Today I sat and repeated the phrase over and over to myself in my parked car. We can do hard things we can do hard things we can do hard things wecandohardthings. I sent up a little prayer to whoever was listening: please help me do this.
Then I marched up to the office building and presented myself for my blood draw. And I immediately saw that the exact right person was there to greet me.
Me: (after exchanging pleasantries and me pretending to be just A-OK, totally normal, no big deal here, just facing a lifelong fear) Just so you know, I pass out about 90% of the time a needle is involved.
Super patient, sweet, lovely lady: Oh, thank you for telling me.
Said with gentle compassion. Said with no judgment or annoyance or subconscious eye-roll. And she proceeded to take special steps to make me more comfortable. Steps like making me a make-shift pillow out of a paper towel roll covered in hospital paper so I could lay down instead of sit up. Steps like having her funny, chatty co-worker get off a call so she could come talk with me during the whole draw to take my mind off what was going on. Things like just sitting with me afterwards as I made it through my blood-draw sweats and spins and reminded myself to breathe normally.
There is a snickering I can sort of hear in the background as I write this story. A cynical voice saying “wow, really? THAT’S your ‘hard thing’? A blood draw?? How pathetic! What about the people who are dealing with REAL hard things?”
Yes. Blood draws are one of my hard things. They make me sweat and shake and feel sick for days before they even occur. My anxiety reaches sky-high levels when I know a blood draw or IV or shot is in my imminent future. I dread the inevitable crappy sensation of feeling myself slip out of consciousness, my ears ringing, vision blurring, until I wake up, usually on the floor covered in sweat with a pounding headache and waves of nausea while a surprised nurse or lab tech stares at me in shock.
The cynical voice says I am being a baby. It says to get over it. As if I could. Because who WANTS to feel that way about anything? Who is that enjoyable for? If it were so easy to “just get over it” don’t you think I would have done that by now?
The truth is, I am really embarrassed that this is one of my hard things. So what often follows embarrassment very closely is its good buddy defensiveness. Embarrassed says it shouldn’t be that hard. Defensive comes up with reasons its not my fault. Defensive always leads with ITS NOT IN MY HEAD, I CAN’T HELP IT! MY BODY JUST DOES IT! I’M NOT SCARED! THAT’S NOT IT! Because if it was really ‘all in my head’, then I could just fix it by not being scared, right? Easy as pie, not being scared. No problem at all. Why didn’t I think of that before?
But it was different today. Today, instead of trying to pretend I was fine, or prepare a speech on how it ISN’T MENTAL ITS PHYSICAL, I decided to just ask for help. And I got it. I said hi, this is a hard thing for me. And the woman in the office heard: I might need some extra help with this. And she gave it. And I didn’t have to pretend I was more “okay” than I really was, and I didn’t have to give her a speech. She got it. She presented me with a hospital paper covered roll of paper towels pillow. She got it.
I think so often we hear that critical voice, the one that says your hard thing isn’t a REAL hard thing. That you should be ashamed because people have to endure far worse than you. And its always true, you know. Someone is always going to have it worse than you. Also better than you, by the way. So instead of wasting time thinking we don’t count and our hard isn’t “hard enough” maybe we could cut ourselves a little slack.
Things that are really hard for me that don’t seem to be as hard for other people: needle and bee phobia, functioning INCREDIBLY poorly on an empty stomach or without sleep, super sensitive taste buds and sense of smell that are wayyy too easily offended, and traveling.
And you know what? Some people LOVE bees. They become bee keepers. Some people LOVE eating adventurous things. Some people LIVE for traveling. I think staring in Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern is my personal idea of hell. Traveling the world eating weird things and trying not to insult their culture, probably surrounded by bees in some situations. NO THANK YOU. But I am fully aware this could be other people’s dream job.
Things that are not hard for me at all but seem hard for other people: public speaking, deciding to have a drug-free child birth, sharing my innermost thoughts publicly for everyone else to read.
See, guys. I am brave. Like, really brave in some things. And some things that are really easy for you are just plain HARD for me. Painful, scary, and anxiety-provoking.
What I have had to learn, the hard way, is to let myself be ok that some things are harder for me than for other people. To hear the critics and cynics and say, its ok. I know you don’t get it. But I get it. And I’m going to show myself a little compassion. But damn if it isn’t harder to show compassion to yourself than compassion to a stranger.
Your hard is hard. Maybe it isn’t hard for me, or for your best friend, but that part doesn’t matter. Nobody gets to tell you your hard isn’t “enough”. Nobody else in the world is walking around with your particular genetic make-up and life experiences and temperament. Nobody else in the world can “walk in your shoes”. Your hard is hard. Its ok.
I pray you all find the lady with the hospital paper covered roll of paper towel pillow within you. A-MEN.