Reflections on the Nature of Being Broken

Usually, these days, I fall asleep pretty much instantly, but for some reason last night my mind was running thinking about this. Promising myself I’d write it down and share it was  enough to let me sleep. Let’s see if I can put a lot of disjointed thoughts together into a coherent form that maybe people can make sense of.

It occurred to me that ‘broken,’ which is mostly how I feel these day, is a relative and situational concept. And I think maybe it’s less that I’m broken than that much of the world is and I’m just not coping well with that.

That said, I’m not claiming the world is broken for not matching what I think it should be. I do my best to see things from other perspectives. But sometimes, I just can’t.

Quick bit of background so the rest makes sense: I’m almost 40, and I’m on provincial disability for depression and anxiety. That depression/anxiety combo has been turning up with increasing frequency through my entire life, I figure it started around 16 or so even though it wasn’t properly diagnosed until much later. For a long time I was on welfare, then combined that with a couple of retail jobs, then finally mustered the courage to go to college and take a 2-year medical office admin program. Three years of happy and productive work in a hospital psychiatry clinic, but my job was becoming seriously insecure, so I jumped to the other local hospital to take a transcription job that should have been awesome, and would have been just fine without the incredibly poisonous atmosphere created by co-workers. Eight months of my entire life I’ve had an actual full-time job, and it was that one – and it led to a massive emotional crash. Off work for a while on work-related disability and then unemployment and my poor credit card, then back to school to take a vet assistant (not vet tech, a step down the hierarchy) program so I could pursue one of the things that matters most to me: helping cats. The program whitewashed a lot, and the local shelter really didn’t let me know what I was in for until I was actually working there instead of taking classes there or doing my work placement; I walked out one day after maybe six weeks.

I think this is the core of why I left the local “humane” society with mental and emotional scars approaching PTSD (and I’m not going to give details of stuff I saw, I promise) and why I look around the world and want to crawl back into my own room, my own stories, and hide:

To me, everything living deserves to be treated with respect and compassion. To me, we’re here to try to reduce whatever suffering we can – I even move worms off the sidewalk after rainstorms, which I used to feel very self-conscious about. People are not numbers to be shoved into someone’s mold of what they should be and who they should love and what they should believe (monotheism baffles me utterly, I confess, but hey, I know very good people who believe in it, so I’m not going to question it) – they are individuals who each have feelings and have the same right to make choices I do. Animals are not numbers or statistics either to be counted as so many useful resources or so many problems to be dealt with, they have feelings and make choices. Neither one, to me, can ever have a dollar value, their right to life and to quality of life is more important than anything else, period. Living things are not disposable or interchangeable. They are not rungs on a ladder to one’s own success.

That said, I’m perfectly happy with deworming and defleaing pets, with antibiotics at genuine need, and with killing mosquitoes – and I have no problem with eating meat per se, only with factory farming and associated practices.

So – if I had a shelter or rescue to work in that actually valued the cats, I could work just fine. I could, I think, even deal with the nightmare situations that come up sometimes, not easily, not without crying and emotional scars, but at least doing something that would make a difference would be enough. I can deal with death. I just have trouble with suffering and with being helpless to do anything about it, or worse, having to be a part of it. I have not only good office skills but good cat-handling skills and good language skills. That there isn’t a place out there for me maybe isn’t so much a failure in me…. I mean, I DO have mental health issues, and the thought of moving outside my territory scares me, and so on, but still…. Am I perfect? No. Could I be a valuable part of a team? Yes, for a given definition of team. Does that mean I’m not disabled? No, I don’t think it does – I do have a narrower range of what I could do, emotionally speaking, despite a pretty reasonable range in terms of skills. It just isn’t a zero range.

Unfortunately, so far my attempts at getting to a place within that range has generally meant worse consequences each time, and I admit, the thought of trying again scares the carp out of me. (Although the vet assistant attempt did lead to Eva-the-Diva and my crazy attempt to save her even when no one there seemed to think it was much worth the try, and to my Cory-Bear, and then to my tiny tireless tabby Freya who makes me smile and/or splort-from-cuteness daily.)

It’s not just about working, though.

I go through periods when I hide from the world. I stop checking news, because the endless horrible things people do to each other and other living things and to the planet that is our ultimate mother just hurts too much, I’m too empathetic to be able to read or see any of it without feeling it from the victim’s perspective.

