I don’t suffer from depression. I don’t know what it’s like to feel the need to self-injure. I don’t have thoughts of killing myself.
But I’m human, just like those who suffer from these pains are.
Because we’re human, we all suffer in our own ways. But I believe we all need someone to stand up for us when we ourselves can’t, someone to drag us home through the mud and the dirt when we’re feeling too much. No matter the cause of the pain, it’s pain: It all hurts.
I might not struggle with mental illness, but I struggle. Boy, do I struggle. And sometimes I feel as if a wall is put up between those who struggle with mental illness and those who don’t. There’s a wall between those of us classified as “normal” and those who fear they will never attain that normalcy. But I’ve come to believe that we need to stop being so afraid of other people just because they suffer differently than us.
I hear and read far too often, in life and on the Internet, sly comments that make a casual thing out of suicide. The phrase “kill yourself” is far too calm and indifferent for my liking, and I’m afraid we expose our fear for these struggles with our mockery. Maybe it’s because we fear what we don’t understand. I think our natural response to our own ignorance is to make fun of it and run away from what we don’t understand. We try to pretend the pain of others isn’t a big deal, but what kind of response is this? How would I respond if someone told me my pain didn’t matter? I’d probably crumble on the spot.
No, I don’t struggle with depression. But I do believe I shouldn’t be counting people out just because they struggle differently than me. All pain hurts. I may not ever know what it would be like to feel compelled to self-injure, but I’m not going to let that stop me from loving someone who does. My pain is different than your pain, but I can love you still.
It is difficult to try to understand someone else’s pain when you haven’t felt it. But love isn’t understanding. Love is what happens in spite of understanding. There’s nothing cool about pretending, either. You can sense when someone is pretending to understand something for your benefit, and though their intentions are probably good, it just makes you sink deeper into the feeling that you are truly alone. But if we just show up in the lives of those who are struggling, they get one step closer to finding the help they need.
If I focused less on understanding and more on showing up, I’d be in a better place. The truth is, people don’t always need you to understand. People need other people. I have to accept that there are certain pains I will never be able to fully grasp. But there are all kinds of people going through all kinds of pain, and they all need one thing from us: a heart that will listen, not a mind to comprehend. To put it bluntly: We need to love despite the differences in our pain. When it comes to human connection, we’ll find that there are more similarities than there are differences among us; there are deeper things that bring us together. When we begin to explore, we soon discover the beauty in the idea that our pain does not define us. In fact, we are much more than that.
So let me hear about your pain. I can’t promise you apprehension. But I can promise you a friend. I can promise you someone who believes in you. I think we all need that, and I think that’s exactly what we were put here to do – believe in each other, no matter how dark our skies get. We have to believe that the only star left in the night sky will be the one that lights the path home. I think we need that more than anything when things go bad.
Sometimes I feel as if a wall has been put up, and I’m beginning to wonder if I was one who helped build it. But I want to tear it down. I want to be rid of the lie that love is understanding. No matter how you suffer, we all need to be reminded that we are here, we are alive, and we matter. We need to know that we are not forgotten when we are swimming in our sorrows. I want to knock down the walls that are stuck between the people who suffer differently than me, the people who are swimming in different colored waters. I want to be able to look them in the eye and say, “I’m not afraid of your pain.” I want to offer them some coffee and an honest heart. This is the world I want. I want a world that loves even what it does not understand.