An Open Wound

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”

I would like to meet the person who came up with that little saying to make sure they are actually human and not a robot for who has survived this life without a word ever wounding them? Who has ever made it through this life alive unscathed by hurtful words spoken to them? Who has walked this life without ever tripping over cruel words?

We learn the lie of this statement at such a young age and question our strength when we begin to crumble under the weight of the pain words carry.

The truth is I would rather have my bones break by sticks and stones than my heart shatter by the words spoken at me. Words hurt. Words sting. Words have the power to change the trajectory of your life. Words can define us. Words can break us.

I know this all too well.

It was little three year old Jenna who first got exposed to that truth. So vulnerable and naïve she could not stop the daggers from piercing her heart. After that, they kept coming. She could not keep up with tending the wounds and many got left open.

There was only one thing she knew was powerful enough to numb her from all of the pain: the eating disorder. Ironically it was the same thing that resulted from those words. It was those words she played in her head as she sat there picking apart her body and denying herself food. But in that high, that euphoria of feeling empty, those words would vanish for a few minutes and the open wounds were forgotten. As soon as it all wore off, they came back full force and she had to retreat back to the disorder to silence them again for a bit.

She knew to break the cycle would mean coming back to reality. She knew she could only go so long ignoring the gaping hole before she had to confront it. The wound could only be open for so long until it infected her whole body.

Most wounds are now stitched up with only a scar reminding me of what once was there, of what once tried to destroy me, of what words once claimed my identity.

Most…

I learned the need to use that word last night. Sitting in church, very unexpectedly, I felt the deep, throbbing, burning pain of a wound still left completely open, a large and messy hole claiming real estate in my heart.

I wanted to believe it did not exist. I tried so hard to act like it wasn’t real. I did everything I could to pretend the dagger that caused such a seemingly bottomless wound was never formed through those words spoken to me.

About a year ago, somebody said something to me that was pretty horrendous. Frankly nobody should ever have to hear those words. How I did not break into a million pieces, run full speed into destruction, dive head first straight into the disorder as those words left this person’s mouth is all by the grace of God. I pretended like my ears did not hear those words but without a doubt my heart did. The mind has this amazing ability to shut out a lot as an act of self preservation but the heart is like a sponge and it takes it all in. What the mind wants to ignore, the heart will eventually make it impossible to disregard.

That was made apparent yesterday.

Out of nowhere, without my control, the floodgates of my eyes opened. It was as if suddenly the measly Band-Aid attempting to keep the wound semi-closed was ripped off. Everything I stuffed in it to keep it filled was pulled out. All the pressure to keep the bleeding at a minimum was released. I sat there with this gaping hole in my heart, feeling exposed and unsafe in my emotions and unprotected. Because it was not just the wound now exposed but it was also the truth being seen. It was my authentic, hurting, crying, not-having-it-all-together face now visible.

The mask I so perfectly painted on telling the world that “I was fine,” that those words did not hurt, that they were okay to be said because this person was in pain was now pulled off.  There was no more hiding. There was no more denying the pain.

Sitting there, my mind finally spoke what my heart was fighting so tirelessly for it to admit; I am not fine and never have been fine with those words. They were not okay and I am not okay with them being said. No amount of pain someone is in would ever warrant those words being spoken. There was no excuse for them. They can never be justified. My heart has been longing to be whole again, to heal, to feel at peace, and it only could by me saying those words. Its only hope in finding harmony rested in my mind’s willingness to finally take off the mask and be unapologetically real in the truth.

So today, I need to sit with not being okay and being okay with not being okay. No running, no self destruction, no suppressing, no denial. Allow the tears to fall unhindered and the hurt to surface without a ceiling to cap it and the pain to exist without judgment.

And then, after I give myself some time to dump out the heartache, I have to figure out what to do with this open wound. I refuse to live forever as a victim.

Somehow.

Some way.

This warrior will heal.

J.L.