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Victoriously Broken Podcast Interview: Sitting Through Your Pain

Recently, I was a guest on a new podcast: Victoriously Broken. As a relative, I have had the honor to be a small part of her journey as she has gracefully ushered in various phases of life and career. However, until last year, we did not know we share so many common pains, joys, and aspirations. I am very excited to share this podcast with you and hope that you will be blessed by this episode, as well as the other episodes revealed each Wednesday.

Click below to listen to the Victoriously Broken Podcast Season 1: Episode 5 – Sitting Through Your Pain

Transcript

Invincyble:

Hello, hello, hello. Thank you for listening to Victoriously Broken. I am your host Invincyble and this safe space was created for anyone who has been broken, to share their testimonies, to encourage, and uplift others. Today’s episode is titled Sit Through My pain, and here to talk with us today is a writer and business owner, Leslie McGraw. Welcome Leslie and thank you so much for joining us today.

Leslie:

Thank you for having me.

Invincyble:

It feels so good to finally have you on thank you so much. So, you know how sometimes in order for us to receive God’s blessings, I feel like we have to sit through our pain, right? And during my season, as you all know, of my end stage renal failure, that was when I myself started to lean more on God, because I wanted to understand and know why, right? Like, why was this happening, what was my purpose in life? Because I was like, this can’t be it, this cannot be my end. So, I took my first trip around the Bible from beginning to end and that was when I came across Joseph’s story, and I love his story. I instantly connected with his story and if you’re unfamiliar with it, I’m going to give you the cliff notes. He was sold into slavery by his brothers, then he was thrown into jail all because he wouldn’t sleep with his master’s wife. When he was in jail, he interpreted two of the prisoners dreams and when they left, he was like, hey, don’t forget about me, let them know I’m in here. And the dreams he interpreted came true and they indeed forgot about him so he was left there for a few more years. But then his time to take his rightful place ended up coming when the Pharaoh had these dreams and no one could interpret them. And so, his cup bearer, which was one of the two prisoners, remembered Joseph and what he did for him and that was when Joseph took his rightful place next to Pharaoh. And I’m just thinking, like, I can’t imagine going through all those hardships and still believing and trusting God, because that’s exactly what he did. 

Sometimes, at the first sight of trouble or pain, we get mad at God; we walk away from God, we give up on God. I know I have, but Joseph didn’t. He stayed faithful during the struggle because no matter what the situation he was facing, God was still with him. He thrived in all his storms that was sent to break him so I started thinking, Hmm, there might be a point to this, right, me not being able to walk and do my normal activities… I couldn’t see it at first and it took me some time, but the more I kept digging into God’s words, the more he revealed to me. Because I believe that when you’re being still in the moment and allowing yourself to feel the emotions and pain from situations that don’t have a quick or immediate fix, it allows us to release the trauma from our body. You Know what I mean? 

Leslie:

I absolutely do. Reflecting on being a witness to your renal failure, me thinking that you’re so young and vibrant and it seemed to come out of nowhere, and being very concerned about what would your future look like? And I’m very into miracles and I feel like my faith is pretty strong but I STILL was wondering like, what will life look like [for my cousin]? And I’m pleasantly surprised…you are just as much a mess as ever. 

Invincyble:

Yeah, nothing’s changed on that front. Nope.

Leslie:

And enjoying the added wisdom and maturity that you’ve gained through the last years too, in developing our own relationship. That makes me happy. I know that I went through my own journey. I went through a 12 year journey of connecting with my emotions in a healthy way so I’m pro-therapy. I went to my first therapy at nine years old. I was having trouble adjusting at a new school. I didn’t really connect to the therapy, I just wanted somebody to talk to here or there. But as a child, I was very sensitive, like something as simple as playing the dozens would, you know, shut me down.

Invincyble:

I never liked that kind of stuff! I was never good at it myself because there’s truth that comes out of them Dozens. Like this ain’t just playing, we ain’t playing around. You [are] telling us some truth.

Leslie:

Exactly. And if I say what I want to say, then I feel like I hurt somebody’s feelings.

Invincyble:

Yes, because then, they’d be like, you took it too far. I’d be like, hey, hey, you started it. I was never good at that game because there’s some truth that’s going to come out and you’re not going to like it. I know I’m not. 

Leslie:

So, the beginning of this change in the way that I viewed my own emotions as triggers and not as things to hold me back was the 09/11 twin towers attack. I was in my early twenties and just started very recently, my adult job, like a full time gig… living the adult life, the real adult life, as they say. When I saw that it crushed me, but what was different about other trauma and other painful events that had happened in my past, it seemed very corporate. Like everybody felt that pain; my coworkers were grieving, I had two good friends that had loved ones in the towers, and for about two days, and depending on where they were, sometimes three, there was no cell phone correspondence. So, a lot of people that had loved ones in the towers, didn’t know. If they didn’t have a way to get to anyone, you wouldn’t know if your loved one was killed, hurt, alive, anything for up to two, sometimes three days. 

