When Healing Hurts

  • Photo credit to Ante Gudlej on Unsplash

Things Held Onto in the Body and the Mind

We worry about the things we say, but what about the things we don’t say; the things we don’t do? 
Have you ever avoided someone because you didn’t know what to say? Put off dealing with a difficult conflict because it would be uncomfortable and you were worried about the outcome? Beat around the bush because you were concerned about hurting someone’s feelings, then realized your lack of directness hurt them more? Become wrapped up in small details and lost the big picture somehow; done things in the wrong way or in the wrong order, then beat yourself up for it?

When Optimism is Really Wishful Thinking, A Story

When I was a young adult attending community college, I wanted to get my ear cartilage pierced. Friends who had already had it done said it hurt. They told stories of lasting pain and of not being able to sleep on that side of their head for weeks, but I was not deterred. When I went to get the piercing, I experienced none of the pain or discomfort I’d heard about, that is, until 3 weeks later when a hair got wrapped around the back of the earring and caused the piercing to become infected.

I tried to ignore it. Went to school the next day and played it cool. By the middle of lunch, my ear was throbbing like Fred Flinstone’s cartoon thumb after dropping a stone bowling ball on it.

I turned to a friend and said "you have got to get this thing out of my ear! Please help me!"

We abandoned lunch, walked to the nearest store, bought a hoop earring and a giant bottle of rubbing alcohol, and returned to the school bathroom to perform the operation.

My ear was so red and swollen that the earring looked like a pin in a pin cushion. The hoop we had bought to replace the stud would not even close. 
Still, I was optimistic. I thought about how awesome it was going to look when it healed, and convinced myself that if I continued to douse the wound in rubbing alcohol, it would get better.

The Bad News

By the next morning, there was no doubt that something else had to be done. My throat was sore. My head hurt deep inside, and the top of my ear was now about the size, color, and overall texture of a small grape. I went first thing to the shop where I had got it pierced, and asked what I should do. They told me what I had most been hoping not to hear… the piercing would have to come out.

Again, I went to the bathroom at school and tried to pull it out. Green pus oozed out of the hole, and moving it less than a millimeter caused pain so intense that stars came to my eyes. I very nearly fainted, and had to steady myself to keep from falling over. I would have to go to the clinic.

When the nurses asked the reason for my visit, one look at my ear was enough, qnd they sent me to the back room to wait for the doctor. When he walked in, I was surprised to see this doctor was close to my age. I was 20; he may have been 26.

Ready for the Remedy

After asking the preliminary questions, the young doctor left the room and returned with a large metal ring cutter. By this point, I was in so much pain that it didn’t even frighten me, I just wanted it out.

I held my breath. Tears squeezed from the corners of my eyes. The pain increased sharply for a moment, but the unbearable pressure eased significantly. In the end, I think the action of pulling it out hurt the doctor more than it hurt me. When his eyes met mine, the sympathy in their light blue depths took me aback. It was so touching, it was almost romantic. Being Canadian, he even apologized.

I said it was okay, it was absolutely necessary, and thanked him. Really, it was a huge improvement, but I was not done.

Next, I had to go to the hospital and return every day for a week for antibiotic injections. I have never been one to be squeamish about needles, but the nurse who put the port in my arm was not so accurate and the number of times she had to poke me to get it in made me nauseous. My ear was now aching intensely; the infection having traveled from the outer ear to the inner.

Even with antibiotics, I fought first an ear infection, then strep throat, and finally pneumonia as the infection worked its way out of my body.

The Good News...

I got better! The hole filled in and closed over so completely I would never know it happened but for the memory.

This is a very long, and very gross, way of saying that sometimes healing hurts. 
Sometimes, what we need to do is not what we want to do. 
Sometimes, short term pain is necessary for long term healing.

There are times when the healing process seems worse than the injury itself. Setting a bone hurts more than breaking it. The medication has horrible side effects but will cure the disease. We apply the bandage and the balm, swallow the medicine, but then the itching begins and now find ourselves facing a new discomfort.

The positive? We have begun. Every step forward is a step ahead of the place we were before. Don’t wait until the infection spreads.

Here’s a secret: what works for the body will work for the mind too.

So talk to that person. 
Make that apology. 
Write that letter. 
Face that uncomfortable situation.

And about that bandage. Go ahead. Get it over with and rip that sucker off. You will be glad you did... when it’s over.
A note about piercings: don’t ever let anyone use a piercing gun to pierce anything but your ear lobe. The lobe of the ear is soft and fleshy, but using a gun to pierce the ear cartilage can cause blunt force trauma that can actually shatter your cartilage. Licensed piercers can be found in many tattoo shops. These artists will show you that all equipment has been properly sterilized and packaged, and will pierce your ear or other body part with a needle. ***




I make mistakes, then teach people about them. Sometimes it’s poetic, sometimes it’s a mess. Trying to prove that it is possible to thrive while also hurting.

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Erin M. Winfrey

Erin M. Winfrey

I make mistakes, then teach people about them. Sometimes it’s poetic, sometimes it’s a mess. Trying to prove that it is possible to thrive while also hurting.

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