Your parents don’t fight. Your parents aren’t divorced. You’ve never been in the system… So you can’t understand. You’re not me, you don’t know what it’s like…. That’s probably why you’re so kind and compassionate, because you haven’t been through what I have….
I was working at my job, Amaryllis, about a week ago. I picked up a couple of extra shifts with the holiday season going on, whereas I primarily and exclusively only work Friday’s.
It was after doing phone calls with one of the youth when the paraphrased discussion took place. I, of course, can’t go into the details of their history and their story (hell, it’s only theirs to tell if they so wish to) but I can talk about what this sprouting plant begged my attention for: why am I so kind?
How much of ourselves are a product of our family? Our environment? Our journey onwards?
It’s true that problems that occur in our childhoods can bleed and linger on into adulthood, I think anyone who’s been through trauma can tell you that.
And I think there’s a bigger question in play with this: how can one identify the root cause to why they believe in the good of humanity? The good of the world? That nice and good people out there exist? Let alone being one of those people, yourself?
I think it begs the question: people who go through traumatic experiences can react one of two ways (a bit all or nothing, I’ll admit): they can grow from it and be empathetic towards others or they can let it color their vision and take out their angry anguish out on the world surrounding them (and arguably, towards themselves as well).
Who decides which way a person will go? Who says? Who holds the key–the power? The control?
Again, I don’t really know the answer to these questions. I guess, in truth, I’m just someone asking them.
It’s said that we are sometimes born into vulnerabilities to certain conditions. That our environment can pull out additional vulnerabilities or mute others. That our family life may influence other characteristics and behaviors than we ever truly realize the full potential of. Sometimes the same two people who go through a traumatic event can still come out perfectly healthy or uniquely ill. But they both went through the same thing. So, what gives? Why did one person develop a condition and the other didn’t?
Again, unanswerable questions that could take years of ruminating and thinking on without getting much further than that.
All I know is that sometimes life gives us the shit stick.
We don’t ever choose for it to happen, it’s just handed to us. We’re expected, as per the rules of life, to figure out how we want to react to it. We do, inherently, control our own actions.
So, let’s circle back to the start of this conversation–moving beyond the why it’s happened and how it’s happened and instead focus on the concept of pain.
Here’s a pretty commonly used, easy to aggravate the person you’re coaxing into choosing life and choosing to “look on the bright side”:
But do you? Do you really?
I think a lot of people forget that empathy exists. Sympathy is feeling sorry for another individual (something more at arms length away); empathy is feeling sorry WITH them, beside them, amongst them.
I think especially when it comes to trauma, tough family lives and general mental health or physical health conditions running rampant, that it’s easy to feel alone and easy to be upset and easy to think that no one else in the world knows how deeply you’re feeling pain.
And, maybe they won’t know. Maybe they don’t care to know.
But statistically speaking, that you’re the one human in the billions of years that the Earth has existed and that people have been alive for, that people will continue to be alive for, that you’re the ONLY one feeling as you do? It’s unlikely. That NO ONE has ever experienced similar pains before? Again, unlikely. (Also, this is probably just as invalidating so stay clear of this concept too).
The point is, I don’t believe someone has had to have gone through 100% the same thing in order to feel something for another human being. I think as humans, we are so diverse and different and individually made that we can never truly understand another’s experience. Not completely.
But we can understand a fraction of it. If we can’t know what it’s like to have gone through something, we can ask. We can look towards the individual and see how badly their pain is affecting them and from there, draw our own conclusions.
“It’s not about how bad the situation is, it’s about how badly it’s affecting someone”
So, yeah, maybe no one will ever know 100%. Yet if they can know 50%? 80%? Would that change mean it all?
But, alas, I went on another tangent. I think it’s important to know what validation is versus what it’s not. The “I understand” card is a fickle creature. Not even using it as a starting point is good because people can get immediately defensive even if that isn’t what you’re trying to say. And sometimes it’s just as important, if not more important, to recognize that this is where the person is at in their life and to acknowledge how shitty that must be for them and that they can take the moment to observe their emotions, thoughts and physiological changes in their bodies and then, only then, dive into problem-solving and trying to “fix” someone else.
Because maybe we don’t have to fix someone. Maybe we can just say, “Hey, I see you’re suffering. That sucks. What can I do to help?” And if there isn’t anything or if they can’t think of anything, then just be there with them while the pain ebbs away, as it will naturally do.
So we return once again to this integral question:
Why are you so kind?
