How Deep are your Scars? (Physical or Emotional)

scars

I came across this meme today and I realized that I had a lot to say about it.

I must confess that I have been guilty of this mindset myself – particularly when I was at my lowest points.  In my hurt, I would resent the “fakers”.  At the time, I thought that I resented them for pretending to be what I really was… but now, I think it may have had more to do with my own jealousy of them over how much better I thought they had it than I did.  (Not that you could have convinced me of that at the time.  I would have gouged your eyes out for even suggesting it.)

The sentiment is true… to a degree.  The people who self-harm just for attention AREN’T in the same level of emotional pain as the people who do it because they are so upset they just can’t stop themselves.  The people who NEED physical pain to balance out.  Not even the same ballpark.  And they may never understand that sort of pain.  But that doesn’t mean THEIR pain isn’t REAL.

The people who do it for attention are still doing it out of genuine pain, it’s just that their release ISN’T the physical pain they cause themselves. Theirs is the ATTENTION they get afterwards.  The level of concern other people show towards them directly effects their state-of-mind.  Their pain is eased by people noticing, caring, and trying to “help” them.  Giving them the attention they are seeking might be all they need to feel better.  (And if it’s that easy to ease the suffering of someone you love, why wouldn’t you do it?)

But when people don’t care or ignore their self-injurious behavior, their emotional pain gets worse.  The less others care about their self-harm, the less they feel like they matter as a person.  And the less others care, the more pain they will suffer and the more severely they will harm themselves trying to get that attention.  Potentially, the cycle can get so far out of control that they even end their own life.  It doesn’t get realer than that.

So while half of me completely agrees with this meme, the other half of me wonders how many people reading it are now crying in their bathrooms and cutting themselves just a little bit deeper tonight…

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Is the World Black and White? Or are there Shades of Gray?

Recently I did something I thought I would never do… I allowed the cruel words of a complete stranger to get under my skin.  I allowed them to wound me.  To cause me to question myself (for a minute or two).

Normally, I only concern myself with the opinions of people who matter to me – those who I love and/or respect.  All other opinions just roll off my back…. Normally.

Something was different the night this happened.  Something about this opinion just wouldn’t be ignored.

Perhaps I have just been more sensitive lately, with some of the recent events in my life (that I won’t go into now).  Or perhaps so much time separating myself from harmful people caused my emotional calluses to soften.  Or perhaps it was just meant to be that I have this experience.  That I learn from it.

The words weren’t really about me, you must understand.  The person who wrote them never met me and did not have me in mind.  She was merely expressing her thoughts about a group of people that I am included within.  You see, in this woman’s world – because I can check a certain box off next to my name, I have no empathy and am not capable of feeling love – oh, and I am an INSECT.  (There are only two kinds of people empaths and insects, didn’t you know that?  Yeah, it was news to me as well.)

This person believes “the world really is black and white” so therefore I am EXACTLY the same as a PSYCHOPATH.  To her, just by existing, I am as harmful as a serial killer.  Just by existing, I may as well be skinning people in my basement. (A touch of hyperbole here, but most deserving of it, I assure you.)

Why?  Because: “Call it by a name; narcissist, sociopath, psychopath, bipolar, even autistic. All disorders lacking empathy. Cluster “B” personalities. They can not love. On the other end there is depression, anxiety, stress… All disorders felt by those who have empathy and usually as a result of dealing with a non-empathetic person.” [I will NOT link to the original source, as this person does not deserve your attention.]

(Should I mention the irony that she thinks people with Cluster “B” Personality Disorders are insects when one of those disorders, Borderline Personality Disorder, is identified as having “extreme black and white thinking”?  Of course, this same person ALSO went on to say that spreading hate about someone different than themselves makes them an insect – so there seems to be A LOT of projection at work here.)

To be perfectly honest, as I was first reading her blog I didn’t think she was just the worthless human being she clearly is (perhaps I suffered a head wound).  I innocently thought she was just miseducated.  After all, some of the disorders on her list CAN present with a lack of empathy or difficultly recognizing emotions in others.  Perhaps she just misunderstood what that meant.  Most people who haven’t dealt with mental illness first hand are completely clueless about it.

