Cope, by definition, dealing with something difficult effectively.
Pain is something, for me, harder to define.
What kind of pain are you asking me?
Was it the pain of a scraped knee? At first I would cry. I wasn’t used to the physical pain. I was afraid of having to wash it with alcohol or hydrogen peroxide because that stuff burns. Even iodine was scary. But eventually I got used to it. Repeatedly falling and scraping my knees, my elbows, my palms, became something sort of second nature. I trip so often and so easily. When I got used to the scratches and the wounds, I learned to clean them myself. I learned to enjoy the sting of alcohol. I learned to love the way iodine solution felt on the open skin.
Was it the pain from when I burned my hand when I accidentally poured boiling water over it? When I saw my skin rising, I punctured it. I was curious. I peeled the skin off the burned area and boy did it hurt. I didn’t know better back then. Thankfully my parents had the sense not to put toothpaste on it. I relied on them to take me to the ER. I relied on the doctors to put the proper ointments and wrap it up with gauze. When I didn’t know what to do, I welcomed help.
Was it the pain of when my friends and family all called me fat? It was an alien form of pain. One that ointments and alcohol couldn’t clean. One that I couldn’t cover with gauze or iodine solution. I learned at the age of 10 to trade one pain with a different form. I started eating less, then not at all. The pain of hunger felt to me like the sting of alcohol. It would cure the pain of humiliation from being fat, I thought.
Was it the pain of losing your first love? Or the pain of witnessing your parents break up? The pain of your mom leaving the house to live with her new boyfriend? The pain of seeing your dad get hinself drunk everyday? That was a different sort of pain too. A deeper kind. One that I can’t claw out of my chest, or carve out my skin. Although I tried. At this point I have learned to love the pain of the physical kind. It was an easier pain to navigate and deal with. I learned to self harm. And I learned to cut deeper and deeper. I almost cut deep enough. Sometimes I still wish I had. Often I am ashamed I even did it at all.
Was it the pain of being bullied? Because you were smart without even trying? Because you were kind and had the boys falling head over heels for you? When people started calling you a slut, a whore, a bitch, when you weren’t even trying to flirt, how do you deal with that? I think I just hid. I just folded in on myself wishing that if I stayed small and silent they will eventually not notice me and stop calling me names that I had no idea how I earned.
Was it the pain of losing a friend? I think I coped with that one by transfering schools. By shifting to a different course. I had no more place in the same vicinity that I shared with them. I felt like I shouldn’t breathe the same air they do.
Was it the pain of watching your father die? Of seeing the light leave his eyes when his heart beat its last? To feel him cold and stiff in your arms? I wanted to claw out the doctor’s eyes. To hurt someone, anyone. To scream. To open my chest and rip my heart out. The pain of grief is something I never coped with. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression… Acceptance. I think I got stuck on depression. It has been four years and I haven’t coped still.
Was it the pain of loving someone who treated you like you are vermin? Who told you that you are trash. That you are worth nothing. That one I got stuck on anger. Borderline hatred. The sound of his name still sends chills of boiling rage down my spine. Sometimes, when it is cold and the sheets won’t warm me enough, the anger does the trick. I know forgiveness is the key to freedom but I don’t think he deserves to be forgiven just yet. I would imagine his suffering. Never his death. No. I want him to suffer long and hard with no relief.
Was it the pain of waking up one day and realizing you are a failure? The anxiety of knowing you are running out of time? The thought that it is too late to pick yourself up? That paralyzing fear of the future? That one is a little easier. I could break my way through the walls of my doubts and their judging eyes, and make my own rules. Success to me is knowing I attended all my classes this week. Success is when I have submitted all my requirements in time for the deadline. And sometimes, when the fear is too great it wants to chain me in my bed, I deem it success to be able to get out of bed, do my laundry, take a bath, face the day, brave the traffic, go to school despite being late. I see it as success when I fail today and try again tomorrow.
Of all the different kinds of pain I have had to deal with, one thing is for certain. Everytime I had successfully faced on pain, I get stronger. My threshold gets higher. My tolerance as well. Pain is something necessary to build your character. As long as you let it build instead of destroy.
I think there is no specific way of coping with the pain. As long as you let it build you instead of destroy you, you have dealt with that difficulty successfully.