My name is Shoulder. I know it is a strange name. I thought so too, especially when the kids at school teased me. I would come home crying and ask my mother why did she give me that name. She would reply, “I just liked the sound of it and I had to shoulder a lot of things when I was pregnant with you.” Of course that explanation did not help to ease the pain the next day when the kids at school teased me. Little did I know that the name “Shoulder” would be appropriate and come to symbolize my existence.
The act of shouldering everything happening to me began when I was twelve. I started fearing the dark and being alone at home. When the dark came and I was alone at home, my stepfather would do unspeakable things to me. He began to force his body on me. I couldn’t tell anyone and my shouldering journey began. He made me feel it was my fault and me not knowing any better I shouldered the blame. I couldn’t go to my mother. I mean he was providing for us. I couldn’t tell any of my friends because they were still playing with dolls or acting like tomboys. I shouldered all of this until I was fourteen. At fourteen, I became pregnant for him. I still shouldered his shame even though I didn’t understand what was happening to my body. I still did not tell anyone who was the father of my baby. I was called every name by my family, except the child of God that I was, because of course for these good church people, a child of God would not be pregnant at fourteen. But, as the good shoulderer I was, I shouldered on by continuing the secret. I became an adult. I got married and had three more children, two girls and a boy. I was still shouldering the pain. I ended up divorcing my husband. Later, I found another man who loved me. He loved not only me, but my children also.
Twenty years later, I couldn’t shoulder on anymore. Fortunately, I live in a state that allowed me to go after my stepfather even though my child was an adult. I took him to court for child support. He and my mother asked for a paternity test. The family that I was born into ostracized me totally. What was so painful for me, all of my daughters including the child I had had with my stepfather turned their backs on me. They championed the goodness of my stepfather over the love I had given them. By this time there was a thing called social media. I was not only banished and shunned from my family physically, but also on social media for the whole world to see. Throughout, all of this my stepfather was protected and his character lionized by the family I was born into and the child I brought into this world. All I had was my husband and son, but I shouldered on.
One day, I called a childhood friend. I told her everything. She listened. It eased some of the pain I had been shouldering all of those years. Before we ended our conversation, I said, “Sister, I think if I died no one would miss me. No one would know I was gone.” She said, “That’s not true. I would miss you.” A year later, the state sent the child support check back to my stepfather. He called the state and asked why. The state just told him, the recipient of the check was deceased. The daughter I had with him called my husband and asked why. My husband told him, “She killed herself a year ago. Her son came home one day from school and found her dead. She had taken a bottle of pills.” You see, I had to end my life. I couldn’t shoulder it anymore.
Shoulder died because of pain and secrets. I wonder if we treated mental and psychological pain the way we treat physical pain would Shoulder still be alive? If our society rushed to the doctor’s office or the emergency room for mental and psychological pain, the way we do for physical pain, the stigma would end. Maybe, Shoulder would have felt free to seek the healing that comes from mental health professionals. In Mark 2:4, there is a beautiful picture of a community carrying an ill person to Jesus for help. We can do that by accepting that our loved ones in pain feel free to seek help. Unbearable mental and psychological pain is one of the causes of suicide. It is okay to seek the help and stop the pain by contacting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/. God can heal through mental health professionals.
 This is a true story, but the name has been changed.