I don’t talk much about my childhood. It isn’t something I look back on fondly. It isn’t one particular thing, but a lot of things. I tend not to examine it too closely.

Or I didn’t, until recently. 

When I was a kid, I was extremely sensitive, easily hurt, and always feeling things too much. If someone was hurting, I hurt with them. If someone was mad at me, I was frantic, ready to do or say anything to make it stop. If I someone hurt my feelings I would be in real pain.

I have been in physical pain as long as I can remember. I now know that health issues caused part of that. The rest came from being like an open wound all the time. Imagine someone peeling little pieces of your skin off. Now imagine that happens every day. Imagine that it happens multiple times a day and you have no way to stop it and no way of making it better. Imagine that those wounds never heal but fester and ooze and get ripped open fresh all the time. 

I hid from things that hurt me by making up entire worlds in my head. Sometimes those worlds were populated with Barbies, perfect little representations of what I would never be but wanted to be so badly because it would please others. Sometimes I was a princess, stolen from her family by trolls and raised to never know her true fate. Other times I was a boy who could do anything without any punishment or harsh words thrown at him. 

I have also always had extremely vivid dreams. I can begin making up a story in my head and then dream the outcome after I fall deeply asleep. I don’t always remember what I dream exactly but I can remember a general outcome by how I feel when I wake. If I am sad, the ending was sad. Happy for happy. Scared for scared. Hurt for hurt. I can shake the feeling off pretty quickly, but occasionally it lingers.

I started having a recurring nightmare when I was pretty young. My parents were taking us on a trip and they are in the front seat, arguing. Screaming at each other. My Dad looks back at me and tells me that everything is my fault. My Mom nods in agreement. Then my Brother. They look at me like they hate me then my Dad turns the wheel and drives us off the Mississippi River bridge. (I don’t swim and I’m terrified of drowning.) We hit the dark, churning water and my Dad, Mom, and Brother all swim away, smiling and happy, leaving me to struggle and eventually get pulled under. I wake up before I’m out of breath but it always leaves me weak, terrified, and crying. 

When I was around six or seven I would have trouble sleeping, knowing that the dream would come. If I was staying with my Ninny (my Mom’s Mother), she would get in bed with me and hold me until I fell asleep. Soothed by the wheezing and crackling of early lung problems deep in her chest, the dream would start and I could change it. We weren’t in a car, we were on a train, secure on the tracks, headed for someplace pretty where lots of flowers grew and no one hated me or wanted to hurt me.

Unfortunately, getting to sleep with your Ninny doesn’t last forever.

Now that I’m an adult I know what that dream signifies. Knowing what causes it doesn’t make it any less terrifying when it crops up from time to time. The people inside the car change, but my fate remains the same. 

As I got older, on days I couldn’t shake a dark or foul mood off, I would find myself talking it out. I would have entire conversations that required no real answer but would allow me to navigate the reasons why I was feeling so bad.

The past couple of years, my anger and feelings of sadness come from being unable to live the way I used to, from being in pain and having to ask for help for simple things. Frustration, feeling weak and useless, isolated me and created a type of loneliness that being around people didn’t fix.

Thoughts that I hadn’t had since I was a teenager had me seeking professional help. I thought I would be ashamed of that but, shockingly, I’m not. No, instead I was kind of offended. Why?

Because the guy doesn’t think there’s much wrong with me.

That’s right. I’m actually far more normal that what I had been led to believe. I am not even close to being destined for a straitjacket. Not even a little bit. 

With his help, I came to realize is that there was never anything wrong with me, that being sensitive and feeling things acutely isn’t necessarily a mental issue. I’m not stupid or weak or pathetic. I’ve thought I was abnormal all my life and spent a large majority of it pretending to be stronger and tougher than I really am. It caused me to do things I regret. I hurt myself. Sometimes, I hurt myself a lot. I can’t go back and fix those things but I can figure out the why, learn ways to keep it from happening again, and be proactive in my daily life in regards to my mental health.

The first thing I learned is that my tendency to talk to myself, or talk things out aloud, is actually pretty healthy. I always thought it made me kind of crazy and would land me in the nuthouse one day. (Amazingly, all the things I thought would land me in the nuthouse, are actually coping mechanisms that many people use to combat different types of stress, hurt, and abuse. Who knew?!)  

(What I am officially diagnosed with is a form of PTSD that comes from having a lot of extremely serious medical issues in a short period of time and mild depression. Several major surgeries, followed by the whammy of kidney cancer, compounded by money troubles from all the medical issues made the small anxieties and self esteem issues that I had been able to control suddenly feel overwhelming.)

The second thing I learned is that being empathetic and feeling things acutely doesn’t have to be destructive. It doesn’t make me stupid, or pathetic, or wimpy, or any of the other things I’ve been labelled. And it certainly doesn’t make me weak. I withstand a lot, daily. I move forward doing what I feel is right, no matter what others think of it. I give to people, even after they’ve taken advantage of my kindness, because what I do is about me, not them.

I’m not ever going to toughen up and I’m okay with that. I see that as a strength now, not a weakness, not a possible illness. It has allowed me to be able to put into words, things that other people aren’t able. I can do that for them. I’ve been trusted to tell stories that others can’t tell. I’ve taken the barest of bones and created a five course meal. I love writing and I love being able to sit and feel an emotion while I’m typing the words that will bring it back to life for someone else. 

Is it a burden? Sometimes. I know there are certain people in my life that can hurt me more than others and that restricting my time around them is important to my mental health. Some things I can’t escape and I’m learning ways to deal with them. There are lots of times that turning off the devices and going away from all the bad is the only way to cope. And that’s okay too.