And so, in both instances, the family members of these two friends were found alive and they were okay and is still alive for that matter. But for two days, they wouldn’t know and so I got really attached to this situation, even though I didn’t have a personal friend there or personal family member. I was just watching the news constantly and I was wondering, why am I so taken and so wrapped up in this? And it started to bring [up] some of my own hurts and pains and I said, “ah, I get it… because this is the first time it feels like it’s been sanctioned for me to be in pain, that it’s okay to cry.”

I could literally go to my boss and say, I’m having a hard day and I need to leave a couple of hours early because that was one of the things that my job did, because they knew so many people were hurting. People were able to take mental health hours. I started journaling about how I was feeling. What I realized was my early journals, like as a child and young adult…were more like an account of events. This happened, that happened, this happened, that happened, or I’m sad. But this was a little bit deeper and I allowed myself to have whatever emotion came up or whatever thing was happening in my body. 

Invincyble:

Say that again. I don’t think they heard you. Say that part again.

Leslie:

So, I began… and I said began because it wasn’t immediate or it didn’t happen overnight but I began…to allow myself to feel whatever was happening inside. So, if I felt hurt, I allowed myself to feel hurt. I didn’t have to lash out behind that hurt or go tell the person I was hurt, but I allowed myself to feel that hurt. If I had pain, you know, I was taught to shake it off. You know, coming up, I was groomed to shake it off and keep moving….And so, as an adult at this point, I started to say, you know, I’m feeling pain in my stomach and I would describe it and I just thought about something too; Part of that journaling and thinking and being conscious about what exactly I was feeling actually helped me health wise too because when I went to my doctor, I just didn’t tell the person about what was acutely happening, but like, I’ve been having frequent stomach aches. I’ve been having this and that, and –

Invincyble:

Yes, you were releasing the trauma from your body. That is huge. That’s one thing I’m learning from my therapist. There’s different stages of this, you know. So, yes, share that; let that go.

Leslie:

And it hasn’t been linear. It hasn’t been like, oh, in 2002, I was 10% better and I’m at 100%. No, it’s been times that I’ve regressed. So, about six years ago, I was in that place again where I just had so much going on that I felt like I don’t have time for emotions, if I don’t feel good, I just gotta push through, if somebody asked me how you doing? I’d say great no matter what was going on, I’m great or into the cliche that sometimes come out of the black church, blessed and highly favored. [both laugh]

Invincyble:

[I think this] stems from, people just ask because we’re robots at times. You really don’t care how I’m doing, because let me respond with, I feel like crap and you’re going to be like okay, I hope you feel better. Again, you really don’t care how I’m doing, it’s just robots.

Leslie:

So, when I started saying I’m feeling like this, and I [don’t] mean that I had to take them all the way through my whole childhood and stuff, but I started being more intentional. If someone said, how are you doing? I’ll say not too bad or something my grandmother would say, I’m pretty fair for a square. [both laugh] Fair to Midland.

Invincyble:

Yes, Fair to Midland. That’s the one I hear all the time. 

Leslie:

So, I’ll just say something like that so you know it’s not the best, but I’m okay. And also, I started reading about – I don’t know, I think it was after Robin Williams passed away, I started reading about all these people that had committed suicide and having very hyper positive interactions before they committed suicide. 

Invincyble:

What???

Leslie:

Yes. So, if you had talked with Robin Williams before he died, he seemed better than ever because it’s almost like they mask their pain. So, this is why I think it’s like super unhealthy to mask your pain.

Invincyble:

Yeah. And I also feel like he was accepting because from my own experience about suicide; suicide isn’t a thought that just happens and you do it. It’s a thought that is lingering for so long, it is a thought that is with you on constant, it is a battle thought every single day. So, I feel like when you get to that point, you’re almost like accepting, I’m ready, my thoughts finally won. I’m ready.

Leslie:

Yeah. So, sitting with your pain, it’s not fun. It’s like it’s its own pain.

Invincyble:

Girl, yes.

Leslie:

You know, like if I was to walk right out here into the park and I saw someone that I considered a friend and they came up and kicked me…There would be the physical pain, but there will also be the pain of betrayal from a friend, which is its own pain. And so, I think that part of the nuance of it all is that, you kind of accepting the pain feels like you’re saying it’s okay but now I’m getting to the understanding it doesn’t mean that you accept the pain, it doesn’t mean that you accept what happened to you, it doesn’t mean that you accept the behavior.

Invincyble:

Yes, it’s acknowledging it. 

Leslie:

Yes. 

