2018-05-10 / Voices

Letting Go of Pain

By Oi Zephier
LCT Columnist

When we experience pain in life we tend to hang onto it as a reminder of the lessons we learned from it. In my experience, doing this has been nothing but harmful to me. I served as a combat medic for the Army in the furthest forward surgical hospital in the combat zone. All I did was help people, them and us. I bandaged gunshot wounds. I carried blown up, burnt up, and shot up men, women, and children. I held unattached appendages of soldiers. I prayed over the deceased, ours or theirs. Some called them “the enemy.” I looked at them as human. I prepared them for burial per the guidance of one of our local Afghan doctors. I even provided medical care to the enemy. I touched them. In our culture, they call this counting coup. I guess you can say I’ve done that too.

During my time as a combat medic in Afghanistan, I took a lot of pictures. I probably had 200 or 300 photos of dismembered people. Some lived. Some died. Fortunately, I lost the CD that I saved them on. I’m not exactly sure what I was going to do with these photos but I had a tough time letting those go that I did have. I realized I was hanging onto the memory of those times in my life because of the lessons I learned. I learned to be thankful for my life. I was blessed to still be alive. I was afraid that if the pictures were gone the lessons would be gone too - but I had to let go if I wanted to heal from the trauma. I had to let the memory sink into the subconscious of my mind.

Letting go of pain is something we all have trouble doing. You see it in our people when something happens to a takoja that reminds an adult of what occurred to them as a child. In response, they lash out at everyone and everything to seek justice, only creating more trauma for other people. Sometimes it’s justified. Sometimes it’s not. I learned from my uncles an ideology as a young man that warriors don’t seek revenge. They are level-headed, calm and collected.

When we let go of the pain in our lives and seek healing we stop the cycle of trauma that creates more pain. It opens up the mind for clearer thinking and the positive progressions of life. When we heal ourselves, only then do we begin to heal the children and our society. First, the trick is to recognize we have pain inside of us that needs to be healed. The sooner you do this the better off our people will be.

I’m not saying forget or forgive. You can remember the lessons we learn from our experiences in life. Life’s a sacred balance. The one thing that we all need to stay alive, water can do harm to us. If we drink too much we can suffer what in the medical world is called hyponatremia. It’s the flushing out of nutrients in the body which allow our body to function properly. You can die from it - so even with something that we need to remain living we have to balance. Such are the secrets to life, finding balance.

Our ancient ceremonies did this for us. Listen to those teachings for guidance on how to keep going. You can do it. Remember, you are not weak because you ask for help. You are strong because you ask for help. Let go of your pain.

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