Sunday, February 23, 2014

On Suffering and Sanity: an Impassioned Plea for All of Us

Most of the people reading this have a connection to me. To my own struggles and strengths, and what I call 'normal'. I can only tell my story in first person. I can't tell you what it's like to be my son, my daughter, my husband, my family, or my friends. I struggle when I know that I cannot hide my pain from those who love me. I want to be stronger when things are harder. I want to comfort those who would worry about how I am handling the curve balls. I don't want what hurts me to spiderweb out around me. And I don't want to make what I feel the sole focus of my mission. I believe that whatever put me here, put me here because I have the power to do something to make it better. In some small way, what hurts me should make me able to help someone else who feels what I have felt. Helplessness. Sadness. Frustration. Anger. Guilt. Fear. And a desire to escape all of those things from time to time.

There was a time when all of those things bonded together and made me crazy. Let's get real.  Genuinely crazy. There was a moment in my life where I didn't sleep for days, and feared the noises outside my window. There was a time when my affection for zombie movies made me fear that the undead were outside my window and I had to stay in pure survival mode and protect my loved ones from being eaten alive.  But it was me who was being eaten alive.

I could have known that I was a carrier for CF. I could have had simple tests run that would have let my husband and I know what we were headed for when we chose to have children together. I made choices, that in the moment seemed so insignificant, that came to impact not only our lives, but those of everyone who knows, loves, and supports us. Things that I did without a second thought have caused pain and worry to everyone I know and care about. For the most part, I can understand that there was no logical or reasonable way for me to know that when those choices were made. But it doesn't stop them from continuing to impact all of us to this day, and from here on out.  Guilt is not a feeling I'm a huge fan of. I do my best to let it go and treat myself like I would treat anyone else I love. But that hasn't always been the case. There have been many nights that guilt ate my heart out in the dark.

Recently things have taken a turn that has given me reason to reflect on guilt, the suffering of others, and my role therein. I have had moments to look at the pain of those I love and wonder how much better off they would be had they never given their love and trust to me. I toyed briefly with the notion, and even dipped my toes in the pool of 'crazy' once again. But god help me, I am not ready to dive in.  And I hope I never do, because getting out is so damned hard.

So I am here to share what little I have learned. Things will happen to you that make you question your value, your worth as a human being. You will play a role, however unknowing, in the pain of someone you love. Sometimes there is no way to know. Sometimes there is. Accident, mistake, freak of nature, genetic defect, whatever.  Chances are, you'll cross that bridge even as it burns, and there will be no way to go back to the way things were before.  And you might go crazy. You might make promises you don't know you can keep. You might hurt yourself, and you might hurt someone who is trying to help you. The point being, here, that when you come to realize that the undead are not eating your brains, you have a chance.  You have a moment in which to forgive yourself for anything you may or may not have done.  You have a moment in which you can choose to pilot the ship rather than let it sink.  In a moment where you can't help yourself, you might save you by helping someone else.

I've recently developed a mild obsession with the movie Silver Linings Playbook. The first time I saw it, I cried uncontrollably. And not because Bradley Cooper is just that gorgeous and so out of my league.  Because I saw my reflection in the story.  I saw how we are so vulnerable to our own crazy, how easy it is to become confused and mired down in suffering that stems from how deeply we love those around us, and how devastating it can be when that suffering derails all of our good intentions.

My plea to you is this. Please know that your suffering is not selfish. You are not simply feeling sorry for yourself.  You are not powerless. You cannot change the moments that seemed so insignificant, yet somehow changed your entire reality, and maybe even that of everyone you love.  You can't take them back. Fate can be a bastard.

None of it takes away your worth. You still have the power to make things better.  You have the power to wake up every morning and tell your demons to piss off. You still have the breath to fight back. You still have a reason to care about what happens to you.  And you still have people like me, just like I have people like you, to fight alongside when the days are dark and you're not able to do it alone.  You don't have to ever do it alone.

At some point most of us live through that unrelenting moment that changes the rest of your life into who you were before, and who you are since 'it' happened.  You might not know how many of us are standing on the other side. But we are here, and we promise, you do not ever have to be alone.  Just raise your hand, and I will reach out mine.