Invincyble:

And knowing it’s okay to feel exactly however that situation made you feel. Don’t let anyone ever tell you how you should feel or how you should react. I hate when people tell me that. No, no, and no. It is okay for me to feel how I feel and I also feel like we shouldn’t look for other people to validate our feelings.

Leslie:

Amen. That’s it. 

Invincyble:

You know what I mean? Like this is how I feel and it’s okay.

Leslie:

I really want to piggyback on that, when you say waiting for other people to validate your pain, I think we’re in a place of, especially in the wake of COVID and the George Floyd awakening that happened for a lot of this country is we’re in this place of trauma porn where you can’t just say, I’m hurting. They want to know how you’re hurting, how bad it was, who did it to you? Like, they want to know all the details so they can validate like, oh, that really was bad. You really should feel sad. 

Invincyble:

Yes because, oh, if that was me, I would feel the same way. So yeah, you’re right to feel that way. 

Leslie:

Exactly. And so, people are spewing more and more of what led them to their depression or what led them to feel sad. And there is some merit to that because there’s affinity and people find community but I think as an empath, I’ve learned to not need that from people and so I learned to show empathy toward others long before I learned to show empathy for myself.

Invincyble:

Okay. So, when you say you learned, how was that something that you learned or how is that something you taught yourself to do?

Leslie:

Well, first of all, from the people that nurtured me. So, the people that I look up to. So, I have an aunt, my dad’s sister, when I was a little girl, her neighbor’s son, I should say he was a young adult, had been having a lot of mental health issues and a lot of drug issues and he was out of control and they tried to get help and we just had no help. And her daughter was saying, I want to move mommy, but she didn’t know what to do and she – you know, a lot of people don’t know about mental illness. Anyways, it’s not just mental illness. There’s some other things going on, when you add the drugs and you add hallucinogens and all of that because I don’t want to add to mental health stigma at all. So, he came over while she was out and killed three or her four children. 

Invincyble:

What? Hold on what? 

Leslie:

Yeah. So, the one that wasn’t killed, my cousin, he actually was only saved because he stopped and was so shocked and hid under the bed. 

Invincyble:

So, no one was home, just the kids were home?

Leslie:

Well, the oldest child was 14. 

Invincyble:

Oh, my Lord. 

Leslie:

Which is more than an old enough to watch younger siblings. So, this might be taking us too far off course but – So, I watched how she handled that situation and I wasn’t asking her a questions, I couldn’t even talk about it. I heard a conversation between her and my mom on the phone; eavesdropping, you know, ear hustling. Later, I’ve spoken with her and she is an example of somebody – I saw her hurting so much and still have an empathy because she reached out to her neighbors, the parents of this person who had become an inhumane because she recognized that although she lost her children, they lost their only child too. 

Invincyble:

Oh, wow. That is true and I would have never thought about that. I would have been too stuck in my own pain and my own hurt because of my own children, not thinking about the other person, and that is amazing.

Leslie:

I mean, not like they’re friends, but she had enough empathy to reach out and to just give them love and a word of encouragement.

Invincyble:

Oh, that is beautiful and amazing. Her spirit is just beautiful, wow.

Leslie:

But you know, this has now been probably 34, 35 years ago and it’s still painful for her.

Invincyble:

It’s always going to be painful. 

Leslie:

Yeah, as recently as two months ago, she and I had a long conversation about all of the events around that. And I’m gonna tell you what, she’s not a solemn person, she’s not a sad person. Most people, if you were to meet her and you guys spent the weekend together, you would never know she had lost three children. And so that is, as they say, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. I was feeling caught recently because there are a couple of things in my life that are like huge weights on my life and causing a lot of pain but then there’s all these good things going on and things are really going well with my business, things are going well with my family, I’m feeling a weight of depression lifting off of me. It feels inauthentic to say I’m doing well if there’s still this pain or somebody very, very close to me is still really in trauma right now.

Invincyble:

And you feel bad for having all this good stuff going on while somebody else is suffering. Oh yes, I can vouch for that because that recently happened to me. 

Leslie:

See?! and I feel like those years of sitting in my pain… allowing myself to feel pain, now I can really receive and openly experienced joy in a different way too. 

Invincyble:

Yes, that’s very, very important. So, Leslie, I want to thank you so, so much for joining us today. It means a lot to me that you stepped in and shared your story and your testimony and how God has been working through your life and the words of the great poet Abyss, “This life isn’t for me, it’s for you. God gave me gray skies so yours can be blue.” And if you would like to share your story, your testimony, please feel free to email me at victoriouslybroken@gmail.com. Until next time, peace and blessings.

Copyright @2021 Victoriously Broken and Tru Story Success. All rights reserved. Email us for further clarity on any print or digital distribution, outside of the links.

www.victoriouslybroken.com

www.lesliemcgraw.com

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