HIDDEN SUFFERING

When pain doesn’t have a face

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How often have friends or family acted shocked when you’ve told them you’re seeing a therapist?

What’s wrong? Are you okay? Did something happen?

All those questions ensue.

Too often the stigma of mental health therapy is that only a family death or recognizable trauma should have led us to a counselor’s office. But what about the pain that’s hidden or camouflaged by everyday life? It should be a red flag whenever we start using shoulds and coulds for our feelings.

Counselor Kenneth Doka coined the term, “disenfranchised grief,” which by definition is a loss that’s hidden beneath the surface — either due to a lack of societal support or a person tucking it down to avoid it.

The truth about depression and anxiety, however, is that we don’t get out of a burning building by going up or down. We get out by going through it.

Clients oftentimes don’t understand why they’re having trouble sleeping, eating or simply feeling unfulfilled in life. Ever wonder if that’s because one’s pain hasn’t been allowed by that individual? Sometimes we’re the gatekeeper to our own mourning and healing processes.

That’s where therapists come in, to help play that emotional support — and detective — role when we’re stuck in emotional quicksand.

If you’re experiencing internal suffering, and don’t know why or think it’s fickle compared to others’ pain, stop being your own self-bully. Remember, it’s okay to not be okay. And it’s also okay to not know why you’re not okay without needing a mental health diagnosis. The key is acknowledging that truth of suffering, and then doing something about it.

Therapists have been praised and criticized over the last few decades for treating “invisible” pain. But the reality is, who are the ones making it invisible?

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