As much as we all like to use statistics as an indicative measure of quantitative data, we fall under the fallacy of not perfectly understanding what the data actually mean for the individual.
One out of five people today struggle with things in their every day lives without any outward sign, and this is one of the stories of those people that I happened to come across:
Let’s now play a game of hypothesis. And let’s say that there is this person that has a secret. Her life is mostly satisfactory. She feels very productive most of the time, for example going through the whole house cleaning, then outdoor work or shopping (sometimes overspending without being able to help it), tiring herself out and still feeling elated enough to do more. Sleeps for a few hours at that time (about 4), and everything seems in her grasp, everything can happen if only she takes the appropriate steps. She plans, makes lists of things to be done, works, studies hard, and all is good. Life is good.
But inside, she is afraid that she is lying to herself and others, that this facade soon will crumble, and she fears being in this state of happiness and false equilibrium, because of what lies underneath hiding.
Because it means that when this is over in perhaps a few days, her thoughts will be taken down very dark paths. It has been like this since early teenage years, and she thinks it has been getting worse since then. When this “change” happens, she feels lost, helpless, worthless, like everything is her fault, the weight of the world is on her shoulders and she is a failure. She avoids her family, becomes very irritable and hostile very suddenly when people are around, and then feels so guilty for lashing out that she can’t bear it.
It’s like it all turns inwards and transforms to pain, and her brain goes sluggish, one question left in it, “Why?”. She has lost friends like this, her family thinks she doesn’t care about anything than herself, and she doesn’t even want to go out or do anything else. Sometimes it has gone on for days or weeks. It has been from mild sadness to much worse.
Then gathering her pieces she tries to apologize to her friends and family and partner and say as little as possible, because nobody can ever know nothing of this. Everybody else have their own problems, and she can’t dump her own on them. Not that they would ever believe her anyway, she has been a very good liar and has learned to hide her feelings very well, behind the smiling, full of life, laughing mask.
And it feels like being in the corner of a dark room, curled up in a fetal position, not knowing where the exit is in all this absolute darkness.
And again suddenly she thinks she sees a crack, bright light comes in again, it is sublime. It goes back to being productive, creative. She is stubborn, she is a survivor. “Maybe it’s gone, darkness is gone and will never come back.” If only that was the truth.
She doesn’t want to miss the chance of living, but she is afraid that if she reaches out for help this will have repercussions, she will miss on following up a good career because people will view her as problematic, a helpless case, as a socially stigmatized stereotype. And maybe sometimes she thinks that noone can understand or really help. She is also afraid that maybe these ups and downs are what defines her, and maybe she will lose herself if she loses this.
This person could be your mother, father, sibling, friend, neighbor, or the stranger walking by, whose face you will soon forget.
And they might be struggling with acceptance of their own feelings, wrapped up in pain when all they want is to live. But their own mind is sabotaging their every move.
What is it that we do, or can do, as human beings? Help someone up when they are down by offering our hand and a smile. Nobody said you need to go down with them, but a nod of understanding and a smile will do.
There are stories of personal terror inside most people’s heads, a battle of the wolf and the lamb, that we bear in silence. We don’t want to scare people off by seeming to be unrealistic or too sensitive, and we feel that the best way is to hide our weakness, or somebody will take advantage of it.
Offering a hand and a smile will make this person feel better, and will make you feel better about yourself. Also, you might get a hand back if ever reality decides to become overbearing when you least expect it.
We live in an era that society has been turned into an individualistic collective of mannequins, faceless and voiceless. But we shouldn’t forget Aristotle’s words, that “man is by nature a social being”. We live in societies because that helps us survive, and helping each other constitutes a major part of upholding this value, if we want to survive as a species.
And sometimes it is so easy. A nod and a smile is what it takes.
(Apologies for the literary tone, it was the mood of today, spurned by the story above. Scientific data and sources will be used in the future, but that is for another blog entry. This was all about this story of sadness and life struggle.)