27 May 2014

Take Up Your Cross, Not Mine: Why You Shouldn't Feel Guilty About Your Pain

“Hey, I tell you what is. Big city, hmm? Live, work, huh? But not city only. Only peoples. 
Peoples is peoples.”
~ Pete, The Muppets Take Manhatten

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month.  Join me in blogging to erase the stigma of mental illness so our loved ones can seek the help they need.

our life sucks: the water heater broke and there’s no money in the budget for it; or your car died on the highway, AAA is late again, and you weren’t planning on spending money on car repair; or you went to the grocery store and when you came out, someone had scraped the side of your just detailed car.

You beat yourself up for wasting a weekend in bed because depression kicked your butt and sucked all the joy and energy out of you.  Again.

And then you meet someone. 

Someone who would love a broken water heater because that means they have a roof over their head.  Someone who would pay for car repair or wouldn’t care about a scratch in their paint because that would mean they have a car.  Someone who would trade days of depression with the prospect of life with two children who suffer from childhood onset schizophrenia.

Somewhere, out there, is someone who bears a cross that would crush you. 
Somewhere, out there, is someone who is sure they can’t make it another day.
Somewhere, out there, is someone whose father/mother/brother/uncle/cousin/neighbor
beats/rapes/tortures/neglects/abuses them.

Somewhere, out there, someone has it worse than you do. 

Suffering is Suffering
Reminds me of a Demotivator poster (I love those guys!):

Image Credit: http://www.despair.com/
What can I say? All wounds benefit from a little gallows humour.

My point is this: suffering is suffering.  My cross may be lighter than yours, but that doesn’t make it any easier for me to carry.  What may feel like nothing to you, may debilitate me for days.  And I don’t bat a heavily mascaraed eyelash at things that would make you cringe in horror.

In the not so distant past, I would feel guilty and ashamed that situations and events that other people took for granted would throw me into an emotional tailspin.  And when people would tell me their stories of abandonment, neglect, addiction, and abuse, I would mentally fold up my “depression” blanket and offer comfort but never ask for it. 

Because I didn’t have it as bad as they did.  And I therefore had no right to be depressed.  Or to feel sad.  Or to crave oblivion.

But that isn’t true.  Because not all hearts are built to handle the same amount of tears. 

Take Up Your Cross, Not Mine
There are sixteen different personality types (Myers-Briggs); sixteen different ways of looking and interacting with the world.  And that’s before environmental and genetic factors are put into play.

Last night, I watched a documentary on childhood onset schizophrenia on Discovery and my heart just broke for the Schofield family and for the children who suffer from this very rare disorder.  And I know I wouldn’t be as patient and long suffering as those parents.  I would have given up a long time ago.

Does that make my suffering any less than theirs?  Does it make Susan and Michael’s suffering any less than Jani’s?  Of course not. Suffering is not a competition. 

Your pain is valid. 

It is valid if you are suffering from mental illness.
It is valid if your child is suffering from an emotional disorder.
It is valid if your child is suffering because of your struggle with mental illness.

Who’s to say whether one cross is lighter or heavier than another?  Your shoulders may be broad enough to carry yours but not strong enough to carry mine and vice versa.

So don’t let anyone ever try to brush off how you feel or how much pain you’re in because somewhere, out there, someone else suffers moreIf you’re in pain, it matters.  

And it is worthy of compassion and treatment.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

To learn more about pediatric schizophrenia, visit Jani’s Journey and Discovery Health’s Born Schizophrenic.

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