Don’t underestimate the ability of others to empathize with your painBy SPENCER BLALOCK,
A joke I came across, related to the adventures of aging, goes like this: A refined gentleman who has just turned 90 years old starts complaining to his wife about the noises coming from his knee as well as the stiffness and pain he has begun to experience. After several days of complaints, his wife insists he go to the doctor to have it checked out.
While being examined by the doctor, the man reports the complaints, to which the doctor says, “Sir, you’re 90 years old. This is an effect of old age. I’m sorry there’s not much I can do to change that.” The man replies, “Well, this other knee is 90 years old too and it doesn’t hurt!”
Most people come into this world with fairly healthy bodies. Throughout life, however, we all experience the pull of gravity and years of weathering the seasons. Our families, life choices, experiences (positive and negative), environment, chosen vocation, diet, and a million other issues bring us to the current circumstances and take their place on our personal life stage.
No matter how we look at it, pain and discomfort will be pain and discomfort. Likewise, the loss of abilities to do things like you used to is a reality. Accompanied with those feelings is a sense that others don’t understand what it feels like to feel what you feel. This can be very frustrating. It can contribute to feeling depressed, with all of the underlying emotions (loneliness — “nobody wants to hear me talk about this again”; purposelessness — “well, if I can’t do what I used to, I can’t do anything”).
So, what do you do about it? Remember, one constant in life is change. We accept that this is a part of life and we adapt accordingly. Being from a generation who has borne the trials of life without complaint, one of the traits that you possess is likely not talking about your pain (whether physical, emotional, spiritual). I now give you permission to take this counsel: Talk about it — as you do, others may be able to identify with you and just knowing that other people understand, often lightens the load. Seek assistance (healthcare providers, ministers, counselors) and be persistent as you work to gain relief (follow the counsel you are given).
My point in discussing pain is to assure you that you’re not alone in the changes of life. People all around you are experiencing change and it’s likely they can empathize with your feelings and experiences. Keep moving forward.
I end this column with this thought attributed to Gordon Hinckley, “Life is just like an old-time rail journey ... delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”
If you are a senior adult struggling with anxiety, depression or grief and/or are struggling with coping with daily living, Senior Care can offer help and hope. Spencer Blalock, DHA, LCSW, BCD
is a clinical specialist with Senior Care – a service of Rush Health Systems
Contact him at 601-703-4917 for more information or visit www.rushhealthsystems.org/seniorcare