(Worse, I stop keeping in contact with my friends and the very few family members I ever keep in touch with. Not because I don’t care about them, because I have the world’s most awesome friends (truly!) and an amazing dad and mom (even when they don’t think so), and I miss them all badly. I start hiding because I don’t feel like I give back as much as I take when I’m in a down cycle, and so, I feel like I don’t deserve my friends and their bottomless love and support. I’m pretty sure, though, that they don’t see it that way. This one, I think, IS about me being a tad broken, as far as my own perspective.)

Immorality, to me, has nothing to do with loving relationships, or consensual sex, or which deity, or gender roles or identity, or what job you do, or where you live, or what you eat, or what you wear, or what you download. Seeing people suffering so much over things like this, or seeing people and animals suffering at the hands of the ones who should be protecting them, the people they should be able to trust to help them, that makes me feel broken and helpless and sick. Immorality, to me, is all about inflicting suffering on other living things, including the Earth herself. It’s greed and ignorance and cruelty and selfishness. It’s considering money or power or one’s own beliefs more valuable and more important than lives.

And because so much of our society is so used to this stuff, we can’t escape it – co-workers discussing it, magazine covers in the grocery store, books and movies and TV shows that effectively glorify true crime and war (and yet, bare skin and healthy sex are obscene?). The only way to not see it is to turn hermit. Which blocks out the good with the bad. But is it really being broken to be unable to face this stuff without an emotional reaction? Or is the broken-ness in people who can? Or is neither aspect really broken-ness, only difference, but one’s not socially accepted and the other is?

And how much more of my being ‘broken’ is like that? How much of my currently bottomed-out self-confidence is internalizing the idea of being broken and of being a failure because I’m ‘too sensitive’?

How much of my being ‘broken’ could be fixed, not so much with antidepressant meds, but by finding the right place in the world to be, where the close-at-hand good could be a counterweight and antidote to the farther-out badness?

How many more people in the world feel broken, and just aren’t in that right place?

Just my thoughts, and if you read this far, thank you. Love you guys, y’know….

8 Comments

  1. Mary Tomcsanyi

    Ohai Steph!!! About….gads!!! has it been nearly 20 years ago!!!! I was 19 years old, my Mother and I had recently made a rather traumatic move to New England and I was job hunting. From the time I was maybe 10 years old I had wanted to be a veterinarian. I used to write my name with D.V.M. at the end because that’s what I wanted. I had no money to go to college at all. Still I held on to my dream. So here we are in Massachusetts and the very first job I applied for was at an animal hospital. I thought, “Finally!!!” Then they took me downstairs to where the sick animals were being held. I started to shake and nearly had a hysterical crying fit right there. Some people could say that this was because just about a week before this incident I had had to turn in my two cats and the dog that I had since I was 6 years old to the local humane society because we couldn’t bring them with us when we moved. But, I knew better than that. I discovered that I cannot handle watching animals suffer or be in pain. I sort of lose my mind. Once when one of my cats got poisoned by some potpourri while I was the live in manager of a retirement home, my poor residents watched me get completely hysterical. The cat survived without any problems. I however was a wreck.

    I guess the reason I’m telling you this is because I wanted you to know you are not alone in your feelings. Sometimes I feel like hiding too. I make myself go out and face the world. I’m not saying that’s what you should do, we all have different ways of handling things. I want you to know that I’m here if you need someone to talk to.

    Love ya,

    Mary

  2. Thoughts as I go …

    just me, but I read this part a few times ,and some how a part kept slipping in without reading it {In upper 1/3rd}:

    “… I look around the world and want to crawl back into my own room, my own stories, [ my own world(s) ] and hide …”

    Just me?
    your own worlds you create in your stories are often better than one in papers, on internet, on TV.

  3. You are not alone, that’s for sure. I too cannot bare to see animals suffer. I too have had chronic depression since very young. I hide away too, choosing very carefully what I read and listen to in the news. Any news about cruelty to animals and I turn off the tv or radio. I can’t handle it. From when I was a child, I know what it is to be at the mercy of people, and to have no voice. I know what it is to have a broken heart, to feel broken and different from everyone else. I knew from a young age that even tho I love animals that I could never work at a vet’s office or humane society because I would see the suffering. I totally believe that this world doesn’t have a chance as long as all life is not respected and protected. Unless and until we treat our animals better, our planet doesn’t have a chance at being better. Animals have so much to offer us and so much to teach us, yet we continue to USE them for our selfish benefit.