Mental health is an issue that leads to some hard opinions and too little empathy. Many believe that those with mental health just need to cheer up, harden up, stop being lazy, etc.

It simply isn’t that easy.

However, I don’t think that popping a pill will help most people. It can even make things worse. I think getting past the stigma that talking to someone and working out why you feel sad, or angry, or hurt means you’re a failure or weak is much more important.

Judging someone for wanting to do and be better should never, ever happen.  

 

I know what you’re thinking by the title. I, an uber-femnazi, cried through Wonder Woman because I was so empowered by a female superhero that I couldn’t contain my fragile feminist emotions.

Well, you’d be wrong. I cried through Wonder Woman because it made me incredibly sad.

The beginning was great. You see the hero as a small child grow into a smart and strong woman, trained by other women to protect and defend herself and also, mankind. You see a naive young woman stand up for what is right and leave her home to take on a world that she could not have ever imagined. Her “Mother” tried to shield her from the harshness of mankind, to hide her away and keep her safe behind an invisible wall. She knew, because she had seen it first hand, what the world was like outside of their paradise.

A world of war, famine, fear, hatred, and betrayal.

Our world.

Watching her walk wide-eyed into the outside world broke my heart. Because it wasn’t simply the construct of a fictional film. Wasn’t something that was created for the big screen to entertain and shock. It’s the actual world we live in.

Diana’s Mother blamed Ares for the violence of man. He was mad at Zeus for creating mankind and believed that they were inherently evil. He whispered in man’s ear and caused him to hate his brothers. Made them fight. Gave them envy and greed and jealousy.

When the other Gods refused to stand by him against Zeus and his humans, Ares killed them, one by one. The only Gods left standing were Ares, and Zeus himself.

Diana walks out into the violence and destruction of World War I. In her innocence she looks around and with eyes not clouded by greed, envy, lies, and hate sees the tragedy of war. The innocents caught in the middle of powerful men’s battles. Sees the children starving, hurt. Sees the parents struggling to keep their families alive with no money, no food, no homes–and no hope. Sees the soldiers, who were deceived, who were forced to sacrifice and fight for those who would use them to gain more power, more land, more money while they came back forever changed, limbs gone, minds destroyed, or didn’t come home at all.

She looks and sees humanity at its worse– and blames Ares. Blames a God that twists men’s minds, makes them hate and fight and desire more than they deserve. She sees an enemy she can defeat. She’s a Hero and Heroes save the day from Evil.

The people she befriends, they know the truth. They know and part of them wishes they could shield her from that truth. But, we all know. I knew, sitting there in that theater, in the dark, with my husband and two daughters. I knew the truth, and so, I cried.

I cried because it isn’t some omnipotent God that has caused man to hate, to kill, to fight, to harm, to live in greed and envy and lies. I cried because I knew, that in reality, we do this to each other of our own free will. I cried because no matter how much love there is inside us, there is more greed, more envy, more hatred to drown it out. It’s there, even when we want to believe it isn’t. It’s there every moment of every day and it makes us influence little things and big things. From turning a hungry man away from the dumpster of a restaurant, to blowing up a country that isn’t behaving how we want, killing innocent people and creating more hatred, more strife, more hunger, more need, more suffering.

I cried because there hasn’t been a time in my life that I can remember when we weren’t in some type of war. I was born in 1972. Vietnam and peace negotiations were going nowhere, the US dropping bombs on Hanoi and the surrounding areas like they were Tootsie Rolls thrown from the hands of clowns at parades.

We withdrew from Vietnam in 1973 but we were still bombing Cambodia daily. Other factions began to break down and we were also still neck deep in the “Cold War” against the Soviet Union.  Richard Nixon created the DEA and the “War on Drugs” began here at home.

And, let us not forget that the Korean conflict is still labeled as ‘ongoing’ to this day.

The United States has been involved, in one way or another, in most significant battles or war since we dipped our toes in the Mexican Revolution.

I was a sheltered child so I didn’t know about most of these things until I was adult. I was, like Diana, led to believe that despite the violence of the world in general, I wasn’t to worry. I was safe. I was as far removed from the death and destruction as she is in the film. The truths about war and those images were kept from me and when I began to learn on my own, it affected me even more that I could have ever dreamed.

I began to learn on my own because young men and women my age, from my school, or others, left to go fight in the Middle East for the first time– and they were coming back different. Hard, cold, damaged. Sick or hurt beyond what we could help. They were killing themselves, or killing others in rages that weren’t normal.

Patriotism is out of control. We believe that only WE can know what is best for the rest of the world. That only WE can be allowed to police them, scold them, force them to our ways, and take from them what WE deserve because WE  are better than everyone else. And we don’t bat an eye at the thousands and thousands who have been killed while we were feeling this way.

Those of us who do care, have no power. We can yell, we can scream, we can beg and protest and make signs and tell our truths but there is no power behind it. There’s no power because we gave it all away to men with nothing in their hearts but love of money and control.

Men who invoke the names of Gods to control the masses and deceive them into fighting each other for their benefit.

Men who will sacrifice everyone but themselves and theirs for their wants, desires, and beliefs.

Humanity is fouled and that is why I cried. I cried because I know, deep inside where the ugly things lurk, that we are damaged beyond repair. Deep inside where the hope can’t touch, I know that we are never going to fix what is wrong because it’s too hard. It requires too much sacrifice and we aren’t going to do it. Deep inside where the despair festers, I know that after I am long gone, and my daughters are grandmothers, that it won’t be better and that it is more likely to be worse.

Deep inside where the truth lives, we know that we don’t care enough. Not about people, not about the planet, not about anything.

I cried because in the dark, in that theater, sitting with my husband and my daughters, I knew that we watch Superheroes because it’s easier than becoming one ourselves….

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