Day 1371: No shame in feeling pain

I have no shame in letting my readers know that because of many painful hospital experiences I had when I was a child, I automatically feel shame when I experience physical pain.

And I’m feeling some physical pain now, as I recover from my recent open heart surgery. Pain is bad enough, but shame on top of that pain is really too much.

Today, before I starting writing this no-shame-in-feeling-pain post, I spent some time actively  letting go of a particularly traumatic experience of being shamed when I was in pain after my first heart surgery at age 10.

Without shame, I mentally sent a message out into the universe towards a Dr. Hyatt who, 53 years ago, reacted to my excruciating post-surgical pain by calling me a liar and a spoiled brat, accusing me of putting other children in danger because of my selfishness, and then leaving me alone in my hospital room, in pain and shame.

Here was the message I just sent, in my mind, to Dr. Hyatt:

Hello, Dr Hyatt.  It’s Ann Koplow, whom you met at Children’s Hospital in Boston 53 years ago. I had just had heart surgery and was trying to let you know that I was in a lot of pain.  You were impatient and dismissive with me, told me I was lying about my pain, was a spoiled brat, and that I was putting other children in danger by distracting you from their more important needs.  Instead of validating and ministering to my pain, you left me alone in my hospital room.

You were wrong.  You did the exact opposite of what a doctor or any healer should do.  Since you did that so long ago in November 1963, I have felt shame whenever I feel pain. Also, I resist reaching out to others who might be able to help ease my pain, for fear that they will react the way you did.

I’m not sure why you did what you did that day.  Maybe you were overworked, overwhelmed by the Kennedy assassination, inexperienced, scared, angry, and/or becoming aware that this was not the work for you. It doesn’t matter why you did it.  I need to tell you that you did a lot of damage to me that day, which has continued to haunt me ever since.

Until tonight.

Tonight, I am giving notice that your influence in my life is over.  You have hurt me enough.  I will never feel shame about pain again. There is no shame in feeling pain.

And, my pain and my shame both went away.

I wonder if any of my photos from yesterday will fit the no pain/no shame theme of this post?
















It pains me to see that only one of those photos seems to relate to the content of this blog post:


However, I feel absolutely no shame about that pain.

It is no pain, here and now, to share  a selection from my CD of 100 best classics:

Happy autumn, everybody!  I wish us all a season of no pain AND no shame.

Thanks to all who helped me create this shameless, painless post and to you — of course! — for reading it.

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , | 57 Comments

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57 thoughts on “Day 1371: No shame in feeling pain

  1. What a shame Dr Hyatt was an insensitive bully. A good letter. Let’s hope he’s reading it

  2. Good for you! Of course there is no shame in pain. It informs us of danger oftentimes, healing in better circumstances. It is felt and real. What a terrible thing for a doctor to tell a patient! You are more understanding of him than he certainly was of you, but you finally came out on top.

    • This comment is the tops, as far as I’m concerned. Many, many thanks. ❤

      • Thanks! I wonder how many children that doctor caused needless suffering, physical and psychological. What a miserable human being, if that was his MO.

  3. Can’t begin to imagine what it would have felt like. You’ve come such a long way.

  4. Happy Autumn! My husband is learning to play Vivaldi’s Four Seasons on the violin- I will have to see if he is up to Autumn! I am glad you have banished the shame -pain is enough to deal with without adding in the emotion of shame. I hope you are finding fun with those socks and Oscar Take care my friend ❤

  5. Is he still alive? After a couple of my recent operations, I was screaming with pain once the anaesthetic wore off, and they gave me morphine. They refused though to write an ‘M’ on my head and put me in a helicopter.

    • I have no idea if he is alive and it’s a shame that you recently felt so much pain. Your visits always give me comfort. ❤

  6. you have come so far and can’t imagine what that must have felt like –

  7. 😦 that made me so sad. But then I let go of that sad with the letter you wrote. Good on you Ann. Good on you. And the shame, is all his. Every bit of it.

  8. Good for you for mentally scolding that mean Dr. I had a similar experience when I was 4, waiting for a tonsillectomy. I applaud all the good work and preparation many hospitals and clinics now provide to the patient. It was a shame Dr. Hyatt caused you pain and you should be proud of yourself for dealing with it now. Kick it to the curb. It’s done. Happier days ahead!

    • Happier days ahead for both of us! Many thanks for this very supportive comment and I am so sorry you had a similar experience when you were so young. ❤

  9. Dr.Hyatt left a terrible scar, almost as though he left his scissors inside you. But you allowed yourself to be opened up again and asked your doctors to replace Dr. Hyatt’s scissors with jazz. And they kindly did.

