I’m Suffering Inside. The pot on the stove is boiling over.


Here we are in a new age of Egyptian plagues. War. Gun violence. Natural disasters. Political absurdity. What’s next? People are suffering. What can I do in real time? How do I personally process it all? How can we help our children and grandchildren feel secure, even when we don’t?

From the start of the nursing profession, the goal has been to alleviate suffering. In my experience, most good nurses have genuine “empathy,” meaning they can almost metaphysically relate to distress. The final jeopardy question here is this: How can I fully engage with those who suffer without their pain becoming my own?

I see pain as a gift, telling us we’re injured and need attention. It’s a tad more black and white when the issue is physical. In physical pain with physical restrictions, most of us would feel free to discuss, get treatment, and be aware of the healing process as our function improves. Though, what if our pain is more covert? What if other words for pain are apathy, panic, anxiety, fear, withdrawal, and isolation?

We inhabit this very charged planet, with its chaos and terror. As with most things, we learn to accommodate. Our bodies and minds are constantly in “self-preservation mode,” and we may become numb to terms like “mass shootings” for our own protection.

The danger in this otherwise effective coping mechanism is that we stay numb beyond its intended temporary benefit. In truth, it is too much. If we could have an MRI visual of our brains when processing information at a crisis level, it would be crystal clear from a nuts-and-bolts scientific source that our levels of distress, coupled with our sense of helplessness… are dangerous.

There is not a “one size fits all” answer. One of my most esteemed teachers reminds me regularly that our response to this global disaster (insanity, evil, corruption, *insert your word of choice here*) is to first “come inside.” Even if your regular persona is powerful, unflappable, and courageous, be willing to say that these things are frightening, and most are out of our control.

The ever-present silver lining.

We have control over one thing: our behavior. There are opportunities every day to give. Our attitude will play a significant role in navigating these very rough seas. We can harness “good” and share that in any way that opportunity allows. Nothing newsworthy is required; send a card to a grieving friend, let people cross the street, and pat the older man’s dog. Help ease the burden of someone suffering in your circle.

We create a movement by engaging in the world around us and mining our compassion and empathy, even right here at home. Think of the words… “when something is moved, it is changed.” Behavioral change is a struggle, even if it is in our best interest. The payoff, however, is our best motivator and has every chance of helping you keep your ship on course. Your keel.

Most of us are unable to bring any tangible comfort to those who suffer worldwide; however, remember many suffer close to home, perhaps even the woman beside us at the grocery checkout. We all know it: small kindnesses, often from strangers, have impacted us.

Just for today, I will be aware of this and see how it goes. Reclaim control of your behavior, even in the mundane. As with most things, it will likely be a “both/and” situation. In my kindness, we will both be blessed. Who doesn’t need more of that?