I don’t have a shocking story for you. Nothing about my life or me is shocking. And I’m okay with that. I’m trying to be okay with that. I’m not darkly mysterious or beautifully broken. My pain is ordinary and boring, it’s dull and I can’t show you any scars from it. If you ask me why I go to therapy I won’t give you an intense stare and say, “I’m really fucked up”. Because I’m not, I’m just another person with unbalanced levels of something in my brain; just another diagnosis in a psychology journal and my past doesn’t illicit gasps or widened eyes.
My therapist asked me what my earliest childhood memory was and I didn’t really have anything particular to say. My childhood was a happy one, simple and happy and I have no qualms about that. I’m beyond lucky for everything I have and the life I’ve been given. I told her that I just had several memories from preschool, no single one stood out to me. She found this perplexing because of my anxiety. “Most people with these problems have usually had a traumatic event happen early in their life”. She asked me if I had any reoccurring dreams. And I told her no. She was confused further.
And I could have made something up I suppose. I could’ve grabbed something from one of the many dramatic TV show episodes that I’ve seen or a newspaper headline. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of compassion for the people who bad things happen to, who are exposed to terrible things as children, who hear screaming instead of lullabies. But what I have realized is that lately we only care about things that are appalling or outrageous. The news stuffs it down our throats and so does the media. Cliché as these references are, it’s true. And I know I’ve been affected by it. I see myself looking for a piece of juicy gossip I can reveal so that my friends are shocked or trying to find a heart-wrenching video to share.
I don’t discount the sad and strange but it shouldn’t make you discount me. It shouldn’t make you discount those people who aren’t recognized, who suffer in silence without a camera in their face. It shouldn’t make you say “People have it worse”. It shouldn’t make people compete for who has suffered more because suffering is not a measurable or comparable quantity. It’s not something you wave in someone’s face or hold above their head. It’s the feeling you have sitting on the cold bathroom floor after puking up your meal from 3 minutes ago because of your anxiety. It’s the feeling of wanting to disappear or runaway, shaking so hard and breathing into a paper bag. These scenes are not poetic or striking, they are just simply moments, not ones that are anything extraordinary. Often when I’m in the most distress I’m just sitting there, with hurricanes of anxiety ripping through my insides. Day-to-day struggles, moments when I can’t finish my sandwich or I can’t stop pacing in my bedroom are tough for me and I wouldn’t wish them on anybody. I don’t hold them as coveted secrets excited to reveal them to a captive audience, and I am still trying to accept them as part of me. I’m still trying to wish them away.
My life would make a very boring Hollywood movie but I think more people could relate to it than the storylines that are being repeated over and over with different attractive leads. I wouldn’t want to watch my movie either, or my father’s movie, or my mother’s, or even my grandmother’s, but they are my heroes for their strength through the everyday tasks that wear away at your nerves or test your patience. The long drive my dad makes to his job everyday when he’s tired, or the nervousness he gets in meetings or talks with his boss. A lot of our struggles are all tangled up inside and they’re invisible to the untrained eye but they have just as much value as the ones acted out on Grey’s Anatomy.
So my story isn’t shocking and chances are yours isn’t either. There are millions of other ones just like it. But it still matters. It’s still important. And I don’t want pity, I don’t want your jaw to drop or you to tear up and share it on your Facebook page because it’s likely you won’t. My story isn’t an inspirational story of recovery or a sad story of hopelessness but it’s mine. We aren’t news stories or movie scripts but I’m not looking for the next big Internet meme. I’m looking to become stronger and more confident and that’s a big deal for me. I guess I’m just saying we should have more compassion for each other, and we should realize that the “normal” people aren’t really “normal”, we aren’t just the background characters. We have our own stories with just as much value and richness as the ones on US Weekly. Our goals may seem small but they are much bigger than you realize. Just remember there are other people who matter that aren’t on display.