Forgive Me, But Forgiveness Ain’t Easy

Forgive Me, But Forgiveness Ain’t Easy

By Cynthia Toussaint.

As we survive years and decades of high-impact chronic illness, we women in pain drag ever-lengthening chains of hurt and anger.

Heavy links created by those who disappointed or flat out failed us. The dismissive doctors who proclaimed our pain as “all in our head”, family members and friends who didn’t stay and institutions that dropped the ball (i.e., worker’s comp, Social Security, HMO’s, etc.)  Most importantly, our bodies that betrayed us, generating torturous pain and fatigue that serves no purpose.

These chains are often justifiable, but they come at a cost. While it’s true that short term anger can be a catalyst for positive change, the long-term variety of resentment, like all negative emotions, make us sicker. Tension, depression and grief drive more pain and fatigue. Period.

The answer to cutting these chains is simple, but it’s the most difficult self-care tool I’ve ever practiced. Forgiveness.

When we truly forgive, we let go of our negative feelings. That release is a gift, first and foremost, to ourselves as it lightens our chain of un-wellness. Forgiveness is also a gift to the person or people who hurt us – and ultimately to the universe.  I believe all living beings are connected and, with forgiveness, we release positive life force.

It’s not uncommon for people who hear my story to angrily ask if I want to get all of my former name-calling doctors in a room and sternly prove them wrong. They’re shocked when I answer in the negative because I’ve forgiven these doctors long ago and only think to pull up their memory for an interview or to comfort someone else who’s suffering the same kind of abuse. There’s just no more hurt. Time, distance and being public with my story built a strong psychological scab.

Cynthia Toussaint

I don’t remember when I forgave my body for getting sick 35 years ago, taking away most everything I valued along with my hopes and dreams. I used to rage at myself for a destroyed life and I wanted to exorcize the “evil” in me. With time and acceptance though, it was a natural process to eventually realize that my body didn’t have it in for me or commit a crime. What pulled me through was my healthy self-esteem and value based life.

Not so easy with friends and family members who haven’t been there since I became ill. It never entered my mind that a loved one would leave. Ever. I hold love so deeply I’m unable to understand the emotional (and sometimes physical) abandonment from those who were very close. Not having the tools and strength to forgive them is the biggest cause of my ongoing depression which, in turn, spikes my pain.

Every time I try to forgive a loved one by using the rationale “it’s sad that s/he isn’t strong, but it’s not personal” or “everyone does the best they can”, I let go some and form a little scab. But then another family member or friend who stuck around alerts me to what’s happening in that person’s life or I see them. With that, I feel abandoned again which re-opens the wound. People tell me to light a candle, wish them well and hope someday it’ll be different. I’ve burnt many a candle down to nothing except my tears.

I see forgiveness as the Holy Grail of self-care. In some areas with practice and time, it’s been a healthy, natural process. The chains have dissolved and I’m lighter and at a deeper place of peace. The benefits of forgiveness are truly remarkable, stronger than any medicine ever devised.

With those once near and dear though, I’ve failed to forgive due to my expectations. In the deepest part of my soul, I know that you don’t turn away, neglect or hurt someone you love. You stick by them come hell or high water. Less than that is unforgiveable. My moral compass is the barrier between my wellness and dis-ease.

I really want to shorten my chains, even if just a bit. Every link makes a huge difference. Right now this last piece of forgiveness is elusive and out of reach. I’m praying that with more practice and greater wisdom I can stay true to my values and find a way to lighten my load.

I hope someday I can accept that those loved ones who have disappointed me are flawed and don’t have the strength of character I’m lucky to possess. Or perhaps I’m cursed to have such highfalutin’ ideas about humanity. Either way I’m gonna keep whacking away at this forgiveness thing. If achieved, it will set me free…

Cynthia Toussaint founded For Grace in 2002. It is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing awareness to gender disparity in the treatment of pain. She is also a frequent contributor to the National Pain Report.

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Tabitha

Ah look people dont get it unless they are in it . I wish my pain on every politician, everyone of their family membes as well on upon every self righteous popmpius doctor or “anti heroin” advocate or recovering addict who look for attention by attacking us , chronic pain patients as if we are just heroin addicts waiting to happen . They can all go to hell and they onky way ww can protect ourselves is to fight legally to demand the same rights our pets have . To be treated approproately for pain with the tools that work. It is a human right . Ive been on long term opioid treatment for 20 years and never once felt like sticking a needle in my arm . Its all a lie and we know the numbers they used to scare everyone is a lie . This is about money perioid . Their is no opioid crisis . There is a illegal fentanyl issue and heorin issue that is about it . People legally prescibed opioids do not over dose . Do not divert do not bexome addicts other than an extremely small percentage . And even at its worse those dyijg of all dryg over doses combined pale in comparassion to thos dyung of alcohol and tobacco daily and yearly. Its all a lie . Its all about money and chronic pain patients will eith die or fight . CHRONIC PAIN PAITIENT PROTECTION ACT NOW

Everyone who contributed with their comments (struggles) I applaud you. I have been in chronic pain for 27 years. I’ve worked so hard to manage my pain, but my pain manages me. No family or friends anymore. Doctors just keep sending me to another one. No I don’t take pain ‘ meds. (narcotics) one doctor suggested. Just deal with it and suffer through it.

