Life hurts sometimes.

I was lying in bed the other night trying to fall asleep. My heart was heavy. No matter how much I tossed and turned, I couldn’t shake the proverbial bricks that had somehow amassed atop my chest and were suffocating me. My heart was breaking. The distractions of my busy day had been stripped away and I was finally forced to confront my feelings. I couldn’t think; I just wanted the hurt to go away.

All my life, I’ve worked to push away hurt, ignore hurt, or out-think hurt. Rather than feel hurt, I think optimistically. I distract myself. I count my blessings. I reason that the rest of the world is suffering far more than me, so how dare I hurt so deeply? But no matter how hard I tried on that sleepless night, I couldn’t comfort my soul or reason away the pain. And that’s when I had my midnight eureka moment: it’s okay to hurt.

While I really don’t believe in complaining about a problem without presenting a solution, today I will break my rule. I’m not going to give you a “How to Deal with Emotional Hurt” checklist or tell you that things always get better with time. I’m not going to tell you to take a walk in the woods, listen to happy music, meditate, or spend time with people you love. I’m not going to tell you to think optimistically, count your blessings, or distract yourself with other activities. Instead, my only words of wisdom are these: It’s okay to hurt.

We live in an extremely pain-averse society. We do drugs, sleep around, have “rebound” relationships, waste time on technology, and succumb to addictions to avoid confronting our feelings. We have this notion that pain is a sign of weakness and hurt is a liability. We make bad long-term decisions to avoid short-term suffering. Obviously, no one likes emotional hurt, but masking the pain only prolongs the problem. Rather than dwelling on the hurt, reasoning with the hurt, pretending the hurt doesn’t exist, or being afraid or ashamed of the hurt, accept that the hurt exists and realize there is likely nothing you can do about it. Yeah, I know it sucks. A lot. But it’s okay to hurt.

When my battle with an eating disorder began, I used food to mask my hurt. Whether it was the restriction and desire for control, or the endorphin-inducing binges, my eating habits were my comfort. Food and/or dieting somehow reduced the hurt and numbed the pain.

Unfortunately, any method used to avoid dealing with feelings will only exacerbate the problem in the long run. No matter how hard we try to run from our hurt, it will follow us…always. Only by accepting the hurt will we be able to begin to recover.

Accepting the hurt didn’t really do anything to alleviate my heartache the other night, but it did ease my mind and give me a sense of peace. Reasoning away pain and overthinking hurt is exhausting (and usually impossible).

Life hurts sometimes, but that’s okay.