I don’t know how you do it (and other stupid things we say)

when you want to be real
Maybe we could stop trying to fix things so quickly. Some things are unfixable. Some things stay broken. And advice has rarely changed any broken thing. I don’t want advice. I don’t want pity. I want someone to look me in the eye and say “this is hard, and I see you..”

A diagnosis, a death, a physical or mental illness. A crushing betrayal, an act of indifference. Something that didn’t go as planned. An iceberg that came out of nowhere and wrecked us. That moment our unsinkable ship sank. Whatever it is that happened to me, to you, you know what it is – that thing.

That thing that is always there. Like a phantom pain with an invisible scar. Or a gaping wound we keep under bandages because of some internal sense that tells us that no one wants to see that.

As humans, when confronted with another’s pain our immediate response seems to be to:  1. Offer advice. 2. Minimize it with a soothing “it will be okay.” 3. Pretend it isn’t happening.

We do this because we want their pain to stop. But we also want ours to stop. We want to not feel the pain of watching their pain.  We say “I don’t know how you do it” because it’s easier to think that they have some superpower that allows them to bear this unbearable pain than to think about how we would feel if feeling that pain.

The truth is they don’t know how they are doing it either. They aren’t doing it because they have the strength to do it, they are doing it because they literally have no other choice.

Sometimes I want to scream at people “I’m doing my best and it isn’t good enough. Can’t you see I’m trying? I’m trying. SEE ME. Don’t look through me. Don’t pretend this isn’t happening. Just see me. I’m real!”

Because when you are going through something hard, the hardest fight you will have is believing that you are real. That you matter. That your struggle matters. And if others tell you that they see you then maybe, just maybe, you can see yourself too.


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