• Paige Washko

Living With The Elephant

We all have an elephant. One that sits its fat grey butt down in our lives and takes up all our breathing space. Mine is pain.


Pain that comes from living with a debilitating and unpredictable medical conduction that has eluded doctors for all 22, nearly 23 years I have been alive. Pain that acts like an alarm clock, waking me up from my horribly confusing stress dreams -- also caused by pain -- back into a world where nearly every hour is touched with a twinge of the strong stuff.


Most of the time I ignore my elephant. I pretend it does not exist. I even act like my room is spacious enough for me to take on other peoples baggage and problems. I base my worth as a person not on my skills, for I am highly capable and very confident in my ability to perform most tasks, but rather on my ability to be reliable and flexible. On my ability to be there for anyone who needs me.


but some times my elephant seems to block the door with its lumbering hugeness, the very door I sought to walk out of to attend to some need, and I am suddenly forced to acknowledge it.


And it's not pretty.


I am a very high anxiety, defeatist kind of person. I wasn't always this way, but I am now. I like to blame my elephant, for its lumbering presence and unpredictable nature, but I also realize at the same time that blaming this elephant for my problems doesn't help to solve any of the problems I face or lessen my anxieties. In the moment of facing my elephant, though, I often fight it because of my own fears. Rather than acknowledge its existence, I push and scream at it. I cry and beg and plead for someone to take my elephant away. I barter with anything and anyone who will listen to please, please just take this elephant off my hands.


I often feel that If this elephant would just leave or just move out of my way I could be so much more successful, so much more reliable, so much happier. I've gone through the stages of grief with my elephant many many times, circling through the shock and denial, anger and depression, bartering. I've spent a lot of time weighing out what I would be willing to sacrifice in exchange.


I think of myself as a very book-smart and creative person. I identify as an artist. I have always created. But to get rid of my elephant? Some days I'd be willing to sacrifice it all, even the parts of me that define Paige Washko, in my desperation to rid myself of this elephant.


I even hit the positive aspects of grief like reconstruction, working through the pain, and acknowledging it. Some times I look at my elephant, acknowledge its huge lumbering presence and say "okay, let's do something about you. let's take care of you" like my pain is some troubled child forced into my life who can't help but place undue stress onto me.


but the crazy thing is, no matter what stage I'm at, my elephant is still there. Still big, and lumbering, and grey and distracting and unpredictable. No matter how much attention I throw at it, or how much I neglect it, my elephant still exists.


I don't talk about my Elephant nearly as much as I should. I pretend my elephant doesn't exist rather than just admitting to having this huge lumbering elephant to care for. And then I grow resentful of the world that treats me like a normal 22 year old with no elephant to bear.


But to talk about your elephant seems so vulnerable, unpredictable, and scary. What if the person you're confiding in has no elephant? what if they can't relate? what if their elephant is just a mouse and they don't believe that your elephant is so big and lumbering and grey and unpredictable?


I get so angry. And in the spiral of emotion and stress I want someone to blame someone or something, and I want that someone or something to be the scape goat for all my emotional pain.


I could blame society for raising me to believe that I should never burden anyone else with my problems for the fear that they could be going through their own, for the fear that my vulnerabilities could be used against me, for the fear that I will be excluded from opportunities because of this lumbering elephant I must care for.


I could blame my elephant, for being so big and lumbering and overbearing.


I could blame myself, for not being strong enough to manage my elephant and every other need in my life.


But what good does blame do?


My husband was the first person to suggest to me that blame was simply an easy way out of responsibility, and when he first proposed it I instantly felt defensive. How could I be responsible for my own pain? What had I done to deserve it?


Nothing.


But that didn't make the reality of my pain any different.


As clichéd as it sounds, life is not fair. And as I write this and my stomach aches, I hear that truth and it rings loudly in my head. I could do everything right, and still be in pain right now. I could do everything wrong and still be in pain right now.


And as much as I don't want to deal with my elephant, I don't have much choice. It is my only responsibility that no one else can even begin to understand or manage. I am the only one who can deal with my elephant, and I must do so when my elephant calls.


When I neglect my elephant, I am in pain, when I try to push my elephant onto someone else, they are in pain.


Thats reality.


And no amount of wishing, begging, or pleading is going to change that, or make my elephant disappear.


This is my elephant, and whether I like it or not, my elephant isn't going anywhere, and it's my responsibility to take care of it.


My elephant, as big and grey and lumbering and unpredictable as it may be, is a part of me.


So I think its time to stop punishing myself for having this elephant, and start acknowledging how hard I work to keep my life going around its huge, lumbering, grey, unpredictable body.


its time to start letting others know that my elephant exists.


and its time to star valuing myself based off the simple fact that I exist and I'm worth value, rather than on how well I hide my elephant for the sake of other.

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