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Living the Unspeakable Truth: A Heartfelt Letter from a Psychologist

By Dr. Lisa Arslanian

To any reader who has an aching heart, this letter is for you.

You ask, “How did I get here?” “How will I ever get out of this?” The words keep echoing through your mind, “This was never supposed to happen to me.” And yet here you are, living through a reality unimaginable and a pain unspeakable.

My work as a psychologist allows me to hear a multitude of stories that are part of our shared human experience. I spend my days at my office helping the troubled to find their way, to ease their pain, to solve unsolvable dilemmas. The unspeakable truth may belong to parents who are concerned about their son’s drug addiction, the father whose estranged daughter no longer speaks to him, the couple torn up by one partner’s infidelity, the mother who wishes escape from her abusive husband and yet feels paralyzed with fear, the widow who is lost and miserable in the aftermath of her husband’s death, the young adult who has just been given a cancer diagnosis, the deeply closeted gay man, or the mother who finds life aimless and meaningless because her children have grown up and live far away. As wholly engulfing as these nightmarish realities may be, most often we carry them in pained silence. We deem them unspeakable, be that out of fear, shame, a wish to preserve privacy, a wish to maintain an illusion of control…the reasons can be infinite.

Within the silence and solitude of your struggle, the stream of ruminations and wondering over and over again reaches its highest tide. You try your very best to trace back the steps leading up to your current dilemma. You try to think if you could have done things differently. You wrestle with your shame and guilt. You pray to a higher being to show you the way and to offer you light in your moment of darkness.

The natural currents of life breathe fluidity into our days. Even the greatest moment of pain sways with life’s offering of continuous movement, like waves of the ocean ever so gently softening past imprints on the sand and making room for new ones. The necessity to maintain work duties, family responsibilities and social pleasantries also continues despite your feeling so lost in a time of great despair. Your body aches, your shoulders feel weighed by your burdens, your heart bursts with sorrow, and yet when your co-worker asks you how you’re doing, you say, “Good. The usual…”

My purpose in writing this letter is simply to acknowledge and give kind presence to those of you suffering the most painful of human dilemmas in silence. After hearing countless stories of the human experience, I want you to know, at the very least, that you are not alone in your struggle. My grandmother would often say the Armenian proverb, “Every thing is for every one of us.” For better or for worse, we all share in the human experience. And as I like to say, “Our greatest mercy is the shared pulse of our humanity.” The very thing that makes us vulnerable to all possibilities is also the very thing that is our saving grace.

So in this moment, dear reader, I would like you to know that your pain is being carried with compassion. You may be silent, but the spirit of the human condition sees your struggle, and like a mother holding her child, lovingly wraps you in its nurturing arms and assures you that you are not alone. Could it also be, dear reader, that perhaps even our most unspeakable pains are never truly unspeakable when they find voice within wisdom and compassion, …when they ultimately reveal their natural place in the shared rhythms of life? I am humbled to have the privilege of doing work where, in the sacred space of my office, I do get to hear people’s “unspeakable” truths. And let me tell you, dear reader, there is no truth that is unspeakable. “Every thing is for every one of us.”

As printed in Nor Or newspaper.

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