A few years ago I discovered the term “disenfranchied grief”. The term describes grief that is not acknowledged by society. I think a lot of HSPs may be able to relate to this type of grief as, like most things, we tend to experience loss and separation more acutely. We love deeply and we grieve just as deep. It is hard for people to understand how we can hurt so much (or for so long) over something which seems relatively small or unimportant. We may find ourselves grieving the death of a relationship as though the person has died. We may grieve a friend as though we’ve broken up with a romantic partner (there is a great article on Psychology Today where Seth writes about how the emotional bond people feel with a close friend is as close or closer than the bond with their romantic partner). It may not even be a person we grieve, but an animal, object, place or loss of physical or mental function. Yet in our society, it is hard to get the same sympathy and support for these things as people do when someone, such as a family member, has died. Or when we’ve broken up with our partner. Sometimes we cannot even speak about our loss due to stigma. It may have been a secret relationship or we may have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection. This also leads to disenfranchised grief. Continue reading “Disenfranchised grief”
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions”
This won’t be a long post. I haven’t the energy or mind set to ramble on. But this is something I would like to talk about.
In recent months I have meditating on the man I have been. Thinking back on how I have handled certain relationships and the words I’ve chosen. But it wasn’t until it happened to me that I could truly realise the effect it can have. How blind I was.
About two months back I was in one of the worst places I had been in a long time. I felt as thought I was a breath away from rock bottom.
Being in such a difficult spot I felt that I had to call someone. So I rang a friend of mine hoping to feel better after a talk. I tell him how I was feeling shit and everything seemed pointless. I told him how I was emotional and lethargic. But his reply only seemed to make things worse. He told me “Everything will be alright in the end”. This was the last thing that I needed to hear. At that point in time ‘Alright’ seemed a long fucking way off. It only served to make me realise that my friend, whilst only trying to help, simply had no idea what I was going through. At this point I suddenly knew how I had made others feel by doing this. The guilt was almost unbearable.
Looking back on myself I have come to realise just how often I would do this. How often I would throw some words of encouragement carelessly towards somebody without knowing their utter futility. Like sticking a band-aid on a severed limb.
When somebody confides in you their suffering and feelings seldom are they looking for words of encouragement. They’re simply looking for somebody to just listen or to acknowledge their suffering. To even muster the strength to talk to someone can be exhausting and overwhelming when in such a fragile state.
By telling them to “Cheer up and look on the bright side” or that “Things will be better tomorrow” can only serve to make them feel more alone than they already are. It can remind them that few actually understand how they feel. It wasn’t until I suffered from depression myself that I realised this.
A very close friend of mine would often talk to me of what she was experiencing. Of how she was having difficulties in day-to-day life. I was a fool and would most times just tell her to “remember how strong she is” or would try to fix things. Try to suggest ways to help her feel better. At the time I was only trying to help in the only way I knew how. But I never thought to just stop and think about what she needed at that moment. I didn’t consider what she may have needed from me and am now realising how my words and untimely optimism may hurt her.
I do not for one second think that we should not be supportive. Everybody needs support. It’s the way in which we support people that makes the difference. Remind them that your their for them whilst acknowledging how they feel. This is something that I still need to work on.
Instead of telling somebody “It’s not as bad as you think” try telling them “I can see how this is difficult for you, we can get through this together”
Or replace “We all have problems” with “I’ve been there before, I know how hard it is” or even “I can see you’re upset about it. Would you like to talk?”
Even asking something as simple as “How are you feeling today? Is there anything I can do/Would you like some space?” can remind the other person that you know they’re feeling depressed and at the same time are caring for them.
Often the best thing for someone in a fragile state is to know that they’re not invisible.
I lie on fake grass
Eating chips cooked in genetically engineered canola,
Under clouds that were planted by planes
Thinking of the words you said-
That I’m your baby
A sister to you.
That you want to protect me.
That you think of me
That you miss me
That we will keep in touch.
Words that make me feel like somebody.
Words that wrap my entire being
Like a snake, whispering, tempting my heart.
Your words dance on in me
Even when the music has long ceased.
Under sunset skies dripping with aerosol,
With invisible confetti,
With rain induced like pregnant women
Or forced tears
I think of your words
And how they fit with my broken heart.
With the empty inbox which greets me each day.
With the nobody I feel.
Your actions wrap my entire being
Like poison ivy choking my heart,
And I can’t help but wonder,
Is anything real?
Lately I have been thinking a lot about what it means to take care of yourself. About how important it is, how to do it, but also about the fact that self care is, in actuality, an act of selflessness.
For the longest time I, like many others, would always put others before myself. As a child I taught myself that perhaps that was the right thing to do. I would put myself last so that they may benefit. Even if it meant I would miss out or that I would suffer for it. I would do this everywhere. I would put others first in every relationship. In a class room or learning environment. At work. Even with strangers. Often times I would tell myself that I was simply being courteous or kind. When in fact I was only depriving myself of my own love. I was leaving myself wide open and vulnerable. Continue reading “Self-care is not selfish”
I got you know you from the periphery, like a blog follower, or a fan learning about a singer through their songs. We were young- myself barely a teenager- and it was Karen’s party, my mother’s best friend. You stood alone in the crowd. You were as silent as a flame and you wore only the colour of night, yet you stood out to me. An air of mystery surrounded you. Beauty. Look but don’t touch, you screamed, without words.