“In the deepest part of my soul, I know that you don’t turn away, neglect or hurt someone you love.”
It’s interesting to read this part of the story from the aspect of one who was trained at a very early age that those closest to you can be those who stand by you …and those who are the best at turning away, neglecting, and hurting you. At least it gave me the (probably negative & skewed) perspective that while you hang onto those who do stand by you, the ones who dumped you or tried to kill you can be jettisoned utterly. I feel almost nothing but relief at having eighty-sixed from my life those who betrayed/abandoned/abused me, but there’s still a bit of that anger at a few of them…still working on that forgiveness thing with one or two.

Good piece.

Maureen M.

Hi Cynthia, Just this weekend..this subject was heavy on my mind. I relate to your post in every way. It stings my heart every single time I think of those who have turned their back on me over the years of my illnesses. It stings my heart whenever I hear about someone who has awesome support. I have none whatsoever. But, my healthy self esteem is what keeps me forging on without them all.
I have come to tell myself (via therapy for my broken heart) that those who did not remain at my side (including my only child) are just not ‘capable’ of dealing with me and my illnesses. Although, I continue to struggle with that consistency. It’s a tough thought to grasp.
I was a nurse for 32 yrs before my injury and consequent illnesses and have an empathetic heart so it is greatly difficult for me to understand why most humans do not, especially close friends and family. I have worked on forgiveness but it is difficult for me to feel free of the heart.
Life is hard. But we are warriors who have been handed the short end of the stick in our lives… we can do it. May w keep smiling 🙂 and focused on positivity and our health. Maureen

sandra pepper-hill

Thank you for this story

Carole Porter

Wow – never thought of it this way. Thank you for opening my heart to this option!

Sara

Great post. Like you said, I would never leave someone who depends on me or hurt someone I love so extensively as my ex did to me. I have not found forgiveness, and I’m grateful for your honesty. It is a comfort to know that I would never do that and that I’m better off without him.

Katie Olmstead

I see forgiveness as a process. There is no end point where “all is forgiven.” It comes in waves. There are gentle moments and intense times. I even find, sometimes, I am laughing instead of raging. My RSD journey began when I was 44. The first orthopedist I saw for my knee injury, before the RSD onset, he blew me off and said I was TOO OLD (and female?) to bother with getting my knee fixed. I should give up dancing, he said, and find something else to amuse myself. Ass! But really, this dude in a plaid bow tie, was clueless. I do laugh remembering what was devastating at the time.
Does anger weigh me (anyone) down? Of course. Has my body let me down? Clearly. There are days when life is just too full to be bothered with concerns over what is done. And times when I am pissed off. Soon, people will be asking how my summer was. Did I have a good vacation? This, I don’t look forward to. I don’t do vacation. I don’t travel. I don’t go hiking or boating or biking or go to visit my kids. I don’t go to dance retreats like most of my dance friends. I love my home and my kitties and my life is good. But. This is my time of jealousy! Breathe in. Breathe out. Sometimes, sometimes…. replace the grieving with gratitude.

Joanna Pinne"Cra

Thank you Cynthia for writing this. I kept myself needlessly awake many nights for a couple of years as I wrestled with HOW or even IF I was supposed to forgive the doctors and medical bureaucrats who had made my life a living hell. At that time I decided that I just could not forgive and told God I’d take my chances with Him, b/c that’s where I was at! Fast forward a couple of years and one day I decided that forgiveness was not about me trying to think up excuses for these people, there are no excuses for how they behaved. However when I cast the issue as “not renting any more space in my head” to these people, I was able to forgive, which for me meant separating myself from them emotionally. If what they did is still bothering me, I asked myself, when am I going to become a woman with personal power who refuses to be a victim? So that’s when I was able to forgive, in the sense I have described. Of course I still have feelings about what happened to me, but now I am able to catch myself and say “we decided we weren’t going to give away our power any more.” I refuse to waste one more precious second of my life being a victim. For me forgiveness is not a totally wet noodle Christian idea, it is about becoming empowered in a very real sense, emotionally and spiritually . I can’t thank you enough for writing about the topic of forgiveness, because I know that many find themselves in an agonizing position when it comes to forgiveness for the dreadful harm done b/c of the anti-opioid nightmare. Bless your heart!

