Dearest eyeball movers,
Let me get the undead elephant out of the room.
No, I am not writing this to tell you that I have turned into a zombie and now am plagued with an insatiable craving for brains and other organs, I promise. Zombies obviously can’t type; their fingers would just fall right off. If you’re wondering why this is titled Ellie Vs. Brains & Hearts while it is not about zombies, keep reading. It’ll all make sense in the end.
Every day is a difficult struggle that I often lose due to chronic illness. On the bright side this is the main reason I started blogging, and it has quickly become an obsession, because my main goal is to reach out to others like me. Throughout my life it has always been difficult for me to reach out to others for help, because many times I’d end up regretting it. All too often, though someone has well meaning intentions, they don’t always know how to express them to people such as myself, and whether they want to or not, they can end up actually making me feel worse. Then there are people who are apathetic; and these people can spew words that turn to daggers and cut though me when I am in desperate need of just a sliver of sanctuary.
No matter what battle you have been fighting, we have all constantly been told this phrase by someone:
Just be grateful for what you have. IT COULD BE SO MUCH WORSE. There are people STARVING IN AFRICA.
Right. Let’s talk about what is wrong with this statement; which in my eyes, is literally fucking everything.
Minimizing problems is the antithesis of supportive. This does nothing except make the person you are talking to feel invalidated and guilty for feeling their emotions, which is something no one should ever be forced to feel. Emotions are valid to the person who feels them; whether or not others agree is irrelevant. Let me clarify that last part – I don’t mean to say that if someone is angry at you for an illogical reason that you can’t disagree with them. You absolutely can, but you also have to reach a point where no matter how ridiculous someone else’s feelings are, you must understand that what they are currently feeling is their reality and has created a type of emotional “tunnel vision”. If you don’t acknowledge that key fact, communication between two people is almost impossible. The person feeling the emotion shuts down and the person communicating with them gets more frustrated every second, eventually leading to an eruption on both sides, forgoing the opportunities for understanding and negotiation.
The phrase “it could be so much worse” automatically fills me with rage and makes my skin crawl. No matter how good or bad your life becomes, there will always, always be someone both better off and worse off than you. Someone will always be richer, healthier and smarter than you, while someone else will always be more sick, poorer, and more miserable than you. But the fact still remains that regardless of the queue of people in the world and where you stand within it, your problem is still a problem, if it’s a problem. I really hope that makes sense. To give an example, what I mean is that the fact that I have 9 disorders and 3 diseases is not at all effected, negatively or positively, by someone else that has a worse disease than mine. I am still suffering, I am still sick, I still struggle through my life, and that should be acknowledged, just as the other, worse off person’s pain should also be acknowledged.
And by “if it’s a problem,” I mean if it is legitimately a problem. While everyone has a different opinion on what defines problematic and what doesn’t, most reasonable humans can look at a situation and figure it out. If someone is dealing with depression, their cat died, they are dealing with illness, if a tornado went all Wizard of Oz on their life and threw them into a different world where an evil witch tried to kidnap their dog, or any of the billion of other fucked up things that happen to people, that’s a problem. If it’s something extremely minor that ultimately has no true impact on your life, that may be a fleeting nuisance, but it is not problematic. Here I encourage the use of brains, for contemplation, not meals that is.
Imaginary person in my head that I’m talking about this to:
Okay, well. If I can’t say that others have it worse, even though IT’S TRUE, BECAUSE THEY DO AND YOU SHOULD BE GRATEFUL FOR WHAT YOU HAVE AND NOT THINK EVERYTHING IS ABOUT YOU, what am I supposed to say? How do I acknowledge both people? Why do I have to be so POLITICALLY CORRECT NOWADAYS AND WHY CAN’T I JUST SAY WHATEVER AND I AM JUST TRYING TO HELP AND AND AND
Okay, calm the fuck down, imaginary twit. There’s a really, absurdly simple way to fix this problem so that we can both acknowledge the fact that we and many others are suffering, because much to many people’s surprise, life is not a shit contest. When you meet someone who is struggling, your first reaction should not be that you or anyone else has it worse. We have to learn to remove our egos and actually focus on the other person first. Then, after you have acknowledged what they have expressed, you can use your empathy and experiences to make them understand that they are not alone in their battle. If they follow this system as well, both people end up in a wonderful conversation where they are both being supported.
Ultimately, not only does my main point stress how important it is that we change how we interact with others, but equally as important, how we interact with our own brains. For some reason I have never been able to comprehend, far too many people believe that the brain and body are disconnected and that one does not greatly affect the other. Often we hear the phrase, “mind over matter,” when talking about overcoming physical challenges, but we rarely acknowledge just how important the mind affects the humans they live inside of. The phrase should be turned into, “mind matters,” because the way one thinks does matter more than most imagine.
Back to the first phrase that makes me want to flip tables: “be grateful because it could be/others have it worse.” Why is it necessary to put one person down to raise up another? Why is it necessary to point out the worst in order to see the best? When I think about those worse off than me, they don’t make me happy that I am not them. I think it is cruel and unfair to use those suffering worse than I to raise myself up to feel better, or to highlight what I have that they do not. Instead, I look at people who are suffering and say, “despite what they struggle with, they still carry on. If they can do it, I can too, and that’s remarkable.”
People who are less fortunate than I should not be examples of how horrible life can be. They are not the poster children of misery; they are the faces of courage, strength, persistence and survival. People who suffer with me or more than me are the faces that instill faith in myself and others that we can get through even the most tumultuous parts of ours lives. Saying, “if they can do it, I can too,” rather than, “well it could be worse,” affects your brain in completely different ways. Wording the thought positively, and looking up instead of down, can make the difference in not only your mental being but your physical being as well. Not to mention it will change how you also see others and your connection to them. I never, ever want someone healthier than I to look down upon me and say, “well I am glad I’m not that sick girl. I’m so lucky, because I could be like her.” I want people to look at my body, read my words, and be encouraged by all that I am and say, “look how she lives. look how she fights. If she can fight her monsters, I can too. I want to be a part of her beautiful army and fight for myself.”
My readers, friends, brothers, sisters, fellow human beings. I am utterly exhausted of living a life that uses the negative to point out the beauty of our world. It is time that we forget the idea of competition, of being the one who has the most good or bad, the one who has been through the worst experiences, or the one who hurts more than everyone else. Especially among those who suffer, I see this as a constant problem, and it is time that we stop aiming at each other’s necks and instead support each other’s minds and hearts. We can be grateful yet empathic to both ourselves and others all at the same time.
It is time that we begin to raise each other up to the light, and as it warms our skin, we sing together in beautiful voices of the hurting, that we are suffering, but we are not suffering alone.
What do you know? this house is falling apart.
What can I say? this house is falling apart.
We got no money, but we got heart.
We’re gonna rattle this ghost town.
This house is falling apart.