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The Path of Pain

As a new school semester begins, I find myself reflecting on my college years. I chose to attend Quincy College, which was hours from my home in Chicago. This new landscape presented endless opportunities and the ability to reinvent myself. But there was some baggage that I did not pack but still that followed me to college–my chronic pain. I had wished it would stay behind. But in this new place I consciously realized that no one had to know whether I packed the chronic pain with me or not. I was free to deny its existence and pretend to be pain free. Who would it hurt?

I paid a stiff price for my silence. I mindlessly volunteered for events like, “Walk to End Hunger” that inflicted excruciating pain. I will never forget peeling off my shoes from my blood-blistered feet. I never envisioned anything beneficial coming from the experience.

But as the current students return to my alma mater and walk into Brenner Library, they will be greeted by a featured book. My dear roommate, Nancy Knoche Crow, arranged a display with the book I just authored, Silent Courage. The hunger walk is one of the stories that I share in the book reflecting on suffering because I refused to own my pain. Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 11.47.36 AM

Nancy and I and our husbands got together recently to catch up on the paths our lives have taken since our years at Quincy:

The college is now a University.

Nancy is now their Associate Librarian.

My book is now part of the Library collection.

And I am offering workshops to teach others the healing benefits of connecting with a personal story.

Breaking my silence has made all the difference for me. It is scary to consider what I would be missing and the gifts I would have denied myself if I had continued to deny my pain. I challenge you to name and claim what you fear because denying that part closes you off from the wisdom it may have to offer.

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About Mary Byrne Eigel

Before writing children’s books, Mary spent many years teaching in classrooms and creating art in her studio. She was born with bi-lateral hip dysplasia, a painful condition that causes normal activities, like walking, to be challenging. As a child, when Mary had to trek long distances, she often wished she had a wheelchair. For her, a wheelchair offered pain-free opportunities, not limitations. Mary grew up in Chicago, which is the lakefront inspiration for the town of Sail. She lives in Missouri with her husband and two dogs, Beaux and Trey.

2 responses »

  1. Awesome! Another circle in the path. I remember you being so in awe telling a story about flat mates or dorm sisters holding there hands in extremely hot water to deal with bad menstrual cramps( new pain blocking present pain). Not knowing you were dealing with pain at that time, I did not realize that this may have been an observation that would have been important to you in dealing with your own pain!?! Nancy looks great!

  2. Mary Byrne Eigel

    Margot, good memory. Communicating and managing pain is such an issue. Hopefully we can continue to improve both areas.

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