Most of us know the intellectual meaning behind the phrase, “There is more than what meets the eye,” but have you ever personally experienced it and lived its truth? Do you ever consider the fact that the people you interact with daily could be suffering either emotionally or physically in ways that you could never have known or even imagined?
In order to shed some light on this, I’d like to share my own story with you.
Two or three times every week I find myself at the supermarket. Often, while picking from the produce, something accidentally falls to the ground, for example, an apple tumbles and rolls across the floor. Most people would not think twice about bending over to pick it up and put it back.
I, on the other hand, think twice. In fact, I have learned to think twice or more about almost every action I take. I was certainly not born this way—with an overthinking mind—but it is how I’ve conditioned myself to respond over time living with a chronic pain condition from an early age.
So, what do I do when this happens? Sometimes I negotiate my next move, but on most occasions, I glance around and hope that no one is looking and then very gently kick the apple aside to prevent anyone from accidentally tripping over it.
Of course, when I do this, I feel embarrassed and even ashamed as I am certain that someone has seen me and judged me harshly. The odd time I do risk the consequences and choose to bend over, especially when my children are around, as I still feel the need to be a good role model to them.
Pain conditions often come with very little clarity. Just ask Lady Gaga, who also suffers with chronic pain. Our body’s perception of pain and other sensory input is, well, let’s say—skewed or magnified or different! For me, I could bend in a such a way that my brain perceives as threatening and end up feeling pain. All depends on the exact movement, the conditions of the day, and my brain’s activity in that particular moment.
The same applies to picking up things around the house, to planting flowers in the garden, to playing around, to lifting an object and even to opening a door. Any time I attempt to be spontaneous, flexible, or fun using my body, I risk confusing my brain and putting it into a threatened pain state. I also think twice about leaning in for a hug, a kiss, or a handshake, wondering if they will grab my neck too hard and/or squeeze my hand too tight and leave me in pain?
This is my personal invisible disability—and its looming shadow is anxiety. I’ve been carrying both of these with me daily for most of my life. Not many people know this about me as I have been extremely adept at hiding it. This, then, should make us think…if I have been adept at keeping this a secret all these years, then many other people must be doing the same.
I have learned many important lessons from my suffering, both physically and emotionally, as the mind and body are forever intertwined. But the greatest lesson by far is this: There is ALWAYS more than what meets the eye. Nothing is ever truly obvious in life because what we see is using only one of our filters. Behind what is visible…is where the truth resides and often hides. Our TRUTH—our reality—is ultimately defined by a combination of feelings, filters, sensations, and information and is NOT always what we project.
My actions, upon first glance, may indicate that I am impolite, disrespectful, and unloving, but thankfully, I know who I am at my core and I am not these things. My dear mother made sure to remind me, that as a child, I was always well-mannered, huggable, happy-go-lucky and fun-loving. The problem is when other people’s questionable looks, harsh comments, and unfair judgments of you begin to creep into your narrative about yourself that you somehow lose sight of your own essence and ultimate truth.
We interact with people on a daily basis, but mainly on the surface. Seldom do we inquire about their bigger picture stories and hidden disabilities. As a person living with persistent pain and a life coach, I find myself getting more and more curious and seeking to explore other possibilities, judgment-free. An expanded perspective can always be found with a flexible mind, an open heart, and with all senses and filters engaged.
The next time you see someone doing something that looks ridiculous in your eyes, I encourage you to consciously choose to let go of judgment and ask yourself the following: Is something else possible? The truth may not always speak out loud and clear, but the real question is, do you care enough to want to know it?