With two very public celebrity suicides being in the forefront of the social and private mood, I wanted to talk about pain: the emotional pain that rides on the back of physical pain, the assumption that anyone can quantify anyone else’s pain, the justification of declaring anyone selfish and the use of anger as the barrier in self preservation from what seems like unending despair.
I envisage most people have been connected to suicide. Whether that connection is through a chain as in “I know someone who knows someone” or it is immediate. In my life I have lost a close dear friend, I have a beloved family member that attempted it, a friend that had an active plan at a very young age and another friend that has struggled with suicidal ideations for decades. I don’t think my report is that rare. In fact, a few years ago, in my parents’ neighborhood a father killed himself in his own backyard.
Humans have pain. The physical agony that is twisted and tied into the emotional. Constantly. Spend a day in any waiting room at a hospital. Drive down Fourth South as you enter SLC and watch the displaced homeless with their carts and bundles, swatting away the voices, trying to use the Port-O-Pottys while in wheelchairs. Devote an afternoon at Weber County Mental Health and people watch where sometimes the emotional pain permits a glimpse of what is happening in the most private interiors that make up a human. There is a lot of shame and guilt tied to burdening other people with that torment. So people hide. They mask and compensate. Coping and managing sometimes takes the place of living.
Here is where I share about my pain. About being so stuck inside my body and the fear of it never ending. With Ehlers-Danlos I can get into a pain cycle that lasts for a month. Or more. I can have days where the best thing I did was get out of bed long enough to brush my teeth, pee, give the bunnies water and hay, and if I’m lucky a cup of tea. Leaning on the walls and counters for support the whole way, I get to the kitchen, make my tea and get to the couch. I am lucky enough to have friends that repeatedly invite me to go out with them to movies, plays, concerts and more. Time and again I have to turn them down. I feel such shame and fear that one day the invites will stop. Then, there won’t be any reason to invite me as everyone will know I’ll simply say I can’t. After struggling against my body has gone on for so long, the emotional and intellectual fears begin to dominate, mixed in with comparing myself to others and self judgement. Physical pain, anxiety about pain, round and round I go. One of the blessings/lucky parts about being me, is that while I’m stuck inside the cyclone of Pain+Fear, underneath it all I am waiting waiting waiting for it to end. It could be two months this time, but soon enough I’ll be able to walk into Petco without the employee coming up to me and ask with panic in his voice, as I’m dragging my left leg and my left arm is curled up unusable “DO YOU NEED HELLLLPPP?” I know it will abate. Then later, it will wash over me. I will succumb and I will answer back in tears. Not everyone is as secure in the notion that their pain could ever be temporary.
Now, at this point in the cycle is where I use Social Media as a distraction from the physical pain. It is a cheap and easy way to escape. I would grab the easiest and fastest way out; Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or Instagram. Again, I don’t think I am alone in this. Not only as a distraction from physical pain, but emotional. I have found for me that if I’m not careful it ends up fueling the distance I feel from the world I so desperately want to join. Would You Like GIFs With That is my blog-post in regards to that. Moreover, this is where the comparing lives fires are lit and stay lit for far too long. The unnecessary shame creep from Social Media into daily life does more damage to self esteem than I think we realize. The urge and predominate course in society is to only share the glowing best bits of our lives as the fear of judgement is paralyzing otherwise. Suspicion is, if you share your damage you only want attention. “He’s an attention whore.” “Check out the Drama Queen.”
You can never truly know the scope of another person’s pain. Nor will you comprehend their joy. It is not ours to measure or value. I have heard it said multiple times how selfish it is to take your own life. How could they not consider the people left behind, and so on. The first time I heard it said was when a boy from my High School killed himself. Everyone around me was saying it. It was akin to an automatic response. A form letter to block feelings. “If I hold up this anger long enough I won’t have to access the dangerous emotions underneath.” Anger knocks out sadness and despair any day. By brandishing words like selfish you’re less likely to access your empathy. Empathy is what is needed in circumstances like these, specially when people reach out.
I choose empathy first. Even if it hurts.