Dealing With Pain: Mine and Others

Within the last few weeks, life has been sucky for so many of my friends. If everyone’s psyche had a voice, the world would be drowned in a sea of hopelessness. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I find that when someone else isn’t feeling all that great my emotions tend to head in that direction. If you’re a long time reader of my blog, you know that I have had and continue to have moments of severe depression. It’s not something that ever really goes away, but it gets easier to compartmentalize. Think of my brain like a pie, separated into various emotion slices. Mmmm cranial pie.

 

I can’t elaborate on the different things that my friends are going through as this isn’t about just one experience. Also I know that some of them read this and don’t want them to think that I am airing their dirty laundry. It is a myriad of experiences that range from things you cannot control to decisions you loathe to make. The common denominator is pain.

 

Whether it is emotional or physical, pain is incredibly hard to deal with. I can only speak for myself, but when I am in pain I want to lash out. I want to scream. I want to cry. I want to hurt something/someone else. I think a part of me knows that once I do something destructive there is an amazing rush of adrenaline and that’s what I’m looking for. I’m looking for the change in sensation or the complete numbness that often happens. After spending two hours in a panic attack, the only thing I want the most is the opposite of how I’m feeling and I will do anything to get myself there.

 

Watching someone else deal with pain can also be painful. You don’t want someone you care about/love to go through anything horrible. Especially if it’s not a situation you can empathize with. Then anything you come up with in reply is just theory. You don’t want to meet up with a friend who is currently undergoing chemo and utter the words “I feel your pain” because you don’t. You really don’t. There is anxiety resulting from you trying not to say the wrong thing, then you get upset that you’re thinking more about yourself than the person that is suffering in front of you and it just spirals into a massive amount of panic and oh-shit-your-friend-has-been-talking-at-you-for-an-hour and you’ve been nodding and commenting but not actually paying attention to what they’ve said and OH GOD YOU ARE NOT SURE WHERE THE CONVERSATION HAS GONE AND THE NEXT PHRASE YOU ARE LIKELY TO UTTER IS “MAN, THAT SUCKS.” Yeah… Inner monologue is a run-on sentence. A douchey, self-involved run-on sentence.

 

Alternately, there have been moments where I have sat and listened to someone and have not been able to comment because it’s an experience I am not familiar with. Many times when listening to someone talk about their pain, I try to empathize by thinking about a time that I had felt that way. It kind of makes me feel like an asshole to admit that, but I think that it happens in everyone’s heads. You want to be able to try to understand the level of sadness that you are currently being confronted with so you know if you can fix it.

 

I have friends that will reply to an issue that I have with something slightly more depressing/painful they have experienced and I often get pissed off. It especially pisses me off if it’s the first thing they say after I say what it is that is bothering me. It is an immediate dismissal of my issue instead of an admission that what I’m going through sucks and they feel for me. A part of me would like to think that this is the person trying to relate, but if it’s a recent experience that has very little to do with the situation it most definitely feels like competition. I don’t want to compete to validate how I’m feeling. I don’t need to be told that what I’m feeling is right, but rejecting my pain is like offering me a shoulder and then shrugging continuously until I give up. I have a tendency to be bitchy to that person for the rest of the conversation and very rarely approach them in the future.

 

When I go to someone to talk and say “I need to vent” or “I’m having problems”, the WORST thing for them to do is to reply with how bad their life is. When I’m actually approaching someone and requesting comfort, it is very hard for me to comfort the other person, and the caregiver in me always wants to and my “inner mom” chastises me for being so selfish. That does very little in the way of making me feel better. It’s not that I wouldn’t listen to someone if they approached me about something or if we made plans because they needed to get away or said that they needed someone to listen.

 

It’s never been my point-of-view to push someone away when they’re looking for someone to talk to. I think that if someone is willing to approach someone to vent their frustrations, they are a lot stronger than they think they are during those moments. The ability to articulate how you’re feeling or to try to rationalize what it is you’re feeling is a lot better than letting it all bottle up inside.

 

Pain is not often tolerable, but here is an excerpt from Jim Butcher’s White Night. Harry Dresden is thinking about pain and gives his perspective of it. The entire passage is blisteringly brilliant and every time I read it, it brings me to tears. I don’t want to post too much of it though as I believe you should buy the book.