For a bit there, I foolishly thought I could actually educate her and make the world a slightly better place.  (Maybe that has a lot to do with why I allowed her words to have such a strong effect on me.)  I mean, not EVERYTHING she said was so off-base.  Such as the following:

“Wars should not be about religion, politics nor race. None of those things really matter. What does matter, is being human and helping one another.”

But then I started to read some of the upset comments people had left her…. And her responses back.  The things she said to the parents of autistic children were just plain DERANGED.  She told them their children didn’t really love them, that they were just convincing themselves that they did to make themselves feel better, and that the PARENTS were SPREADING HATE by ENABLING their children!

Logically I knew nothing I had to say would make any difference either, so don’t know why I bothered.  But I couldn’t live with myself if I said nothing.  So I left a comment of my own.

“The only way to see the world in black and white, is to lack empathy yourself. Those who possess empathy have the ability to see the shades of gray created by trying to understand another human being’s perspective. Not everyone feels things the same or reacts to things the same, and you can never know what goes on inside them. But if you have empathy, you try to. If you don’t try to, you don’t have empathy.

‘Any person who spreads hate about someone different than them, you can almost automatically assume that person is an insect.’

The people who suffer from the disorders you mentioned are different from you, and rather than try to understand them you have made things easier for yourself by writing them off. You’ve manufactured justification so there is no need to try to understand them by turning them into an “insect”. And in this post, you are telling others to do so as well – and that is most certainly spreading hate.”

I felt good about my comment.  Very good.  But somehow my cloud still lingered.  Her words of hate still clawed at my soul.  This woman is the embodiment of the fears of stigma that every person with a mental illness has in their heart when it comes to people “finding out”.   I thought she was just the bogeyman.  (i.e. I was scared of people feeling the way she does, but never actually BELIEVED that educated people in this day and age really did.)

Thankfully, she responded back to me.  Because her response was enough to finally knock some sense into me and help me to stop caring about her opinion.

Her reply: “Those who see “grey”and feel empathy are enablers. The only thing more dangerous than an insect is an empathy driven person tricked into enabling an insect.”

Sooo… what you’re saying is… the only thing worse than NOT feeling empathy… is actually FEELING empathy???  I was actually foolish enough to allow THIS person’s words upset me?  Shit, now I’m embarrassed as hell.  But like I said earlier, perhaps I was MEANT to have this experience.  Because retrospectively, I feel like it was profoundly important.

Even after I stopped allowing myself to be hurt by it, the experience stayed on my mind all night and all day.  It’s ironic – being told I was not capable of feeling empathy just opened me up to a new level of empathy when it comes to how it feels to be discriminated against.

Here’s the thing – I have been discriminated against plenty of times in my life for various things (as has EVERYONE at some point). For my gender, my age, my appearance, my social status, my sexuality, and of course my mental illness. The list goes on.

Sometimes this discrimination is not even worth discussion, because it’s just the opinion of some asshole on the street. Sometimes it’s more dangerous and has kept me from getting jobs or promotions that I deserved or otherwise impacted my ability to live my life the way I deserve to.

But this… this was the first time I ever experienced discrimination that made me feel SUB-HUMAN. The difference between someone assuming you aren’t as good as they are because of something you cannot control versus someone assuming you aren’t the same SPECIES as they are and are therefore INCAPABLE of feeling the same emotions as they do. That you are completely wiped out as being A PERSON.

I didn’t realize this level of discrimination still existed in the First World.  But it’s just a small sliver of what Black people had to endure during slavery and segregation, or Jews during the Holocaust, and many other groups in different times and cultures.  Except not just from one random asshole – from society as a whole. From the LAW and respected, educated people.

This has always been some of the darkest parts of humanity, and I have always had a very soft spot for the people who endured it and a hatred of the people who enacted it. But I now feel like I can better put myself in their shoes and imagine their pain. It physically hurts. I’ve had to stop myself from publically crying. (Must be a fluke though, since people with Bipolar Disorder can’t feel empathy or love.)

So thank you, random bitch on the internet.  Your hatred just helped to make me a slightly better and more understanding person.

Does it ever get better?

“Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”

I used to hate those words.  I found them insulting.  They didn’t take all scenarios into account.  Those words were just meant for otherwise happy people going through a rough patch.  My ENTIRE LIFE was not a TEMPORARY problem, goddamn it!

