Owner of a Perpetually Broken Heart?

Hello! It has been a little too long since I have written – I have had a terribly busy week between moving and having a root canal done that I didn’t anticipate having done so quickly (more on that story later …) – so I just wanted to “pop in” and write a little bit about one part of personality psychology (is that a “thing?”) that affects many people, especially those of us with chronic illnesses.

After years and years of various forms of “suffering” due to our illnesses / disabilities, there are more or less only two paths one can subsequently follow – the path of self-victimization or the path of fighting even when the odds are against you. I will definitely talk about this particular idea in much greater detail later (and I have discussed it to a greater extent elsewhere … stay tuned!), but what I want to briefly discuss today is that those of us who are the “fighters,” the “NEVER GIVE UP!”ers, often tend to become more and more empathetic and compassionate toward others as time goes on. (The Latinization of a Germanic language cannot be reconciled there, sorry grammar crazies!) It seems almost backward when you think about this from any sort of “rational” perspective, but empirically I have seen the people who have suffered the most and who have been through physical “ordeals” that most of us cannot imagine come out on the other side with a grin on their faces and love in their hearts. What exactly is it that urges us to treat others with compassion and to feel so deeply every trouble they go through? Why is it that those of us who have suffered physically can palpably FEEL the emotional turmoil of those around us? And why do we feel it so deeply when we already have so many of our own hurdles over which to jump? (It worked there!)

This is a topic about which I have developed something of a pensive obsession. I will leave the specifics of my tortuous ponderings out of the “discussion” for now, but I would like to make note of it here and also to point out how incredibly deeply I feel the unspoken pain of another person – and, paired with that, how very deeply the actions resulting from that unspoken pain have hurt me. If I were an “average” person, I doubt any of the things I have noticed would even be picked up on – perhaps it is my eidetic memory of conversations that is creeping slowly back into my life as I wean off the steroids. Whatever the cause is, I know that I feel very deeply for others and I can almost instinctively intuit when another person (especially another person with whom I have assumed a personal relationship of some kind) is hurting. Although I wouldn’t necessarily say it is a “bad” thing to be able to feel so deeply about the experiences of others – or to be able to feel so deeply to begin with! – it is an incredibly difficult “trait” to learn to live with. With chronic illness, and especially when that chronic illness has spilled over into the temporal space of “decades,” we tend to face the challenge of having to accept the losses of our wants, many of our needs, and almost inevitably all of the things for which we have worked. It is like watching your life being stolen, one bit at a time until all that is left is you (and whatever mental, physical, &c., skills might remain untouched by illness). What I am getting at with all of this is that it seems counterintuitive at best for those of us who have suffered so badly and feel our own suffering often constantly to also be able to feel the hurt in others. What purpose does this really serve? Most of the time it is socially “unacceptable” to go up to the “affected” person and offer our condolences – that would come off as creepy, at best! Why is it that suffering allows those who have suffered to feel the suffering of others so strongly? And to what end, really?

These are many of the questions with which I have been struggling this week – it has not been an easy week for me at all (and not even so much because of the moving or the ACTUAL root canal but because I know something is awry with someone I genuinely thought was my friend and advocate) – the pain that has arisen inside of me as a result of the feeling of extreme loss (both in myself and that which I sense in the aforementioned individual – which has nothing to do with me but affects me profoundly and not only in a personal way but in a “professional” way) is akin to having something torn in your body. And I honestly don’t know what to do with the conflicting messages here or when it occurs elsewhere. I just know it hurts me very, very deeply. It very much feels like a broken heart – although it is nothing like that.

At any rate, I hope at least some of that was coherent. I do want to continue with writing about my background as well as discussing what my intention is with this “blog.” I hope to be a little more “steady” on my feet soon. For now, I will just hope and pray you are all having a happy and healthy day wherever you might be in the world!

❤ Always, Beth

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