Dian

This is so true, and yes it’s the hardest thing to do, I’m so happy that you put it in such a clear and open way. I’m 74 and have EDS, Fibro and all that goes along with them, still dealing with Dr’s and a system that let’s us suffer because of gender. I’m keeping what you have said, to read and reread, because sometimes I will slip back and reforge a link…a big Thankyou🌹🌹💕

Alan Edwards

Our experiences are uncannily similar. The good doctors are gone. My family has divorced me. My syndromes and diseases are incurable and will inflict pain and immobility until my impending death. I forgive, but have never been apologized to. Doctors and other healthcare providers ( they don’t deserve their titles or pay, except for a few beloved more than decade ago). They are either taught or will not voluntarily apologize for their past malpractice and bad manners.

Aside from a few pharmacy techs, who are compassionate, there is no one that I receive any physical or emotional support from even though, I am nearly lame and my condition warrants morphine instead of norco. And a benzodiazepine instead of hydroxyzine.

A job and a wife are only a dream. After 55 years of struggle and fighting the current and past establishment- both government and medical- they have helped demolish my health.

I am exhausted and have nearly given up. Those who have mistreated me may answer to God alone one day. Unfortunately, I remember everything clearly from the doctor to the pharmacy- from the PACs to the surly nurses.

The individual biases I’ve seen are based on community status and political connection. And if one is single or married. Some will never be denied adequate medical treatment- especially the local VIP who has a hang nail.

That is my world. And the
offenders show no sign of repentance.

Louis Ogden

Good story. Carrying anger around only hurts YOU.

elgie swift

Thank you, Cynthia Toussaint, for writing this. I suffer from full body CRPS and although I continue to stay interested in my friends lives and am happy to feel useful to them by listening to their problems, ideas, activities, etc… one by one they have disappeared. Most of them except a precious few, as in few I mean 3 and even those 3 are infrequent callers at best. It is difficult to comprehend. Some actually picked fights over politics even though we had previously agreed on about everything, or accused me as in “Just get over it and do something” as if I wanted to be in this condition and forgetting all the activities and adventures I enjoyed, talents I had worked on all my life, and how everything about my life changed by one careless driver in one afternoon. I have never stopped trying. These are friends I’ve had since childhood.

It hurts. I even left Facebook. I’d find myself thinking if they have time to do that, why can’t they find time to just call me for 15 min? And that horrible bitterness would start eating me. But as you say, it only makes things worse. I don’t want to spend time complaining about my life. I have doctors and a therapist for that. I’d just like some normal human interaction.

I wish we could have a living complex for those of us who fight these diseases. Since our healthy bodied friends have left us, finding others who understand is key. NOT so we can sit around and whine, but simple basic empathy for another goes so far in life, providing emotional support and nurturing, plus laughter, and all of those things that go with being a social creature. We need that. We need to give as well as receive and it gives me happiness to help another.

For now I’ll feed the birds, wave carefully at the 3 legged doe that walks through my backyard every night, snuggle with my rescue shelter cat and feel the connection to the universe through them, especially the 3 legged doe. I’ve noticed the other deer who stayed with her initially have left her too…

Terri Jacoby

It’s hard to forgive when your body is cracked with pain. And your so called Dr. Cant or won’t help you. Apparently you are not in enough pain.

Kathleen Kaiser

Your words really touched me. Like you I have people whom I need to forgive but haven’t been able to.

susan

nicely written. I agree 100%. I live with multiple sclerosis and other pain issues. it can be very difficult at times and I get down on myself to be like I used to be. by the grace of God I go forward.

Nancy Wilson

This is truly a awesome article! I would like to say to it’s author, writing is your gift. Sometimes we think that our illness has stopped us from fulfilling our destiny, but I have found out that God knows best. God takes what is meant for evil and He uses it for our good. You have reach so many lives through your writing that I don’t believe you would have reached through dancing. Thank you for using your new gift to bless us.