As a child, every day I feared one of my family members would kill another.  Every day the people I went to school with mocked and berated me ceaselessly.  Even physically assaulted me at times.  Every day the people I called “friend” didn’t actually give a damn about me.  Couldn’t be bothered to ask me what was wrong if they saw me hurting.  Couldn’t even pick up the phone and call me to say “hello”.  One call, I used to think, would be enough to make a difference.  But that phone never rang.

Every day I felt like I had no one.  Every day I wished I was dead.  Every day, the only thing keeping me from killing myself was my refusal to let “them” win.  I never knew feeling another way, even in elementary school.  Enough years go by feeling that way… you don’t think it can EVER change.

The theme song from the show “Friends” has that line “when it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month, or even your year”.  I heard a radio DJ once say, when talking about that song, something to the effect of “if it hasn’t been your year, it’s time to throw in the towel”.  (Damned radio DJ’s… no one should ever take their drivel seriously.)  So what about those like me – where EVERY year hasn’t been their year?!

Yeah… those like us?  That slogan doesn’t apply to those like us.  Or so I thought.

It took a LONG time for things to change, a lot of fuck ups, and A LOT of FIGHT.  And I didn’t even notice that things were getting better until one day I turned around and realized I had an entirely different life.

Even though I didn’t appreciate the significance at the time, I do know when it started to get better for me.  The fundamental difference.

In my case, it was something so small.  So simple.  One little pill, and all I needed to do… was take it… EVERY day.  Stop convincing myself that there is nothing wrong with me and going off the meds… AGAIN.  Having the courage to accept that I had a mental illness, and that did NOT make me weak.  What was weak was refusing to accept help when I needed it.

It wasn’t the first pill I tried that finally helped.  More like the sixth.  Pharmacology isn’t an exact science.

And then when I FINALLY found the right one… that pill didn’t make all my problems go away.  My life still sucked.  But something was different… ME.  My outlook.  I realized that with time and effort, I could CHANGE my circumstances.  And I did.

It took years.  Years where I still felt like I was failing.  But I didn’t want to die anymore.  Now, I wanted to make things better instead.  Until one day I looked back and realized… I LIKED my life. It’s not perfect.  I still struggle and have hard times.  But… life is full of ups and downs.  Now I know when things are down, they WILL go back up again.  Turns out it really was a temporary problem.  For some people, temporary is just A LOT longer.

If you’re struggling, don’t give up.  No matter how hopeless it seems – there is ALWAYS hope.  And if you see someone struggling, show them you care.  You may never realize that your kindness was the difference between life and death.

Black Lives Matter v. All Lives Matter (i.e. why you’re an asshole)

If you feel offended by the words “Black Lives Matter” – then you are missing the point.  This movement was not started with the intention of elevating the value of Black lives above the value of the lives of people of any other race.  It was started because ALL lives matter equally… but unfortunately there are still areas in our country where the lives of Black people are not treated as if they matter as much as the lives of White people.  This slogan was coined as a way to create awareness of this problem and to stand up against it.

If you feel offended by the words “All Lives Matter” – then you are missing the point.  “ALL Lives Matter” MEANS that “BLACK Lives Matter” just as much any other lives.  It does not diminish that, it SUPPORTS it.  While it is possible that the person saying those words missed your initial point – “All Lives Matter” speaks for itself.  The only way you can argue against it, is if you DON’T think that ALL lives matter.  And that attitude is the very problem all of this was supposed to be trying to solve.

Now it does bear re-iterating that “Black Lives Matter” was not STARTED with the intention of elevating the value of Black lives above the value of the lives of people of any other race – it is most unfortunate and reprehensible that the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) has adopted this noble message and perverted it into spreading wild racism and hate against White people (not to mention how it has perverted the message and memory of the ORIGINAL Black Panthers).  There is NOTHING positive about genocide, and that is what the NBPP is rallying for.

“I say, if they don’t get out of town, we kill the men, we kill the women, we kill the children, we kill the babies, we kill the blind, we kill the cripple, we kill the crazy, we kill the faggots, we kill the lesbians, I say goddammit we kill them all! If they are white, kill ‘em all!”  – Khalid Abdul Muhammad (National Chairman of the New Black Panther Party until his death.  The same message is still being spread regularly by the current heads of the NBPP.)

