Where Pain and Healing Align: A Personal Story


When I think about emotional healing, I’m taken back to a doctor’s appointment I had in my early 20’s. At that point, I had done yoga daily, seen naturopaths and psychotherapists, took care of myself the best I could—and I still felt like shit. I got to the end of my rope with chronic feelings of fatigue, despair, and unworthiness.

So, at the doctor’s appointment, I decided to talk to the nurse who was examining me about antidepressant medication. After all I’d tried and failed to do to solve my depression, antidepressants seemed like a logical last resort.

“How often have you been feeling low?” the nurse asked me.

“Pretty much every day.”

“You should really be feeling good all the time. Antidepressants can help with that.”

While I’m not qualified to give an opinion on the effectiveness of antidepressants, I resisted the nurse’s assertion that you should really be feeling good all the time.

For about three years, I had been studying Eastern spirituality and discovered the Buddhist teacher, Pema Chödrön. Her perspective on suffering turned everything I learned about pain on its head.

In fact, it was around the time of my doctor’s appointment that I discovered this quote:

“Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”

Pema Chödrön, The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times

Per Pema Chödrön’s teachings, pain is something to examine and embrace. It is the source of our compassion and openheartedness. Imagining that my pain was a vehicle for connection started to give me the courage to feel it and heal it.

During my conversation with the nurse, I sensed the stark contrast between seeing pain as the enemy and getting to know it as a vehicle for healing. I stood between these definitions and felt the truth in both of them. Yes, of course I would want relief from chronic emotional pain so it wouldn’t limit my life. And, I also wanted to accept that my pain had a purpose.

As the years went on, the more I examined what emotional healing meant for me with the support of psychotherapists, coaches, doctors and healers of multiple disciplines. And what emerged through this journey is my conviction that healing is a paradox:

Healing is spacious enough to hold our human desire to feel better AND our capacity to use our pain as a tool for becoming who we really are: a source and a force of love.

What does emotional healing mean to you?

What experiences have helped you define this meaning?

Spend some time today reflecting, drawing, or writing on these questions and see how your answers resonate with you. They can help you gain clarity from your past to support your well-being today.

Still struggling to define the emotional healing you need or how to experience it? Curious as to how writing can help you get clear on this? Connect with me for a FREE 45-minute phone or virtual consultation today.