I sliced off a bit of my fingertip the other day peeling potatoes. It hurt terribly, blood everywhere and that horrible sting of nerve pain. I wrapped it immediately and finished dinner with a throbbing finger. Later when I took off the bandage the air hit it and it burned so much I rushed to cover it again.
By the next day I knew the bandage needed to come off. If I left it on much longer the skin would get all white and pruny and gross, the wound would stay damp and eventually get infected. Just like the first time, it stun so goddamn bad. I couldn’t use it correctly so I typed weird and felt uncomfortable and thought about it most of the day. But I didn’t cover it back up.
A few days later I noticed the air wasn’t stinging as much. I had a teeny tiny layer of protection over the cut, and I felt so relieved. It will take a few weeks to fully heal and I’ll be extra gentle with it while it does, but it’s no longer affecting me much.
This experience felt symbolic since tomorrow is the anniversary of being fired from my job running the preschool my kids went to. The place I loved and helped build with people I loved like family.
I’ve rarely felt pain that deep. It was physical and it felt unbearable. I needed to wrap it up, wrap me up, seal mysef from any further injury. I had to stop the bleeding. I wrapped myself in the unconditional love of family and friends, and oddly, soap-making.
Even then I knew it was just the first step. Nothing good grows in the dark, my years of addiction taught me that. I knew as soon as I had the bleeding under control I had to take off the bandage. It stun so goddamn bad y’all. Every day I walked into that school to drop off my kids the pain was acute. It was all I thought about. I was weird and uncomfortable constantly.
Then one day, months later, I realized with a jolt that I hadn’t been thinking about it! And bit by bit it kept happening. I’d suddenly find myself in a space not suffering, and maybe even feeling good.
Tomorrow marks one year of facing heartbreak and humiliation I was sure I’d never recover from. Six months of therapy (yay therapy!) and people who never tell me to “get over it ” I am proud to say I have a layer of protection around that pain. I’ve worked on my part, I’ve mourned in whatever way felt right and I’ve ended up with an amazing life on the other side.
I wrote this for the Knox Girl Soap website, which only exists because of what I went through. (Maybe I should have called my business Phoenix Soap, because it certainly feels like it was created out of the ashes. Now I’m mixing metaphors, but you know what I mean.)
The point is, we’re all going to suffer at some point. An injury, a job loss, heartbreak, death. There’s no getting around it. My hope is that when you have to face that pain you remember this really terrible analogy about my cut finger. No one can tell you how long to wrap yourself up, or when it needs to be faced. If you take care of yourself you’ll know. Most importantly, I want you to remember you’re not alone. Look around and you’ll see folks with scars everywhere you go. Welcome to humanity, it will be okay.