The next time I saw you was at the house of some people Karen knew. I don’t know who these people were to you, but you were staying there. Longer than they had expected. You didn’t have a home. I learnt that you were deaf, but unlike some deaf people, you did not speak.
Your name often came up at the table when Karen came round. You were the crazy friend. You did not like it when people left, and you had threatened to blow up your psychiatrist’s house. But when I turned nineteen and began therapy myself, I suddenly understood why. I understood what love can do to people. I understood what it is like to lose your only connection to the world. I understood how the mental health system can kill rather than save us. We were the people who the system could not help. We were looking for love and security in all the wrong places. We had been sucked in by a system built on glass and then spat out on the doorstep with our hearts clenched in our hands.
I was twenty two when we found ourselves in the same room once again, and you were in your late twenties. I trembled as I arrived at the Centre for Adult Education and pressed number four on the lift. My therapist also worked on the fourth floor of a building. Four was my number. I found the room the support group was in but paused at the door before entering. Finally I took the plunge and quickly grabbed one of the chairs which were lined in a U-shape around the facilitator at the front. I wished I could just crawl into a hole and not come out. I didn’t know whether I wanted to wear the badge of BPD, and still wondered whether it was mine to wear. We were all strangers, united only by our insanity. Then you arrived in a wheelchair with your interpreter.
We sat together in the support group each month but we never acknowledged each other. I wasn’t sure if you recognised me. Then one day, just as unexpectedly as you popped into my life, Karen died. I went to the funeral and, once again, watched you from a distance as you, too, arrived.
I finally approached you at our support group and revealed that I knew you. You remembered my dad and his distinctive beard which makes him a natural candidate for Santa Claus at Christmas gigs. I wrote to you online. I told you I had found out where my therapist lived and wanted to go to her house. You were the only person who truly understood. You told me the local police knew you and warned me not to go down the same path.
You told me that you were unwell. I told you I hope you get better soon, as is our automatic instinct. You told me that you were not going to get better. You had tumours the size of golf balls all over your body, though to me you never lost your beauty. It was a degenerative illness that took your hearing and was soon going to take your life.
I still think of you and feel the urge to contact you sometimes. “Milly will understand”, I think. Then I realise you are probably dead.
The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long, Lao Tzu said. I don’t know how long my own life will last. I have long felt I’m going to be someone who dies young too. People don’t understand what it’s like to live with chronic illness. We think people get unwell sometimes but then return to a normal baseline of wellness. Some people, though, sometimes get well but then return to their normal baseline of unwellness. There are many things I want to do, but my days are never as productive as I hope. It is exhausting just to get something out of the cupboard. I try to go to bed early and have a good night so I wake up ready to tackle the new day but I do not wake up refreshed. I start my day behind the minute I wake up. Some people just don’t get better. You, Milly, understood that. You, Milly, understood how meaningless the words “get well soon” are.
“Do you know what the scariest thing is? To not know your place in this world, to not know why you’re here. That’s – that’s just an awful feeling.”
Elijah Price (From the movie Unbreakable)
Although the character saying this is the antagonist of the story he makes a compelling point. Very few of us have the fortune of knowing our purpose.
I often think to myself that perhaps I don’t have a purpose. Even knowing that would offer me a freedom I don’t yet understand.
For as long as I can remember I’ve been feeling a professional sense of being lost. Rudderless in this ocean of darkness and confusion. Unable to glimpse even a beacon of hope. I drift through life without direction. Every once in a while I catch a glimpse of what I think is light, but it always turns out to be a mirage, a reflection upon the water’s choppy surface. Whenever I see such a glimmer I also swim towards it, fighting against the current, wearing myself out, all the while knowing it’s just another reflection on the water. But I ignore myself. Tell myself I’m a liar as nd that I don’t know what I’m talking about. That this is the real thing. That it’s that direction, that purpose or sense of self-worth that I seek, that companionship or at least the ability to be happy in my own company. But my lesser self always wins. He always ends up clutching at the nothingness in the distance. Leaving us no more found only now all the more disappointed. Exhausted from fighting. Drained and burned out. The other me knows deep down tha tv if I knew there was no direction to find, no light to look for, then I could embrace my state of being perpetually adrift. I could no longer invest myself in these foolish ideas of finding something that doesn’t exist. Then perhaps I could stop being afraid of who I’m not or where I might end up.
But first I must convince him. The other me. The one who is constantly searching for a reason to exist.
“The more things change the more they stay the same.”
Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr
Everybody experiences depression differently. I know this. I don’t know how many others experience what I am about to talk about. But if they do then perhaps it may provide some sort of temporary comfort.
I feel as though time has simply just forgot about me. Either that or it no longer holds any relevance. One day just blurs into another. Even with my schedule of work, study, work, train, work etc. I try to make the most of my day. I try to be productive and make my day mean something. But to no avail. Continue reading “Lost in time”
I’ve been isolated lately. I can handle being alone for long periods but eventually it begins to grate on me. It’s not so much an emotional connection that I am missing when I isolate myself but an intellectual one. That’s not to say that a sense of friendliness or comraderie is not appreciated when I interact with people but there is a greater need at my core. Continue reading “Intellectual Connection”