When I was a knobby-kneed little girl, I played Nurse Nancy. My dolls had band-aids and slings and cozy beds where they could recover. My journey started early and continues to this day. Caring for the wounded, ill or frail is my passion. I was once asked by a patient, “What is the worst way to die, is it cancer or AIDS or Alzheimer’s ?” I answered and after thirty-five years, still answer “What causes you to suffer is a suffering” I could not then, nor can I now, value one suffering as any greater than another. In it’s form, for you, it is a suffering.
I share community with those who care, though we do not come cut out of one pattern. We bring ourselves to the work and address suffering in unique and gifted ways. For many of us, the challenges of our own journey, have become our sweet gifts. My dear friend and colleague suffers with chronic and unrelenting back and leg pain. I see her wince as she rolls a bed into place and tears fill her eyes after standing for long hours. She brings skillful and appropriate pain management as a gift because she understands, so well, how her own pain diminishes her. She loves nursing so her pain, though powerful, does not stop her.
My husband and friend Bruce suffers from Bi-Polar disorder. He suffers not only depression, anxiety and restlessness but, more powerfully from the scorn of others who find his mannerisms and behaviors too challenging. The treatment for his disorder leaves him flat and fatigued but a decrease in his medication can spin him upwards to insomnia or panic or rage. He works hard at balancing this formula. Out of his own suffering he brings watercolors that are powerful and soulful and are a snapshot in the moment of his ever-cycling journey.
I had a patient last week that had multiple abdominal incisions but for her, the suffering was that the curtain on her cubicle was closed. This caused her anxiety so great that we had to forgo the mandated privacy measures and allow her to see the hallway that eventually would take her back to the safety of her own home. You see, what causes you to suffer is a suffering.
Seasonal demands are pressing and powerful. One family I visited recently had to move from a comfortable 3 bedroom home to a one bedroom mobile. Financial losses and displacement are a great suffering for this brave family and though they understand that many families around the world have significantly less than they, still for them it is a suffering.
May I say to you and to us all that what you suffer is indeed a suffering and while it does not fully define you, it does hurt and fatigue and challenge and though you travel on with greater wisdom and compassion for those who suffer, what you suffer is a suffering. This I believe.
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