I recently attended an International Survivors of Suicide Loss event in Los Angeles. While I learned many things from the people there, this is the most important lesson I took away: Be uncomfortable.
We go through this world talking about a lot of things: sports, the people we date, hobbies, dreams, TV shows, movies, Internet fads, diets, workouts, travel and a plethora of other topics. But we forget to talk about the things that aren’t easy.
We forget to force out the words that can’t seem to get past our tightly-shut lips without intense effort. We forget to talk about our losses, and how we have been changed by them.
We also go through this world listening to a lot of people. We listen to our parents when they tell us they miss us, our friends who complain to us about their relationships and hookups and our siblings who ask us for advice regarding their own situations.
Yet, we forget to listen to others talk when they really need us. We write off someone who talks about suicide, death, mental illness, sexual orientation, racism, feminism or a variety of other topics as someone who is seeking out attention. You have to be very careful when you think that about someone because often times, the word "attention" is unfairly substituted for the word "help."
Most people are seeking out help, and we, as a society, seem to be failing them. We live in a world where feeling uncomfortable is not welcome. Some of us would rather lose a limb than see someone cry or talk about something that is negatively affecting him or her.
We'd rather tell someone not to bring something up because it might “ruin the mood.” Why is that?
Is it because there is no swift cure, no recommended surgery and no prescribed medication? Is it because we have to actually put in effort to help the healing or see change? Is it because we are scared of seeing ourselves reflected in the rendition of the problem?
Let me let you in on a secret that's really no secret at all: When people tell you about a problem, it's not because they want a solution. They want you to just sit there and listen. It’s that simple.
One of my best friends is black. She goes through struggles that I will never encounter. While I can sympathize with her, I will never be able to relate to her on the issue of racism against the black community in America. However, that will not stop me from listening to her.
When she tells me about incidents, I feel helpless, disgusted and honestly, very uncomfortable. It’s because I don’t want to believe that someone I love is facing something I have no direct control over.
We don’t want to believe we are helpless in the wake of someone’s pain. However, not listening or not allowing someone to open up is one of the biggest mistakes we can make.
The seminar also made me realize that throughout my entire life, all of the people around me have been selling themselves short. They’ve said too little, hidden too much and pretended everything was OK when it was the farthest thing from the truth. Society has given us a checklist of topics that are acceptable to discuss.
It’s told us losing someone to suicide should be met with skepticism, while natural death should be met with sympathy. It’s told us death is more brutal than a breakup or divorce. It’s told us losing a friendship is not as serious as losing a relationship.
You have to remember how to react the “right way” to a situation, so the world can feel comfortable enough to handle your reaction. Society has tried to equalize us on the playing field of life.
However, we are all too different to ever be the same. We all deal with things differently. But we are taught to cower instead of speak about our differences.
We have become too uncomfortable in the presence of uncomfortable people. We have become nervous because we've been told feelings are these ominous concepts that need to be buried away somewhere, and never dug up again. This is the easiest way to deal with something: Bury everything and never think of it again.
But life has no room for shortcuts. If you refuse to deal with something in your life, it will manifest in ways you couldn’t imagine. It’ll come through in your alcohol or drug addiction. You’ll see it when you snap at people for no reason. The pain will be there when you stop throwing yourself into work, people or places.
I wish we had the ability to just move on from something as quickly as other people think we should, but that would mean we're not human. So if you’re down about anything, realize you can't deny feeling your emotions and still expect to escape them.
The pain will follow you. Talk about everything that’s eating away at you to your friends and family. If they get tired, find another friend or family member. The people who tire of you were never meant to have the privilege of standing by your side anyway. I have found that even strangers will be there for you if you let them.
Be loud. Cry in public. Let yourself be hurt in the most unbearable way by dragging everything out of you. Stop thinking tears are the enemy, and don't make your brain fight against them.
Don’t worry for a second about what people will think or say behind your back because some will think the worst about you regardless. Don’t worry about how you will make them feel, and deal with your emotions in your own way. It's not your job to know what's on their minds.
You just need to know yours. It all starts outside your comfort zone.