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….