“When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That’s the message he is sending.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh
Recently a few very near and dear friends of mine have had their hearts damaged from wounds inflicted by others or in some cases, self-inflicted. In the virtual world, we talk about drama-queens, trolls and the like – people who strike out at others for whatever reason. Although we talk about the harm another can do, and go so far as to discuss ways to protect oneself from such attacks, there is very little that is said about ways to help someone heal from it, or to heal from it yourself.
While we may hide behind a myriad of fictional masks, we are still very real, very feeling humans behind the screen. As much as we try to disconnect ourselves, I’d argue that writing is a personal act that involves pieces of our souls. What we write, be it in posts, IMs, blogs, statuses or bulletins, is attached to our emotional selves at some level because creativity comes from the heart. The virtual veil of anonymity gives people a false sense of security, and we let our emotional guard down; losing our inhibitions. So not only are we more vulnerable to attack, we injure more aggressively. When that attack goes “behind the lines,” that hurt becomes very real.
Keep in mind, many of us don’t really know the humans behind the characters – some people already suffer from emotional harm, and they come to roleplay to escape. Others suffer from physical harm, and come here to be and move past what boundaries the physical world traps them in. We all come here for different reasons, but I’d like to think that I am in a community where people can feel safe. However I know that this isn’t always the case. We love, we fall in love, we crush on people, and we suffer from hurts – this doesn’t change, no matter whether we are living in the “real” world or exist here in the virtual. Pain can come from any and all the worlds we live in – taking on both physical and emotional forms. Our hearts override what our minds (and writers) want to say or think.
Speak your heart
I can’t tell you how invaluable it has been to be able to “speak” out what you feel, and have it acknowledged by yourself. I’m not one to talk about my pain to other people save for a select few, so I write, then read over what’s written. It helps me sort out what’s in my head and heart. Oftentimes, this doesn’t solve anything, but it keeps me from obsessing over it and going around in circles. When I write, it involves thinking in different ways. When I write differently, I think differently, and well, sometimes it makes me feel better. If anything, after pages of writing, I can go back and say, ‘Wow, that was incredibly PRODUCTIVE, and MESSED UP.’
A few of us have close friends that we trust that will listen, and offer an ear. For me, that list is tiny, and reciprocal. I’m very, very lucky to have these people in my life, and I am truly grateful for them, and love them dearly. However, I also realize I don’t want to drown them in my sea of misery either. So a lot of times, I choose writing over killing someone with my emotional angst.
Don’t bury the pain
What I’ve found is that when pain is buried, it festers. Ignoring it in the hopes that it “goes away” sometimes doesn’t help either. Sometimes burying pain leads to further mental and physical injuries – ulcers, migraines, depression, thoughts of suicide. When pain isn’t addressed, it can take you to dark places that scare the shit out of you, I know! One of the best pieces of advice I have ever been given was from a good friend of mine: Understand your pain. Imagine that it is a feather that you hold between your fingers, and you need to examine it, look at it from all angles, feel it, and get to know it. Then when you are ready…. let it go. Let go of all things not needed anymore.
Give it time and space
It gets so cliche when someone says “Give it time,” but just like a physical injury, bruises don’t go away overnight. I still haven’t found a way to “hurry the process along,” so time is one of the best solutions we’ve got. It means giving yourself time (if you’ve been hurt) but also giving the other person time and space too.
Sometimes when I’m hurting, it’s as if I’m walking around with a third degree sunburn all over my body. The slightest touch – even if it’s from someone trying to put on lotion to help ease the pain – makes it hurt more. …and depending on how much it hurts? Like an injured animal, you lash out, even at the people trying to help you.
Sometimes, time is the only thing that can, even though, when I see people hurting, I feel so very helpless because I want to ease their suffering somehow. In these cases, the best I can ever come up with is, “I’m here for you. I’ll be here when you need me.” and leave it at that, even though it might break your heart to say it, and to wait for them to get better. Give them the gift of time and understanding. I know I appreciate it when people do that for me.
Look up and keep moving
I have been in a place of so much pain, that the only thing that kept me here was the reminder that I am loved by people who would miss me dearly. During these times, my friends and family are like stars in the dark. They kept me focused, even during the worst times, although I will tell you, I am the type of person that prefers to suffer alone.
What you say to someone may be the one thing that reminds them to hang on. It could be your smile, a joke you told to them, or the fact that one time, you told them just how important they are to you. It could that you reassured them that things would be okay, and that you believe in them – that they are not alone. Your words become their hope. Your love becomes the light at the end of the tunnel. Just keep moving. Don’t stop!
Whether we are in pain, or we are trying to support those in pain, remember to look up. Like happiness and joy, pain is also a part of living, and DOES go away eventually, if we let it go. There was a time when I was in the hospital for a migraine, and my first hit of morphine did not stop the incredible, blinding, paralyzing pain in my head. I wanted to die. That’s when my friend said to me, “Don’t worry. Worse come to worse, they have stuff to knock you out, and when you wake up, it’ll be all better.” He was right.
Love them, and love yourself. I love a LOT of people, and I’m not afraid to say it, nor am I afraid to tell them how much they mean to me. However, if someone is in so much pain that they lash out at me, I also step back, because I don’t want to be hurt either. It’s a lot harder to support someone when you are hurt yourself. Stepping back doesn’t mean you don’t love the person any less. Sometimes you have to protect yourself, so that you can be strong for that person once time has helped to heal them. Sometimes, I have had to leave altogether, because although I may love this person, they do not love, or know how to love me enough to not cause me pain, and I have to take care of myself.
To me, we seem to live in a society where hurt is spoken more than love. Where injury and punishment take over the conversations as opposed to healing and nurturing. I have been accused, on many occasions, for being “corny” with what I say. However, if I don’t say them, who will? Why are we so afraid to?
Drama is such a large part of our community in that we speak about ways to avoid it, people who bring it, people who are hurt by it. Let’s talk about ways to heal it too, okay?