One of the hardest parts of being mentally ill was realizing the reason I was so sad all the time was because I did not have the appropriate set of skills to maneuver the hard emotional hits of life. Both big and small. You assume, as a child, you are either just broken or doing it wrong. And I was. Both. But it was not my fault.
I was that girl that always laughed way too loud. Cried a little too much. And always at the wrong time. And it was more awkward for me then it was for everyone else. Believe me. It led to immense self-loathing.
It took over three decades for me to receive a diagnosis and appropriate medication and therapy. I am still in therapy. Probably will be for the rest of my life. But one of the best things I learned to do through intensive counseling was to face my inability to deal with tragedy and pain.
A very hard, yet necessary part of life. When we do not allow ourselves to process our emotions when things in the world are out our control, something inside of us breaks a little. Dies. Causes us to become just a little bit worse. And the consequences can be just as horrifying as the initial loss. Whether immediate or later down the road, those unaddressed emotions become demons.
This is why so many people, both mentally ill or otherwise, turn to different forms of addiction. Or fear. Or just being loud and opinionated. But what does it achieve?
It’s why I resorted to pills and alcohol. And it took years of excruciating work to get through all my pain. To appropriately grieve things that happened to me when I was as young as five. And the farther I got, the better I felt. The healthier I got.
What’s my point?
Something horrible happened recently. A lot of innocent people dies. And while I did not personally know any of them, it has still felt like a tremendous punch to the gut. Like getting the wind knocked out of me. This is called empathy.
And why does empathy matter? Because many are still fighting for theirs. And hundreds of people lost family members, close friends, co-workers, neighbors. Human beings. I don’t need to know the race, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, shoe size or favorite cereal of any of these individuals. That’s none of my business.
You know what is? Being a descent human being. A member of the human race.
It’s called compassion. It’s what makes us good. I will repeat that. These are the qualities in life that make us good. Not bad. Not the ones making the poor choices. Doing the horrible things.
My heart, once again, aches as I watch the world respond to this tragedy. I am left confused, sad, disappointed, even a little angry. Most people understand how to behave. But unfortunately, not everyone.
Case in point, how would I explain tragedy and grief to a 5 year old? Well, when something bad happens to someone else, it is okay for us to feel bad for and with them. To even cry, grieve, mourn. And maybe if we didn’t know them that well or at all, this is when we should choose silence so that the people who did can have a very necessary time of their own to cry, to grieve, and even heal.
Look. Listen. Speak.
Dear adults, all the other stuff: the guns, the terrorism, the politics, the lgbt angle, the religious opinions, are making it hard to hear the, “I’m sorry for your loss.” It’s all just become white noise. So if that was or is your first reaction to a tragedy like this I encourage you to take a look at your heart.
These issues are obviously important to a lot of people. And very heated. Fine. I get that. I have things I am passionate about too. Like coffee. I would probably end up in prison without my coffee. But when I see a story in the news about someone who had ALL their coffee stolen I know just how to respond. “I’m really sorry someone stole your coffee.” I know that I can get worked up and bent out of shape about the evil coffee terrorists and the anti-bean activists at another time.
Because right now is not the time. And your time will come. It will. It always does. That’s why we have the first amendment. But don’t let your right become more important than someone else’s incredible loss. Grieving mothers, fathers, families, friends. They are currently experiencing the worst week of their lives.
I am not condemning anyone. This is not directed at any particular individual or group. It’s for everybody. Remember, I am the master of doing the wrong thing. But I have also learned that humility will get you a long way. That learning how to be accountable is a great quality. To change into a better person when you see something unattractive in yourself.
So let’s try and do better. Please. Because whether you realize it or not, your response, coupled with everyone else’s, could be the thing that sends someone else into that pit of self-loathing. That interrupts their ability to grieve. Your tiny little Facebook status has a ripple effect.
And what do you want left in your wake?