Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Drowning in the Tides of Life

Things are rough all over.

People who never had any frame of reference for personal
suffering or worry are now in the same boat as people
long-imagined to be wholly responsible for their own problems.

And still, despite the shared tragedies of refused medical care,
foreclosures, job losses, personal shame, and fear... we front.

We still worry over keeping up appearances.
We don't want anyone--including friends and family-- to hear our
cries for help. To know just how scared and vulnerable we are.

Instead, we smile and tell 'white lies' to cover for our misfortune
and hardship. We isolate to keep from being too close to anyone
(ironically, the one thing that might assist.) We do like we were
taught in this 'proper' country; we keep our personal problems to

To some extent, there is reason to not complain. To not be in a constant
state of despair and share our misery with others. After all, most
people don't want to hear about another's problems. Like a friend tells
me constantly: "Everybody got troubles; we just might not know what 
they are. But everybody got troubles."

True enough.

And last Friday night, after having sought and been denied help from
people in his community, a still-young man lashed out in the depths of
ultimate desperation. A Blakely, Georgia man shot and killed his wife
and son, attempted to kill his daughter, and turned the gun 'successfully'
on himself.

People blame the man for being a coward. For being cruel. For being
weak. For being crazy. But the real truth is that he could have been any
one of us, reeling in despair and desperation, at wit's end. Anyone could
have picked up that gun with just the right combination of leveling
disappointments and blows; that truth is why we are so angry. We are
scared that humans, including ourselves, are capable of the same.

Why didn't people notice something going on? Were they too busy
facing their own turmoils?

Why did others who were asked to help turn a blind eye? Is it because
they didn't feel the situation was bad enough?

How long will the short-lived attention to those around us last? How
long til our 'community awareness' spurred by this tragedy cedes to our
typical apathy?

Why is it necessary to demonize the man who was hurting so badly that
he could see no other solution than such a horror?

Several things come to mind.

If we don't discard the man as a crackpot, we allow the possibility that
this behavior is possible for 'normal' people, and could occur to us or
someone even closer. (Also, if we have experienced such dire fantasies,
the actualization scares us immensely. Could that be me, still?)

If it's someone we know, we have to distance ourselves from them
and our relatablity lest we feel condemned to their stigma. How could
they leave such hurt? How could they betray trust? How could they
have been so insensitive. And of course, the guilt; that if we admit
someone likely didn't just "snap" in a fit, then it means these thoughts were
simmering, and we feel we should have known and acted.

People's view of humanity, god, spirituality, and even life itself are
thrown into turmoil if we look too deeply or closely at such events.
How can there be purpose in this, if we believe in a universe where
all events are ordained? How can such a thing occur to 'good' people?
How can we, as self-identified 'good' people, have been subjected to
something so horrendous if our actions are supposed to ensure we are
cared for?

If people don't simplify such events and actions, it destroys the simplified
'black-and-white' world many live in. It opens up a Pandora's Box of
chaos and pain that is too much for most minds to conceive of. So we
gloss it over.

But what do the surviving do? How do we learn from this?

Those of us still posturing and pretending and playing the game...acting
as though death would not be a welcome release in the midst of hardships
and seemingly insurmountable odds. Everyone has passive thoughts of
suicide during bad times; "I wish God would just take me now." or "I'm
so tired of life."  But many of us, whether dealing with long-tern or newly
acquired depression have serious, active suicidal thoughts. Specific plans.
Details. Time lines.

What would make us seek help? How would others react? Is there any
help available if we should seek it?

Most people seriously considering taking their own life do so because
all other accessible or viable venues are thought to have been explored.
So death seems like a reasonable, legitimate response to the relentless
pain of life. We want the pain to end, and we equate being alive with pain,
so logically we think the end of life would be the end of death.

It seems no one cares. Event after event seems to reinforce that belief.
Every interaction with humans is more and more fuel for the fire. What's
the point in trying if the results are always the same?

Depression is not just circumstantial, it's biochemical. It's a physical
brain problem that creates emotional problems. Our thinking gets
aggravated by events, like break-ups, being shunned, embarrassing
moments, being without work, losing 'standing' in a community,
money problems, and so much more. But it's the over-exaggerated
sense of importance of these things that causes them to become

When we are in the midst of a problem, it seems there's no end  in
sight, and our crazy thinking tells us there is no desirable end in sight.
Then more bad things occur, we see a pattern, assume it's proof,
and continue deeper into depression. That whole sense of isolation

have the chance to find out how common our feelings are.

into play. We worry more about image than we do actual health and
welfare, and people are dying as a result.

We feel alone because we see no one else going through what we are
going through.
We feel neglected because those who supposedly care
about us don't see our pain...don't ask what they can do.
We feel under attack, dismissed, forgotten about, abandoned, mistreated,
and without resources or options.
This is what happens when we separate from one another as people.
And people do avoid us when we are in pain; the sight of another
person hurting and flailing is extremely upsetting to others, and they
may flee in confusion over what to do and discomfort.

What if we all took a deep breath and said; "I know I can't be the only
one feeling this low." How about I go into the world today with the
understanding that everybody is hurting. No matter how big their smile,
no matter how much shit they talk, no matter how mean and unconcerned
with others, let me remember that at the root of that is pain. That we all
feel disconnected and alone and hurt. That we all just want to be loved.

As we go along, maybe we'll actually see behind the plastic smiles and
the barrier of luxury and smugness to the heart of things. That people
are all basically the same, no matter how differently they express it.
Maybe the common bond would be enough to diffuse our pain, and
put our troubles in perspective. Maybe talking to someone else and
listening to their trials without being in competition to top them would
remind us that we aren't alone in a vacuum.

 Maybe if we tried reaching out, or reading up on depression, or asking
questions that aren't popular, we might find some relief. Or a kindred
spirit. We might find an online support group, or a phone number to
call, or a doctor that would not overlook our worries. Maybe if we
get honest about just how much we hurt, it would be a step towards
letting others know it's okay to be real and honest.

It may be our only chance for surviving. Even the best swimmers need
help when they're drowning. The tides of life overtake all of us on
occasion; don't let someone's demeanor convince you otherwise.
You are not alone.