How to Face Regain and Re-find Your Joy


When he was five, my son Barrett got a splinter in his foot. He’d been out playing on our deck, barefoot, when it happened. As he hopped in to tell me, I could see his eyes were tearing up and he was smarting from the pain.

I folded him into my arms and firmly held him. “Let’s have a look at it and see what we need to do.”

“Ok,” he whimpered.

The splinter was near his heel and a little awkward to reach, so he laid on his stomach and I examined the situation. “Wait here. I need to get the tweezers.”

That’s when the full-on sobbing started. Having retrieved the tweezers from the bathroom cabinet, I hurried back to Barrett. But the closer I got, the louder he sobbed. When I sat down and reached for his foot, before I even touched him, he screamed, “Owwwwwwwww!”

He pulled away, and then hopped down the hall toward his bedroom.

How do you react to splinters?

While we scream less as we get older, no one enjoys getting a splinter. At a minimum it’s annoying and uncomfortable. At worst, it’s horribly painful and very upsetting. Even when there is a threat of infection, some people will do everything they can to avoid the pain of addressing the problem. They avoid the help they need – that is, until the pain becomes so great they have no other choice.

Interestingly, people can react to emotional pain similarly. If we are hurting, and someone offers to help us, even the help can cause us some pain.

So, we hop away. No one likes to suffer.

But for the most part, one thing adults know much better than children is that under the right circumstances, it’s worth some discomfort to get the help we need to overcome our problem. Sometimes the help we need is significant, like when I checked myself into rehab at age 24 and got sober.

Now THAT was painful. At the time, my mentor encouraged me to “run toward the pain.” She encouraged me to get support and move through my pain – because, she insisted, the only way out was through. She said the only way to get to the joy, was to be with myself through the pain.

Years later, when I experienced bariatric-surgery regain after an unexpected medical trauma, I knew through experience that facing my pain would help me overcome that challenge.

After trying to deal with the regain – alone and in shame – and failing, I reached out to a bariatric colleague, and she supported me as I faced the huge challenge my weight regain presented.

Looking back, if Barrett’s splinter hadn’t hurt badly, he might have ignored it until infection set in. Then, he would have been in more pain, and the splinter removal would have been a much bigger ordeal for him.

If I hadn’t faced the pain of my regain, and the underlying causes, I would not have overcome it. I ran toward the pain, and moving through it, I found my joy again.

Regain is extremely stressful.

Regain causes a lot of pain, both emotional and physical. That pain is so uncomfortable we feel an urgent need to do something.

What we may not realize is that the healing will also be uncomfortable, if not horribly painful. And even discomfort can make us want to hop away.

When you ask for help, once you get into it you realize the resolution will involve tweezers, and it will hurt even more to take the emotional splinter out.

The way I see it, when you get into that kind of dilemma, you have two options:

Leave the splinter in your foot. This option is guaranteed to be painful and will limit your ability to enjoy your life. You also are nearly guaranteed to get an infection, which will only bring more misery.

Remove the splinter. For a small splinter, you might just be able to do the job yourself, or perhaps you just need moral support. But if the splinter is deeper or in a more difficult-to-reach place, you will need real help.

Ultimately, you will need to accept you have no choice if you want to get rid of the pain. You must take a leap of faith and trust the process.

It’s not uncommon for regain to take a person by surprise. Many women who regain feel shocked, disappointed, and very stressed out.

Their natural reaction is to try to pull the splinter out themselves. But after a few attempts, they may decide it’s too painful to remove, and give up.

But please don’t give up.

When you give up, or go into denial, you will become more distraught, be in more pain, and lose sight of your joy. Your regain, if it’s bringing you pain, will lessen the joy in your life.

Your best option is to “run toward the pain” of healing. With some compassionate support, you can choose to move through the pain that leads to joy.

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