching yet another television commercial about depression, and how it hurts, I suddenly realized “This is me!” I had always watched these commercials with disdain and superiority. If these people would only get off the couch and get into action they could help themselves. Stop complaining, get into action and get over yourself.

But suddenly it hit me that I was one of those people. I now understood the reality of depression. How could I possibly follow my own advice and get into action? I could barely put one foot in front of the other.

I was horrified to discover that I had become “one of those people.” I, who was the queen of pulling myself up by my bootstraps, taking charge to make my life better, and the champion of action over wallowing couldn’t do anything. My life hurt! My heart hurt. My soul hurt.

Over time my husband stopped trying to talk me out stopped trying to cheer me up. And no matter how many times my sisters told me to go to counseling, go to therapy, I was not going. I knew what the therapist would say. I already knew what I needed to do. How was a therapist going to help?

I knew I had to do this myself. And I believed I had to do it alone.

Over time what I discovered were two GIANT steps that got me going in a better, mentally healthy direction.

  1. Admit to myself – I finally realized and admitted to myself that I was in trouble. I stopped justifying my blues away and pulled myself up by my boot straps enough to admit that I was not just going through some kind of temporary adjustment.
  2. Admit to others – I started sharing with other people what was happening to me. Of course I didn’t go into intimate details because that’s just not who I am. But I did stop my self-imposed isolation physically and emotionally. What I discovered is that there are many more people than I knew who are also struggling. Apparently I was not the only good actress in my neighborhood.
  3. Get a good night’s sleep – I actually started swallowing a natural non-prescriptive sleep aid rather than just carrying it around in my pocket. I finally listened when someone told me sleep deprivation significantly contributes to depression. I also started walking regularly. My life experience taught me that increased exercise helps me have a good night sleep.

There are still days when I struggle. And happily there are more consecutive days I can now label as good days. I also realize when I make better choices about eating in ways that nourish me, continuing my walking regimen, and connecting with important people I like I struggle less.

Ultimately what I learned is that I have to do this myself. . . but I don’t have to do it alone.

(Story told to me by a woman who wishes to remain anonymous.)


Feel what you’re feeling!

 By Dr. Ken Larsen

Helping a person get free of the sometimes paralyzing phantom of fear conjured up by their own imagination is a wonderful thing to experience.  Mental health and happiness requires us to come to grips with the reality of the difficult things in life.  Recently I heard a phrase that seemed to be very wise.  The phrase was “urge surfing.”  This phrase describes how a feeling that we don’t want, like a craving or an unwarranted fear, comes at us like a wave.  What can you do to stop a wave?  You can’t. You can watch it rise up and then ebb away, like the receding tide.  This requires us to have the courage to feel what we are feeling so that we can learn how to deal with it.

When I was still practicing dentistry I would often invite a patient to “fegirl2el what you’re feeling.” I was looking to bring them to an awareness of what is actually happening in the here and now.  I wanted to help the person to not think about what they were afraid they might experience and focus on what was actually happening in the present reality.  Sometimes I would simply touch the person and ask them what they felt.  They would then report what they felt from my touch.  I would then invite them to stay in that place of awareness, total focused on what is happening here and now.

This often preceded the dreaded “shot” of local anesthetic.  It is so satisfying to be with a person who is able to shift from their fearful thoughts to being here now, experiencing what is actually happening and not what they are afraid might happen.  I would then ask them to focus on what they are feeling so completely so they can describe it to me afterwards.  I encouraged them to be as detailed and precise as they were able.   The clincher came when I asked them after the experience what they felt.  The usual responses were “I didn’t feel a thing,” to a “I felt a little stick and some pressure.”  We then talk about the experience.  I usually say something like, “Was that a manageable experience?”  And most often they answer with something like, “It wasn’t at all what I was expecting,” or “it wasn’t anything like I was afraid I’d feel.”

More and more we are learning that our thinking patterns are what are disturbing to us.  This bit of wisdom:   Pain x resistance=suffering  speaks to how ineffective it is to resist what we feel.  We can’t make it go away, and we make it worse by trying to fight it.  What we resist persists.