 

Pain is a part of life. Sometimes it’s a big part, and sometimes it isn’t, but either way, its part of the big puzzle, the deep music, the great game. Pain does two things: It teaches you, tells you that you’re alive. Then it passes away and leaves you changed. It leaves you wiser, sometimes. Either way, pain leaves its mark, and everything important that will ever happen to you in life is going to involve it in one degree or another.”

 

 

 

How do you deal with your sadness/other people’s sadness? Please leave a comment below.

 

 

 

 

 

But Wait! There’s More!

 

Whenever I’m planning to write about something, Allie Brosh of Hyperbole and a Half beats me to it and does it far better than I can ever hope to accomplish. It truly figures that I planned to write about the change in seasons and the general melancholy that follows it, she would post for the first time in five months. Please, please read it. Her illustrations are amazing.

 

 

 

 

 

Links to the Things I Talked About in this Post

 

Previous Post on Depression/Envy

 

Previous Post on Depression/Actions

 

Jim Butcher’s White Night

 

Hyperbole and a Half: Adventures in Depression

Black Hat / White Hat

I had heard somewhere that in the great Western films of old, the HERO would always wear a white hat, and the VILLAIN would wear a black one. This color difference made it easier for people to differentiate during the development of the storyline.

Because the colors are so different (one being the lack of any color and one being the presence of every color), it made me think about the difference between HERO and VILLAIN. Honestly, a part of me feels that this is truly in the eye of the beholder.

Yes, there are VILLAINs in stories that are truly outlandish. The power hungry insane scientist looking to drown the world by melting the polar ice caps, the unruly thug looking to take down the police and any so-called “do-gooder” by forming a mob. There are the jealous second sons of Kings wanting to dispurse of their brother and his offspring to ensure they rule the flourishing kingdom.

It all seems very tired. These stories all possess the same formula. Introduce HERO. Introduce VILLAIN. Spend much of the novel dissecting the HERO to form a bond between them and the reader. Many authors glaze over the true intention of the VILLAIN by only sharing the nasty things thus ensuring that the dynamic between the two is as vastly different as black hat/white hat.

Maybe it’s just me, but when I am writing I strive to understand WHY a VILLAIN is so much more than the antagonist to the story’s protagonist. People are a myriad of colors, not just black and white. I often find myself sympathetic to the plights of the “common VILLAIN”. What was the driving factor to their spiral into the negative spectrum of humanity. Why was their humanity lost? Most importantly, how can I convey the point of view to the reader?

In much of American storytelling, there always is a winner and a loser. Sometimes, the end result is not what you expect but there is always some sort of definition.

In the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, the protagonist of the story is Harry Dresden. Harry is a wizard who has made it his lifes work to not be the person that his twisted Uncle wanted him to be. He is flawed, but I believe those flaws to be necessary to endear you to the subject. Harry is not the shining beacon of virtue, nor would he expect you to believe that he is. He is hardened by his past, and when he lets someone in it is an extremely intimate look into the psyche of someone damaged trying his hardest not to introduce this person into a world of pain.

Butcher has done an amazing job in slightly fleshing out his darker characters in the story as well. Marcone is a gritty crimeboss whose soul you wouldn’t want to look into. However, there is something in him that makes you want to learn more of his past. His ties to a comatose teen girl. His desire to keep his own semblance of order in his city. Yes, he does fully believe that it is HIS city and has absolutely no faith in the police or governing body. His means are ruthless, but that fraction of a moment where you see the vulnerability in this character made me always want to learn more.

I digress however. This post isn’t intended to be a Dresden love-fest.

What I would love to see is a story written from the perspective of the VILLAIN. But it would have to be so well crafted that you wouldn’t know the person was actually the assumed VILLAIN in the story. It seems too often that many VILLAINs are swiss cheese. Sure, there is some substance, but it is racked with holes.

I want to see a story through the eyes of Jayne Cobb during his heyday. While I have probably raised the heckles of many a Firefly fan… let’s face it. This guy is a criminal. His main motivation in life is greed. He chose to work with the crew of Serenity because they didn’t judge him for that (which says something about the crew ultimately). But… We approved of the crimes committed by the Serenity crew and made the Alliance the VILLAIN. I did it too.

I think that’s because we force ourselves to make the distinction between HERO and VILLAIN. We want to feel like we’re following the right cause and opposing the wrong ones. In a world of black and white hats… we’re afraid of grey.