“My head is a bed of nails, comfortable for monsters, but beauty won’t stay”
I posted that to one of my Facebook pages today, being so full of uncomfortable, negative thoughts and feelings that I knew I’d burst if I didn’t siphon some off. I received some really great support and well-wishes, reminders that I am not alone with these feelings, and not alone in life. I have great friends, people who value me and want the best for me. People are sharing their stories of trauma and depression, not to take the attention away, but to help me feel connected to others. This feeling is so isolating, as much as I don’t want others to be battling these demons, it’s comforting to know I’m not the only one.
I’ve been reaching out for help, in various ways, and I’ve been humbled and surprised at times by who responds and in what way. I can also feel the difference between the response from someone who knows this pain intimately and someone who doesn’t, but wants to help. The latter share sayings, quotes, well-meaning advice that they believe to be helpful, and maybe has been for them, but doesn’t cut to the heart of what I’m feeling.
“..words are like paper tigers, no match for the predator of pain inside her…”
My wife passed a link to xkcd just now, suggesting that I could print it and put it up on my monitor, apparently to help me with perspective during the difficult times. I appreciated the gesture, but the cartoon is another paper tiger, and worse, to my battle worn eyesight, it appears to significantly minimize what I’m going through right now. I told her that I appreciated all the quotes and advice people were giving me but that in the midst of crisis, it wasn’t always very useful. Those quotes and platitudes don’t lift me up, instead they make me feel that I’m broken beyond repair, because clearly, I should be able to read a quote and lift myself up by my bootstraps, right? As I told her, sometime later, when the storm has passed, I can appreciate those offerings, but not right now. Not in the middle of it.
Another thing that bugs me, while we’re on the subject, is being asked what I’m upset about. I mean, it makes total sense to ask the question, they want to help me find a solution. I’ve asked that same question, for that reason, can’t help you solve the problem until I know what the problem is. Well, now the problem is that I feel under pressure to provide a reason for my emotions, preferably something rational and reasonable sounding, something that can match up to the level of turmoil and crisis I appear to be in. I feel like I’m being asked to defend my depression, my anxiety, my fear/pain response. Since this is a predictable request, I’ll sometimes have a handy response prepared, but it’s not always genuine, it’s just hopefully enough to keep the questioner at bay. And sometimes I don’t have a ‘good’ answer. Sometimes I just feel horrible and want to give up and I can’t put it into words. Sometimes that’s just where I am, so stuck in the tar pit of emotion that words can’t be formed. I know that makes people feel helpless, but I shouldn’t have to help you help me if I’m in so deep that process would cause me more stress.
As I indicated above, folks who’ve been through this battle before say and offer different kinds of help. They don’t even have to tell me they’ve been through it before, I can just feel it, if that makes sense. They acknowledge that it feels like the blackness will never pass. They don’t shrink away from the hopelessness, the depth of sadness, shame, helplessness, fear and anger, they nod their heads in recognition. They are very familiar with all of those feelings. They offer me dark songs to match my mood, knowing that sometimes it’s necessary to add fuel to the fire so it burns out more quickly. They offer me some of their own blood of experience, showing me their scars, the wounds they have that remain open. They don’t tell me to buck up, or see the bright side, or count my blessings. All of those are good things, in their place, but in the middle of the emotional shit storm, I don’t want to be told to just smile and walk out of it, I want to be handed an umbrella so I can temporarily duck out of it. And/or I want to know that they are willing to stand in that shit storm with me and raise their voices with mine in shouting at the cruel inequity of life. Don’t give me rational solutions when I’m in the middle of pondering the benefits of continuing to live — I’m not in a rational space. Just tell me you’re there in case I want to reach out and grab your hand, to avoid slipping further into the hole.
At this point, I’d like to give props, love and apologies to Roxy. She’s very experienced in the ways of stress, anxiety and depression and very accustomed to all of these annoying habits. I know I have been one of those ‘helpful’ people, offering up my paper tigers in the face of her apocalypse. She is an amazingly patient person and has spent considerable time helping me to understand how I can help her best, and what is not helpful at all in the midst of raining fire and falling frogs. Being in the position I am now, I understand even more how amazing she is and how much she’s helped me to grow. Thank you, sweetheart.
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