So often I hear people say; “Well, it’s not that bad. I mean, it could be worse. That person over there has…” It’s funny how we compare our bodies to the bodies of others. We compare our cars to the cars of others. We compare everything, right down to our own feelings. We tell ourselves that we don’t have the right to feel one way or another, purely because someone else “has it worse.” But what makes their situation worse than yours? What makes their situation so bad that you can’t identify your own feelings and try to not only acknowledge them, but come to terms and maybe even better them? Am I saying that we shouldn’t acknowledge other peoples’ daily struggles? Of course not. Empathy is one of those things that can make humans so wonderful. What I am saying, is that instead of comparing your feelings and reasoning them away; you have to deal with them.
I’ll start. When my son is having a particularly bad day, it means that he isn’t communicating. Instead he is hitting, throwing things, screaming, and being completely unwilling to compromise. Since he is none-verbal, it means that the 60 signs he knows in sign language and the food/toy PECs cards are the only means of communicating with us. When he feels constipated, or can’t breathe because his nose is stuffy, or he’s tired, bored, or whatever else, we have to figure it out by clues and not by the normal means (him telling us). This can be not only frustrating for us as parents, but also us as human beings. On the one hand, we are sad because we can see that he wants to say something, but can’t. We are angry because he is throwing things and hurting us physically when he hits. We are overwhelmed when we try all the things we can think of and nothing works. But I remind myself that my son’s ABA therapist’s other client’s parents have it way worse than us. That makes me mad that I felt sorry for myself, sad for the other parents, and not much else. So why do I do it?
Because we have been programmed over the years to look on the bright side. But it’s gone too far. Instead of trying to see the bright side of the situation, we cover our own situation with that of another person’s. This isn’t healthy, for anyone involved. My recognition of the other parent’s struggles do nothing to hinder my own. By acknowledging their pain but refusing to recognize my own, they have not gained anything (they don’t know me and I don’t know them) and I have not gained anything.What if, instead; I recognized that I am in pain. What if I look at the situation and say “hey, it really hurts my heart when my baby can’t communicate with me. It makes me mad and sad that I am being physically hurt by someone that I would/do give everything to.” What if I admit that at times I feel so completely overwhelmed that I want to smash walls, scream at the top of my lungs, and curse the world for my baby’s genetic disorder? Does that hurt the other parent? Nope. Did it help me? YES! Because it causes me to stop and realize my own feelings and their power over me. It causes me to stop and recognize the pain I am in, instead of pushing it to the side and hiding it.
It’s not just men that have been raised to not feel their emotions. Women have been trying to become “tougher” and be more “in control” with this new day and age. Both sides are being told to stay in control, look at the bright side, don’t feel depressed, always be happy and tolerant. News flash; life doesn’t work that way. We aren’t wired that way and it’s utterly unhealthy to try. I’ll tell you a secret; No one is happy all the time. Everyone goes through days where everything goes wrong. Everyone has days where people get under their skin (sometimes for no reason). Everyone has days of self-loathing, regret, and shamefulness. Everyone has moments where they look at their lives and wish they could change things. This is not only normal, but healthy. If you didn’t see where you went wrong or where there is room for improvement, you would never move forward and above.
The negative of negative emotions is not the fact that you have them. It’s not the fact that you recognize them and allow yourself to feel them. Negative emotions only become negative when you allow yourself to be drown into them. I think that’s why so many people are unhappy these days. They spend so much time trying to hide their sadness and frustrations that it sits and festers (like a pimple) until it suddenly explodes. Wouldn’t it be healthier to feel the emotions as they come, try to resolve them, and then move on? Society tells us to “just be you” but what they’ve really been saying is “just be the you that we want you to be.”
Stop comparing yourself to other people. Stop wishing for the “better” life that other people have. Stop stopping yourself from feeling and expressing your emotions because you feel like you don’t deserve to have them. They are YOUR emotions and you are allowed to have them. Not everybody reacts to the same situation the same way. That doesn’t mean one person is right and one is wrong, it means they are different.
I knew a girl in high school that could clean up urine, poop, puke, it didn’t matter from what species. She was a rock. But the sight and thought of snot, was enough to make her gag. She couldn’t handle it.She became a nurse (her dream job). Other people may laugh at her for that, but it never bothered me because I knew she was going to achieve her dream, even if it meant facing her greatest fear everyday. I on the other hand, was fine with snot, urine, and even puke, but couldn’t handle poop. Now that I am a mother of 2, I can handle any bodily fluid with ease and speed. Just like physical actions (cleaning up poop) can be overcome, so can emotional hurdles. You have to first recognize what your emotional hurdles are, feel them, acknowledge them, and then move past them. With practice, it can be possible to overcome most obstacles, but not all. And you know what? That’s ok. It’s ok if you still get sad and angry every time your Autistic child smacks you. It’s ok if you can’t wait for nap time so that you can cry your eyes out. What matters is that you let those emotions out and not hold them in forever, eating you alive.
This is me, giving you the permission to feel. This is me telling you that I see you. I see the pain that you have. I see the sadness and frustrations that days can bring. But I also see the strength in you. The ability to survive and keep going. You CAN do this. You are not alone and everything you do, does make a difference. Don’t shame yourself for feeling where others might not. You aren’t them, you are you, and that is a perfectly wonderful thing to be.