    I learn a lot from you, Ann, although I don’t feel as able as you seem to be at advocating for myself. Thank you for showing that we can take some control.

    Do you think that shame is more likely to seep up like a sewer gas when people are also feeling anxious, stressed or ill? I find them linked. The bad stuff off-gases until it is sweet again.

    • It’s difficult to advocate for oneself, Maureen, in a system where the patient role is inherently deprived of power and control. And I do think that shame is much more likely to appear when we are most vulnerable.

      I, like you, also pick up messages from our society about the value of stoicism; I just choose to ignore them.

  10. I think our society places a high value on stoicism.This shows up in movies and books and all the tributes in obituaries to people who fought cancer bravely.

    However, the people who value stoicism are not the ones actually feeling pain.

  11. As adults we’re often made to feel ashamed of clinging to childish things. We’re pressured to see through a glass darkly. In your experience you were confronted with adulthood and its pressures as a child.
    I’m glad you’re letting go of the shame that you feel with pain, but also glad you don’t feel any shame in enjoying childish things.

  12. Eleanor

    This was difficult to read about how horribly you were treated as a child, in pain, and in a hospital.
    My wish for you Ann is that all the days and years ahead you are greeted and treated with kindness in all your encounters.

  13. It was time. Great letter Ann! Welcome to a lighter freer experience of life without shame. Remember to take those meds 💕

  14. Wow. 53 years ago heart surgery wasn’t as common. I bet you were scared as well as in pain. The doctor was a fool. Odds are he’s not around anymore…and we can only hope his doctors treated him with more respect than he did his own patients. And I bet, wherever he is now, he’s heard your message.

    I have to say, though, the socks might be something to feel SOME shame over. Maybe. 🙂

    • I felt so much shame about those socks that after I took a photo of them, I took them off immediately! And I really appreciate hearing your message today. ❤

  15. Ann, I wish I could walk into that room in 1963 as the doctor left and hug that 10 year old little girl. ❤
    Diana xo

  16. Salcola

    I am so sorry to learn that you had this awful experience when you were young. One of my daughters is a pediatric intensive care nurse, and I like to think that this sort of thing would no longer happen. Sally

    Sent from my iPhone


    • I think it is much less likely to happen now, although one of my nurses at the Mayo told me a story how an “old school” doctor was recently telling a resident that children do not feel pain like adults do. That nurse was so outraged, she told the doctor to get out. Thank you for your caring comment.

  17. You have the right not to feel shame when hurting, but you also have the right to get help Ann, and it’s so normal that you hurt. Please rest. Get some fresh air, but around the house. Are you fatigued????

    Where you eligible for Home Care? If the doctor approves, get OT services just so that you gain confidence with your ADL’s (with all the pain, it could help). Proper ergonomic & energy conservation techniques could help you. The socks are nice, but you can trip over them (being honest).

    • Don’t worry about me, Maria. I am doing very well. I don’t need Home Care. My recovery is going beautifully. The socks are no-skid on the bottom, but I took them off after I took that photo. My ADL’s are great. You would be amazed! Thanks for caring.

  18. What happened Harley?

  19. No child should have to experience a doctor like that! Glad you are in better hands.

  20. My mum who is 76 has started to really feel terrible she is in pain 24/7 nothing new there but the last month she has had so much pain in her knees that she can barely walk and the pain is so bad she often just wants to cry, she has started using a walking stick which she said helps but she is over the pain and wants it gone

  21. Oh dear Anne you have no idea how badly I really want to take you in my arms and just hold you. I’ve had some terrible experiences with doctors but your story beats all of mine. I am so sorry your little girl was treated so badly. ❤

  22. I’m so proud of you.

  23. What a great way to release all that shame and suffering he inflicted on you. Writing is so cathartic.

    I truly hate it when doctors have the attitude that you don’t know what hurts. I had minor surgery in 2008. But it ended up being more painful than the big ones, and the surgeon was also a jerk. What does it cost to be nice?

  24. Pingback: Day 1649: Forgiveness | The Year(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally

  25. Pingback: Day 1863: Pain | The Year(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally

  26. Pingback: Day 1936: Confused | The Year(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally

  27. Hi, always i used to check blog posts here in the early hours in the morning,
    since i love to learn more and more.

  28. Pingback: Day 2595: Other people’s pain | The Year(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally

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