Because, it’s true: I’ve had a very supportive family life. An often validating and important family life. Even enabled to some respects. I didn’t grow up within the system, I grew up in a nurturing environment. I grew up in a steady paycheck household. Both my parents went to college and got their degrees. I grew up with a caring and dutiful, Spanish grandmother (who would smoosh spiders or ants with her hands, as ruthless as can be!). I went to my doctor’s appointments. Had surgeries. Went to school. Wasn’t so negatively impacted by bullies or anything. So what happened? What, what went “wrong?”
I don’t know, I don’t have a genetic predisposition towards mental health conditions. I don’t have any trauma that I’ve really been through. I barely skate across living with BPD.
All I know is that I went to college and the first few years were fine (all things considered) and then everything kinda snowballed out from under me. I was so creative back in the day, back in high school without mental health conditions, I was so creative with original characters and original works.
Then my mental health took a nose dive and I lost a lot of that, I still haven’t really gained it back, unfortunately. I’m not, I’m not even sure that I can get it back, sadly.
I began my recovery journey the most in 2015. I started on a round of medications. I had to learn what psychiatric emergency’s were. I self-harmed, I attempted suicide. I went to the hospital. I went inpatient. I went to the OCD-Institute for 5 weeks.
In 2016, I began my advocacy journey with NAMI MA and the newspaper. In fall 2016, I relapsed after 9 months out of the hospital. I dealt again with suicidal ideation.
In 2017, I was hospitalized 5 times (due most often to the suicidality, of course) the most in any year thus far. I was more unstable than stable during this time. I received ECT in September to cope with the many symptoms I was experiencing that was making my life utter, utter hell.
In 2018, I relapsed again, this time with depression. I experienced my darkest ever days. I started at a day program. I started DBT-Intensive there. Slowly, I came out of it.
In 2019, near the very end, I’m almost 2 years free from the hospital. I’m more stable than not every day. I use my DBT skills daily to upkeep my recovery–often in more ways than I truly realize. I’ve taught a Peer to Peer class. I’ve been on a podcast. I’ve been making Youtube videos, tweeting and growing my audience in multiple sites. I’ve been actively updating and writing fan fiction. I walked for graduation back in May. I got a job. Everything is looking up. (And when I have a bad day at work, I can see it as a bad day rather than a bad job or a bad life. I can separate a lot more than I used to).
So, why am I kind?
Maybe I haven’t been through the very same things you have.
Yet I know what pain feels like. I know what feeling alone in the world feels like. I know how tempting it can be to numb the hurt. I know how fast the brain can jump from helpful to unhealthy.
I know that I cannot take away your pain. And I know that I can ease the burden of it.
I know that my story matters. I know that what I’ve been through can help someone else.
And truly, if I could change it all?
I wouldn’t change a thing.
There’s an interesting take on living with a mental health condition that I’ve realized over the course of my journey: I can be just as valuable, if not more so, having had experiences with this that new opportunities can open up hundreds of doors for me than whatever is shut away.
Getting to where I am now in my journey has been a lot of hard work. I don’t intend to mess with that any time soon. I’ve made many, many strides. And I know what pain is, because I’ve been through it. And I know what freedom is, having come out the other side.
I’m no longer as plagued by my demons as I was before. My tolerance for pain has increased tremendously. When I struggle, hell, I struggle. But I’ve found the way through it. I’ve found the way to get through that pain.
Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.
I’m kind, I think, because I choose to be. Because I choose to see the good in people, in the world, in mankind. I believe the best in others, and hell, yeah, that’s naive, but for the ones that doesn’t apply to, I choose to focus more on how those of us like myself exist too.
Because, yes the world is fucked up, painful, angry and misunderstood.
And there are still good people out there.
Because 50 people are assholes doesn’t negate or erase that 1 kind, kind individual wanting the best for everyone (and taking care of themselves appropriately).
I’d like to be that one. I’d like to be somebody. Someone to have changed something, for the better. Someone to have overcome adversity. Someone to have a voice, loud and clear. Someone to be kind to those I come into contact with and reach those whom I may not be able to knock on their door individually, one by one. I’d like to be a force to be reckoned with.
I’m kind because it matters. I’m kind because it’s who I am. I’m kind especially because I know how the simplest of gestures can mean the entire world when we’re deeply, deeply struggling.
Sometimes it’s enough to smile at a stranger. Give someone a hug. Give someone a card. Tell someone they’re courageous. Tell someone they are loved.
Because we never really know when someone else is gonna need to hear that. And sometimes if we wait too long, sometimes we lose that chance to ever get to say it again.
Stay safe, peeps.
xxx ❤ ❤ ❤
PS Music listened to in this crafted piece: “Somebody’s Someone” by Daphne Willis
PPS Related watercoloring piece I did back in 2016 that I’ve mentioned briefly before on my blog but hope to dedicate a proper post to in the future: