“Nothing silences us more effectively than shame.” – Brene Brown
I had a specific post in mind for “the next post” in this blog, and I even wrote a little for that draft a month ago when I thought I’d be able to publish it, but I was working towards a, for the lack of better phrasing, “more appropriate moment” to share it.
I guess I’m just in one of those moments where I needed to return to “this space” again.
Because on this space, whether you choose to read my words or not, the “evil eyes” don’t hurt me so much, as it subconsciously feels like it does when I write openly in my social networking accounts.
Admittedly, I’ve been a bit sensitive of the “buree nazar” (evil eye) these days. Will get into that another time… Quite a fascinating social phenomenon I’d like to write about in the near future.. 🙂
I noted in a post before that I would write here more often, given my struggles. And I should have. I wish I did. Even just a few hundred words a day can really get the juices flowing for all kinds of other writing projects. It does not have to be polished. It does not have to be perfect all the time. I didn’t create this blog for that purpose. In fact it was supposed to partly help defeat that deep-seated anxiety and perfectionism.
Nothing has ever gone the way I planned, so why does the “next post” have to be “that post”?
I’m glad I caught my OCD moment, and put myself in check.
What I want to share in this post, is actually a few very short journal entries, handwritten in my little notebook, at the start of this month. I personally felt they were powerful to some extent and had some important messages especially at a very difficult moment in my life, and at a time when so many of us are hurting personally or collectively.
So here they are:
April 1st, 2021
“Is it possible to truly understand a person’s unique story and pain without undermining it by saying “you understand?” I wish I could list all the reasons why I have pain right now without feeling guilty or ashamed or entitled to matter and hence shame for feeling entitled to matter…. Then perhaps one could take a step back and be able to say something, say what I know needs to be said to me at this time… so I can keep going, with the simple recognition or acknowledgement that my story and my pain has it’s place and does matter too… Perhaps some of us are destined to give much more than receive, and perhaps that acceptance of our social positioning and reality may be necessary for the long run…for our internal peace…”
April 2nd, 2021
“It is my firm belief that the closer you are to the pain, the more impactful you may be when you overcome it. It is possible you may never overcome it, but you can find a way to live a meaningful life in service to others. Be patient, Elsa, it will come.”
April 3, 2021
“When we want to listen and be there for people with their struggles and challenges, it’s really important that we do not say, “I went through the same,” or especially “everyone is struggling”…”everyone is suffering.” It’s called empathic listening and it is skill that very few people are conscious about and make the effort to learn, but we must. Because most likely, we haven’t been through exactly the same experience, and we have the right to be valued for our unique story …”
I’ve been an advocate for everything self-help and self-empowerment. I think I realize a part of that has to do with my personal pride and independence for not asking for help. And another reason for that is when you want help, you are afraid to ask, you are afraid that no one will be there, they will refuse to help, and you will feel even worse for not “being strong enough” for holding yourself together.
In the passage from April 3rd, I think this comes from the disappointment that I’ve felt, especially in the last year and perhaps beyond, that collective problems, collective grievances can cancel out or minimize the individual grievance. While pain and loss can connect us, it’s important to recognize that there are moments that you can say “everyone is struggling” and then there are moments where you just listen and say, “I see you.”
And then when you do, listen empathicly. Alluding to the passage on April 1st, sometimes all one needs is the simple acknowledgement that yes you know that I’m in pain. Even if you cannot understand it. Just saying to a loved one or a friend, that hey, I see you, I see you are in a lot of pain. I know you are struggling. I”m thinking of you. That acknowledgement really can make a difference.
I’ve said this before, in my social media posts on other issues and here too: Our society shames struggle. Our society shames pain. So naturally we hide it.
I know most people want to hear the “good things.” We can connect with “the bad things” or “not so good things” too. But without undermining one’s unique story.
I may be wrong, so feel free to challenge me, but I feel most people only come around when you overcome the pain, or when you hide it.
I’ve never been good at either. I just know that hiding my pain cannot be an option.
And I make the conscious choice not to hide pain, because I recognize if I do, I’ll keep building on it.
Over time I have tamed my expression at the expense of sweeping it under the rug so as to not feel like I’m dampening the mood. I have always expressed the good, bad, and ugly of my life in my social networking profiles, because I think it’s important to be real and because “curing stigma” has always been an integral part of my being. Ultimately, I would adapt what I call the “strategic expression of pain.” 🙂 Add a couple of hashtags on #MentalHealthAwareness #SuicidePrevention #CureStigma etc, and it helps connect you to the “larger societal delimma.” And maybe reduces the culturally embedded shame associated with expressing your suffering with the world. I do feel sad for ETK, that she feels she even has to do that.
So you choose. And you take whatever you get from that choice.
I just hope we realize that we do have a lot to learn as a society on how we process other people’s pain. Whether they are sleeping on the bed next to you or sleeping on a charpai in a small Chaura or hut 5000 miles away.
I hoped we could learn from the past year, the importance of being better and doing better to be there for one another…
For example, if we knew someone (a loved one, a friend, a colleague) who was suffering from chronic mental health conditions PRIOR to the Pandemic, did we reach out to them and ask them if they are okay, especially when we saw the news on the rise of suicide rates and mental health problems during the pandemic? Did we think twice about what this could do to our loved ones with certain pre-existing conditions? Or did we think that they should be grateful they are not in the ICU or risking their lives working in the frontlines? (the “kids are starving in Africa” mentality which has always conventionally stigmatized mental health). I am just proposing this question. I am not making a judgment or an assessment (at least trying very hard not to…)
I think I’ll keep an open mind, given how cloudy things have been up there these days, and wait to see how we grow on this issue, give it another year or two and reassess where we are…
If you are struggling and feel alone, I will not tell you that “you are not alone,” I’ve always hated that phrase, because in many cases it’s just simply incorrect. Many of us are utterly utterly alone and have to fight our battles completely alone.
My heart and my thoughts are with you though. And I pray for your peace. I do see you, however cliche that may sound. I know you are hurting. Your story matters. You matter. I may not be able to do or say more now, but I will keep trying to say more, to say things better, to be better, and to do better. For the both of us. I’ll keep writing for the both of us… and I pray it helps in even the smallest way, for what works for you…
Thank you, from the core of my heart, for reading this. I’ll stop here and expand on some of these thoughts in future posts. As there is more to say…
Pardon any discrepancies in the writing. I have to move back to my dissertation.
And I have a good feeling there will be progress there that I’ve been yearning for… Tomorrow.
“Vulnerability is not weakness. I define vulnerability as emotional risk, exposure, uncertainty. It fuels our daily lives.” – Brene Brown
“Courage gives us a voice and compassion gives us an ear. Without both, there is no opportunity for empathy and connection.” – Brene Brown
Peace, Warmth, and Blessings,
The Warrior KQueen
“She wasn’t looking for a knight. She was looking for a sword.” –Atticus