  4. Maryh Cookie Holland

    Prysma, I admire your courage, your strength and your blessed sensitivity to all of life.
    All of my adult life has been spent in this little house except for two years when I got a job assembling the little parts that go onto electronics boards, sticking them into those green boards.
    I did that in order to put our daughter into daycare because she grew up out here in the country and had never interacted with other children at all. I knew she needed to learn to do that before she started to school. She cried every day for two weeks in her daycare but then one day she looked at the fun the other kids were having and she joined in. It was great to see that turn around. It had been terrible to make her keep going while she was afraid, but even though she was just four years old she thanked us!
    Staying home doesn’t mean I’m a good housekeeper though. My guy does the housekeeping and we have learned that we don’t need a squeaky clean house to get along. He’s wonderful, taking care of me, but I fill in the gaps in his life where he’s broken. Without each other we’d both be too broken to get along in this world, I think.
    I tried to get my primary care doctor to document my depression so I could get government assistance but he said, “If you are labeled as disabled you will believe it and become that way.” I was “that way” already and he’d prescribed antidepressants to me for years!!! We could have used the disability money but didn’t get it. It would have made things easier.
    I always considered myself such a washout as a person, but now I know I’m not. I’m just different. In some very different kind of civilization I’d fit in. In tribal societies every person had a place. This civilization wasn’t made for us, Prysma, but here we are. With the help of people like you as online friends I’ve been off my meds for several months. Does that mean I don’t have depression? No. It means I can get out of bed and take care of myself and my animals. But I don’t do much else.
    Lately I’ve been enjoying creating a story in my mind, an alternate past for part of my life, a past in which some very evil things do NOT happen, a past where I prove my mother wrong and she must realize that my sister isn’t the only one that matters and that my mother loves me. (So far, I have inherited a ranch where I’m going to raise Appaloosa horses. It’s a great fantasy!) The fantasy is really helping me in real life. I control it and I am well aware that it’s a fantasy so I’m not in the least crazy but it helps me in my real life.
    I used to think I was the only person in the world who didn’t grow up and have a job and earn money and have a “normal” life.
    Now I know that my life IS normal, for me. But without my wonderful guy I never would have lived this long. I don’t know what he would have done without me, either.
    I’m certain now that there are millions of us in the world, the ones who do not fit the mold. The “too soft-hearted,” the ones who can’t “just be normal,” who cannot just overlook the terrible things that people do to animals and to each other. We are the sensitive, the psychic, the shy, “the misfits.”
    I used to be called shy as if it were some terrible thing that I ought to be ashamed of and should just get over. Then I read about writers and artists and the makers of music who also “just didn’t fit.” A lot of the really smart ones, the really creative ones, the outcasts never could fit the mold of normalcy. I’m not ashamed to be in their company. I hope I have not bored you with this story about myself. Again I want to tell you how much I admire you. You are a strong woman, a survivor.
    And I am so very glad you’re my friend. Thank you.

  5. As I have commented to you in Cheezland, I have pretty much the same make-up as you, Mary, Maryh, Geri and Seanya. Reading this blog and its comments have really helped me realize I, too, am not alone. We all share the same compassion, love of animals, repulsion of cruelty, and square-peg-in-round-hole syndrome. It takes real bravery to admit our frailties to perfect strangers, but since we did, we all feel just a little bit better and possibly a little closer, am I right?

    When peeps stopped playing in The Old Site I was devastated. It was like making a new best friend and then the friend moving out of state or something like that. And I beat myself up about it for several months, thinking this was not “normal” behavior, that maybe I was just too clingy or quirky or lonely. When I heard you had started a “new playground” for us, I was immediately elated! My friends are back! (Well, due to technical problems I’m not playing so much now, but there is a light at the end of this IT problem.) I believe we can become stronger ourselves when we reach out to others and realize the world is NOT “normal” and we have been given a wonderful, albeit burdensome, gift of being able to see the world differently, feel nature more thoroughly, and appreciate our small furry friends more deservedly than some others. They are the ones who are missing out. There is a quote I like to tell myself: “If you feel your heart breaking it’s because it was too full of love to contain it all.”

  6. I just wanted you to know ~ I read this far, and I love you. ?

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