Saturday, October 29, 2016

To find meaning in suffering

There was a time when my mood disorder caused me suffering.  Fortunately, as a result of medication, my teeth give me far more problems now than my OCD and GAD.  I am very thankful for that, although having dental work sucks.  It doesn't suck as badly as feeling like you're going crazy, though.  Dental work gets done, and you move on with life, perhaps $600-$700 poorer.  Intrusive thoughts go on and on and on.

(I also feel compelled to distinguish between what I experienced as suffering and what seems like capital S suffering, which would be living in a war-torn nation, like Syria.  Like so many things, suffering is a spectrum with degrees.  An untreated mental health disorder is on there, although not as extreme as war.  Of course, depending on the severity of the mental health disorder, they might be pretty darn close.)

Suffering has also come in the form of helping G deal with his mental health issues.  The differences between our situations are many.  He is a child, and I was not when I hit the mental health wall.  He didn't see a problem in what was going on (his behaviors), while I knew very well that something was horribly wrong with my brain.

I am not, by nature, an optimistic, glass half full person, but I can see that there has been much good for others to have come from mine and G's mental health suffering.  Having experienced this as an individual and as a mom, combined with my openness about both, have been very beneficial to others who are going through similar things.

It is a very common occurrence for people I know to confide in me about their own mental health struggles or those of their children.  And I am not particularly close to many of these people---they are acquaintances.  I am often asked questions, and I frequently provide resources to others who are just beginning their journey into treatment.

I just finished reading the book A Man Called Ove, and I very much enjoyed it.  One of the things I especially appreciated about it was that Ove, a curmudgeon to the core, was also a profoundly giving person.  I felt like I could relate to him in many ways.  When he saw things that needed to be done, people who needed to be helped, he helped them.  He was an utter pain in the ass, and a man who was experiencing a great deal of internal pain, but that didn't stop him from helping others.  It was a frequently laugh-out-loud story (and reminder to me) that what you say or what you think is far less important than what you do.

I often give myself a lot of internal grief because I am not a "classically thoughtful" person who does niceties for people.  I don't make bread and give it to others.  I don't see trinkets I think someone would like and purchase it for them "just because."  In my own way, I am a callous person.  When my own mother underwent a procedure earlier this year that caused her a lot of discomfort, it never occurred to me to make a meal and take it to her and my dad (my sister-in-law did this, which I thought was very nice and thoughtful).

As I "grow up," however, I am starting to see and, more importantly, appreciate that I have my own unique ways of being thoughtful to others.  I am starting to understand that even though my way is not "classically thoughtful," it is still giving.  Like Ove, I assist others ways that feels natural to me, even if it's not detailed-oriented niceties.

Also like Ove, the people I assist may have to contend with my curmudgeonly mouth and general outlook on life.

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