mist

let’s not forget we are being flat out lied to

Kris Aaron

Just as we have to be careful about our anger, we must also be cautious about forgiveness. There are people and institutions that rely on being “forgiven” for intentional disrespect, maltreatment and even outright abuse.
Yes, we can and probably should forgive the short-of-patience medical staff who fail to respond sympathetically when we explain our symptoms. Should we forgive the pharmacist who refuses to fill our opiate prescription because he doesn’t approve of drug use?
We forgive our partner or spouse for an abrupt remark or dismissive comment, but how many unkind remarks and comments are too many?
A friend or family member who lets us down deserves forgiveness… once. Perhaps twice. But does forgiveness entail them to let us down over and over again? When people show you who they are, believe them. Some people, even the people we love, are incapable of returning our love or showing kindness during painful times. We can forgive them their failings, but not to the extend of relying on them again or allowing them back into our lives.
We absolutely MUST forgive our own bodies for “failing” us, even though that’s sometimes the most difficult of challenges to forgive. But should we forgive the government policy (and the politicians who support it) that denies us desperately needed services?
I’ve always suspected that the adage “turn the other cheek” was invented by the powerful to keep the weak from rising up against them. Forgiveness does NOT mean failing to hold the appropriate parties to account for their misdeeds.
If “forgive” means not holding a grudge, not giving in to bitterness, then it’s a quality to be cherished.
But if “forgiveness” means allowing callous, cruel behavior and policies to continue, then it’s as destructive as the behavior itself!

Jessica Reible

I can tell what a wonderful person you are & what a great friend you would make! I suffer from not forgiving. I’m so angry at my doctors that were so mean to me & said such abusive things to me. People who truly should not be in the medical field. I also am angry at the DEA & CDC for causing this issue with so many people. I believe, such as you, that family should be there for you. I recently had a family member come back to me & ask forgiveness. It is wonderful to have her back in my life. Another family member, has expressed that she would like to talk to me. However, the hurt runs too deep. I just do not want this person in my life anymore. She has abandoned me before (several times) & I let her back. She continues to abandon me when she feels the need. It does make my disease worse & why would I do that to myself?!

My uncle says “it is their loss that they choose not to have me in their lives…. they don’t know what a great, fun person you are!” He’s a great guy & I’m so lucky to have him!!!!

I hope I can find the strength to forgive someday…
To heal myself even more…

Your article is a eye opener at how much more work I need to do to get rid of that negativity & anger. I thank you for the reality check.

Alex

Cynthia, perhaps this will be of help. Take a little time to reexamine each of those people you are having such difficulty forgiving. Look at each person for who they are – not for how you persieved them, not at the hurt they have caused but just an honest look at who they are. You may find, as I did, that it is your perseption of that person that abandoned you. The person you thought they were, not the person they truely are.
It seems that often in life we see others close to us as we want to believe they are. Not who they really are. In going back and revisiting the feelings of great loss, anandonment and pain although painful it can be cathartic. By seeing who they really are we realize that no, they didn’t have what it takes to stick by us no matter what. No they truely aren’t who we believed they were at all. Therefore….where’s the loss? You can’t lose what was never there. Forgive them for not being who you thought they were. That should come easy now that you see the for what they are.

Cynthia what a beautiful way, an eloquent way to put down hurt. Yesterday I wasn’t so kind or beautiful when I commented on the national pain report. Like you I’ve burned all my candles down to my tears. “None” of this my dear is fair. Thank you for your heartfelt story because it was just exactly what I needed to read this morning! With many prayers and lots of love to you as well as all of my pain brothers and sisters.

Virginia

Yes, forgiveness is what love is all about Cynthia, and Jesus forgives all of us who abandon Him when He is always there beside us waiting for us to reach out and take His hands and believe in Him.
It took me a long time to believe in Him because I was hurt by those claiming to be “Christians”, until I met a couple who showed what real love is.
He, a pastor, and his wife took me off the streets into their home and nurished me back to physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Over 35+yrs ago.
January this year I came to help Mary, his wife care for him, bed ridden, Parkinson’s and dementia, can’t move, incontinent and on hospice because she had broken her arm and shoulder. 3 weeks were determined for my stay. She died two days later at 93 years old. Her 20 year old pacemaker quit working and her one kidney she had left gave out. He is 95, still alive.
If it weren’t for Jesus I couldn’t get out of bed let alone care for another due to my chronic pain issues and diseases. God is love, gives me hope for a better future which this world never will.
With God, nothing is impossible. Just sayin.

Jan Thomas

Cynthia, you are so right about forgiveness!!! It really is more for the forgiver than the forgiven. What I thought were my two best friends, dropped me like a hot potato when I just could no longer drag myself out for shopping trips or girls night out. I can’t tell you the tears I cried because at the same time my family was telling me I just needed to get out of the house and not give in to it. Well, I had pushed and dragged myself until I just could no longer do it. I am now homebound except for doctor appointments and it takes me three days to recover from one of those. My greatest stresser now is that I will go to my doctor one day and he will announce that I can no longer have my pain meds. I truely do not know how I will deal with that.

Really a beautiful essay, cynthia…..I always enjoy reading what you write. You have a knack for expressing your inner journey so that it really makes sense. . Thank you.

Jan Elgaard

I didn’t know this site was just for women.
I look forward to the day when a man has someone to understand what we’re going through.