But this is NOT the opinion of every Black person spreading the “Black Lives Matter” message!!!!!  If we just gave up entirely every time some fanatical group of people perverted something positive with their hate, we’d have nothing positive left.  If we judge all people in any group by the actions of a few, then by that logic there would be no good people at all left in the world.  AND JUDGING ALL THE PEOPLE IN ANY GROUP BY THE ACTIONS OF A FEW IS WHAT MOST OF US ARE TRYING TO END with all these clever slogans!

So to sum things up – whether you’re saying “Black Lives Matter”, “All Lives Matter”, or “ANY OTHER Lives Matter” – YOU’RE RIGHT!  If you’re offended by any of those phrases – YOU’RE AN ASSHOLE!

Racial Discrimination in the Criminal Justice System?

It gets talked about a lot these days, how there is a major problem with racial discrimination in the criminal justice system. A very hot button subject that itself is used as an example in even larger civil liberties debates.

Generally, it’s not even a debate whether or not this discrimination exists (or it’s level of severity) within our criminal justice system, it’s simply considered FACT that is proven by the flat statistics. Percentages listed of how many more Black and Latino/Hispanic people are in prison than White people (or get arrested, or remain in prison awaiting trial, or get assigned a public defender for their lawyer, etc., etc.).

I see a lot of MAJOR flaws in this logic. I do not understand how flat statistics could ever possibly be expected to prove MOTIVATION. Why is the conclusion that is jumped to by these statistics that it must be RACIALLY motivated? Why is it not even considered that the reason more Black and Latino/Hispanic people are in prison than White people, is simply because more of them happened to have actually committed crimes?  Why is merely ASKING that question considered racist by many people?  Why aren’t more people asking those questions?

Honestly though, stop a minute. Put any judgements you rushed to aside for the moment and open your mind. Forget race and consider the fact that the majority of crimes are committed by people from LOW INCOME URBAN COMMUNITIES.  And that IS a fact.  Why do you suppose that is?

Myself, I suppose that is because people who live in these areas have the cards stacked against them.  Because people in these communities have a horrendous public education system leading to low paying jobs and an endless repeat cycle where every generation is worse off than the last.  Children in these areas are often raised by parents who have a poor education and low paying jobs (giving the parents little opportunity to help their children do better), are surrounded by crime (making it seem normal, acceptable, and easily attainable), and have very little chance of breaking the pattern because their public education often doesn’t even teach them such basic skills as how to read – let alone prepare them for college or a better adult life and the means to move OUT of that area.

Communities comprised of uneducated people with a low income subsequently tend to have the HIGHEST crime rates.  And it just so happens that the people who live in these communities are primarily Black and Latino/Hispanic, with White people as the minority.  And it stays that way, because like I said, few people are able to break the cycle and move someplace better.

That’s not racism, that’s geography.  If the tables were turned and the people who lived in these areas were mostly White – then more White people would be in prison and all those other things.  And I suspect few people would be crying racism if that were the case.

I read quite the interesting article on this subject on Huffington post.  The author was adamant that this discrimination against Black people exists and, immediately after listing all the statistics that prove it, said the following:

“Poor whites and people of other ethnicity are also subjected to this system of social control. Because if poor whites or others get out of line, they will be given the worst possible treatment, they will be treated just like poor blacks.” [FULL ARTICLE]

I found this statement priceless.  Everything you need to know is right there.  Two sentences that discredit the entire article, in the author’s own words, embedded in the center of it.  Poor people, no matter what their ethnicity are treated equally to each other by our criminal justice system – bad.

Does that mean that racial discrimination DOESN’T exist in our criminal justice system?  Of course not.  Myself, I definitely believe that it does – primarily when it comes to who is targeted for committing crimes (e.g. the “stop and frisk”). But I do NOT believe that unfairly targeting a person based on race automatically equates to unfairly convicting a person based on race. There is a lot of ground between those two events. Some of the people unfairly targeted will undoubtedly be unfairly convicted… but how many? No such statistics exist or could exist. And without knowing those numbers, none of the other statistics prove ANYTHING. They are just statistics. And all we’re left with are suspicions that can neither be proved nor disproved.

That doesn’t mean we should stop talking about this subject. I think it’s important for everyone to think about it and ask questions and take actions that could improve our society as a whole. But we won’t be able to take the RIGHT actions if we haven’t correctly identified the problem. And we can’t correctly identify the problem if we just make assumptions and stop asking any more questions.