I was browsing through random LJs today in a fit of boredom, and ended up in a lively discussion with my sister on a topic near and dear to my heart: people who can’t seem to see/discuss anything in their lives except for their problems.
When you hit an LJ and every post consists of “My life sucks” vis a vis whatever physical or mental impairment they have, what can you do? Post a “You have my sympathy” response? How many variations on that response can you come up with, though? Eventually you’re going to run out and have nothing to say.
I’ve had friends online who just go on and on at great length about their horrible lives, disabilities, or other long-standing problems and eventually it gets to the point where you really want to say “Okay, fine, you have issues. Can we please talk about something else now?” And it’s not because I find it unpleasant and uncomfortable and want to avoid being reminded of nasty things in life. It’s because don’t like to see anybody abusing themselves like that.
I’m not going to call this whining, because it isn’t expressed properly as one simple word. What it is is failure to accept and cope with something in your life which is troubling. Or rather, failure to WANT accept and cope. Inability to even try to find workarounds, to push past, to achieve despite. This is when someone lets their problems become who they are, defining self, revelling and wallowing in their own misfortune. It’s self-abuse in one of its finest and most savory forms.
And I’ve got little sympathy for that sort of attitude. In high school had plenty, mind you… empathy coming out of my ears. But then I found myself more and more becoming the sympathetic shoulder to cry on for a wide range of dysfunctional people. Through FurryMUCK alone I had to talk down two suicide attempts, once to the point of skipping class in order to keep them talking. After that, and after watching one of my best friends began a long spiral into becoming a creature of his own health problems, I decided I wasn’t going to have any more truck with that kind of attitude.
This isn’t just cold shoulder we’re talking about, it’s me accepting that I can do nothing for those people. I have nothing to offer of any value to them other than “You have my sympathy.” They have to find a way through this fixation on their problems by themselves; I can do nothing for them except suggest they walk the path.
It can be done. The most grievous of conditions is still secondary to living your life. No amount of personal horror trumps hope and a determined mindset.
I cite two examples.
One, me. I’m a diastrophic dwarf who has had over thirty surgical procedures, some involving the installation of metal hardware to keep my body from deforming in such a way as to cripple my ability to walk. Often this involved weeks to months of painful recovery time, followed by weeks to months of physical therapy. My entire childhood right into teenage years involved living in and out of hospitals, sometimes a few times a year, sometimes with a year or two of respite in between, but always there. I’ve seen pain and misery and lonliness and more ceilings than I care to recount. The emotional scars left by this process are still a bit of a vague and unpleasant mystery to me. What’s more, the doctor responsible for helping me is now dead and there’s no one left to help if something further goes wrong with me, and his research notes are as of yet undeciphered and unavailable to anybody who would want to try.
Now look me in the eye and ask me if this disability is a major factor in my life. I’d say… well, yes, I have to use different tools and methods to get my day to day living arrangements done. Is it a source of pain and woe? Sometimes. But is it going to define who I am? No. Often days and days can go by before the thought even enters my head that I’m disabled. I deal with it. I adjusted. I’ve found a working arrangement that lets me live with the problem so I can focus on LIVING.
You want worse? During my many stays at children’s hospital in Baltimore, I knew a girl named Laurie who was pretty much a live-in resident there. She was abandoned at the hospital as a child by her parents due to her massive physical deformities, including having no fingers and no eyelids. Basically, she resembled a cross between a serious burn victim and the CG version of Gollum. And she was one of the most cheerful, upbeat people I knew there, who enjoyed spending time with other patients and talking for hours on end. A good friend to my mother and myself and whenever I remember her, it’s not what she looked like that I remember.
Dealing with things, ANYTHING, is not an insurmountable task. You do not need to find Jesus. You do not need to win the lottery. You do not need a fairy godmother to wave a wand and cure you. You do not need limb extension surgery. You do not need the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
The only person who can get you through your own problems is you. Even if you’re mortally ill, even if you feel like there’s nothing left, you can live for as long as you can live and how you live is your responsibility alone. Whinging for sympathy, or even quietly wallowing in your own self pity to avoid showing your sadness to others… no. Take control and deal with it as best you can and force some more healthy perspective on yourself, because I’m not going to do it for you. Nobody can but you.