All we hurt when we hurt / The universal language

There is an importance to healing I cannot stress enough. Because I was so affected by traumatic abuse so early in childhood, my life, identity, and behavior have all largely been shaped by pain. Truthfully, I challenge the notion that even human beings from seemingly tamer backgrounds are not shaped largely in part by pain. When going over these sentences, I thought a more accurate description might be to add pronouns to these sentences — add perhaps “my” and “their” before “pain,” but that would only distance myself from the ultimate point. There are many layers to this post as there are many layers to every person. Layers vary and appear different. They can manifest differently, speak in different tongues, dress in different threads, dance with different motions, and while sentient beings all hurt in different ways to different severities and we express those agonies in different behaviors, perhaps the greatest irony of all is that the most universal element sentient beings share is what often isolates us most — pain.

Physical pain or severe physical discomfort, at their most banal, tell us something is “wrong.” A bone is broken, and it needs to heal, or a part of our body is exposed that should not be exposed — in the case of extreme cold or extreme heat or a wound — or that not enough blood is getting to our heart or that not enough oxygen is getting to our brain. Prolonged inactivity can also cause physical pain or severe physical discomfort because that in itself tells the body something is wrong and can make things go wrong further within the body. People struggling with their mental health often get caught in this cycle, because already we’re usually struggling with debilitating stressors (and chemistry).

It is important to note that there are medical conditions in which people have a total insensitivity to pain, however rare, but even in cases of extreme dissociation or Antisocial Personality Disorder (sociopathy and psychopathy) where emotional range can become limited, there is a current that makes us universally one, even if separating us in terms of our behavior or reactions to it: pain felt by the soul even if not always the body.

As a child, I probably met more people in any given year than I have in all my years as an adult. I didn’t start getting hospitalized until I was 12, but I started chatting online by the time I was nine, as I felt like an outsider from the moment I was brought into this world. I remember staying awake for nights at a time afraid of alien abductions which is so strange to me now because I always felt so alien myself. I always tried to seek refuge in the potential understanding of strangers because I had only ever been misunderstood. So I have met many people. Not always face-to-face, but by the time I was 18, I had already understood many things about the human condition that other people may never get to understand in their lifetime.

However, this isn’t hubris. This isn’t to say I necessarily know more. But this isn’t to say either that I necessarily know less. There are many other things I can’t express to you that many people my age understand. There are concepts that are almost foreign to me that are completely everyday and/or intimate to other people. For instance, while I can (by heart) recite the 5 stages of grief I know, I, myself, have never grieved “normally” or successfully. I don’t fully understand the concept of forgiveness, although I don’t believe in or support the idea of vengeance, either. I believe a legal system is necessary but feel “justice” is, at its utmost truth, an arbitrary word that delivers a false sense of security, vindication, and in more twisted cases, justification. Again, layers, facets, dimensions. Humans brim with them. But one thing is true: Even the most “insensitive” or “hard-shelled” of us can be emotionally affected, moved, and hurt, and throughout our lives, we all are.

I started this entry on the 29 March and attempted suicide on the third of April. I was in a coma in the ICU, living off life support. I have never been so close to death although I have attempted suicide before. When I awoke, I was shaking and could not walk on my own. While I was not in much pain anymore, I was hoarse to the point of a whisper as I had been intubated upon arrival to the hospital.

I’ve written before how my management (or lack thereof) of my illnesses (both physical and mental) has destroyed almost all of my relationships and how it has negatively impacted my childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. But in other words, my management (or lack thereof) boils down to my reactions to pain. I have had to live with a great deal of pain in my life, and I am fully aware that I’m not alone in that although I have definitely felt that way. I find that many people are very possessive and even competitive with their pain, as if by admitting someone else is hurting too they themselves feel their own hurt is invalidated. I’ve come across many people like this in my life and I know, while more aware of others’ emotions than most people with this mindset, I was stubbornly among them myself before puberty. It’s a bad mechanism of self-preservation, and I say “bad” because it is ultimately unhealthy and unsuccessful. This mindset often isolates a person, make the whole of their world their suffering, and it shows in their behavior, often creating another vicious cycle.

Among my favorites quotes from Criminal Minds, “Behavior doesn’t lie” is perhaps my most frequently used. It’s so simple it can be misleading and easily misconstrued, but especially in the context of the show, it is an important expression — with all its associated complexities — to remember.

Pain often impacts behavior — any kind, (physical and emotional), and pain is always non-comparable. This is something I learned young, realizing how dismissive and ultimately absolutely pointless (and isolating) playing “Pain Olympics” is. I always questioned why people behave the way they did but didn’t really start processing the answers until I hit about 13. I’m sure I’ve already quoted one of my old counselors who said, “Hurt people want to hurt people” and amended it with my own observation that is hurt people tend to hurt people, regardless of whether they “want to” or not.

Like in Criminal Minds, I am careful to make a point how pain does not excuse cruelty. One can be suffering and still be kind and compassionate. Many people choose themselves to target as opposed to others. This eventually causes peripheral damage too, but another quote I love – from Buffy the Vampire Slayer – (paraphrased) is “You don’t always have good choices, but you still have choices.”

Of course, ultimately, the healthy choice is to commit to recovery and healing, but it is not easy and often people damage themselves, others, or both before they get to this point. And while I do believe the commitment is important, I recognize not everyone has the capacity or resources to heal, but those situations are a lot rarer than many people in unhealthy mindsets or situations tend to believe.

In the end, I wish happiness and good health on everyone, including people who have hurt me or others, and not because they necessarily “deserve” happiness or don’t, but because a happy person is a person with good intentions and healthy behavior. True happiness and good health in a person create a butterfly effect that impacts everyone within their reach. There are always going to be truly happy and healthy people who are not as sensitive or understanding as you’d like them to be, but truly happy and healthy people do what they can to not harm, to let live, and to live the best version of themselves. That being said, I strongly believe that most people are unhappy and unhealthy, and whether or not “diagnosably” unhappy or unhealthy isn’t really the issue to me: Most people implement unhealthy behaviors, whether or not they are “diagnosably” unhealthy, especially in reaction to pain, and it takes a strong commitment to good health, positive change, and awareness (including self-awareness), to be truly happy and healthy. It takes not just commitment (read: dedication and hard work) but time and often a very strong catalyst for people to implement changes like this. Usually the catalysts are traumatic and cause damage before the person recognizes the need to transform and goes through with it. Self-improvement is a life-long commitment. Often our unhealthy behaviors are ones we mimic from those who have been closest to us, whether emotionally or physically or both. It is true that “the apple does not fall far from the tree,” and I’ve seen many people react (from the pain) to parenthood in extreme opposites of how they were raised, only to fall back on their parents’ damaging behaviors in times of great stress. (This is often called “the cycle of abuse,” although “the cycle of abuse” can refer to other abusive patterns as well.)1

Ultimately, you need to choose recovery and good health for yourself. I have not seen recovery work well when someone is trying to recover “for other people” or other external reasons. In my own experience, the pressure becomes mounting and eventually I fall back on old habits and behaviors. And truthfully, you are the person you need to recover for. When we undergo trauma(s) and pain, we are often quick to vilify either ourselves or others (hurt people tend to hurt people), and while the traumas and pain are part of living, not our fault, and sometimes even initiated by other people, healing from that pain is our own responsibility. It isn’t fair that you are forced to carry such a burden and then told you have to be the one to reduce it or rid yourself of it, but once you are truly happy and healthy, the experiences you have can be great assets in helping  yourself in the future and helping others as well.

Wishing you true happiness, awareness, and love.

 

V.

 

 

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