Breaking silence: When bravery has nothing to do with “fine”

(Note: Unlady-like swearing for heartbreaking national news.)

So often, I allow my desire to not make waves get the best of me. I wait wait wait until things are at a breaking point to express what I’m feeling. That’s rarely helpful or pretty. In honor of brave, in honor of truth-telling, you get today’s post.

My heart is breaking over here. There are the news reports from Ferguson, Missouri about 18-year old Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American male shot to death by police… and the police response when the community understandably protests this. And all that comes up when thinking about ALL of the non-white population that lives in fear of this, because the presence of racism is real.

As hard as it is, I will admit that current events like this are not often on my radar. I see them on Facebook, I know the headlines, but I rarely talk about it. I don’t want to think about it, because it’s HARD. And so, I read the eloquent status posts of friends, and then move on. Because I can’t be that eloquent. I can’t think about it – and yet, there is so much pain and uncertainty… because this shit goes on every. single. day. And not engaging with it is as much of the problem as the actions that are happening – because not speaking about it, not engaging? I bear silent witness to it and my silence is my consent.

I’m tired of consenting to the shit that happens, on a daily basis, and think that my silence has no consequence. Because I recognize myself in a friend’s perplexed status asking “I get that Robin Williams’ death is sad, but where is the outrage for what is happening in Missouri?” and knowing the layers of meaning behind my silence.

And, probably like everyone, there are the overwhelming responses to Robin Williams’ death, including the potential for suicide. The thought that someone who is one of my favorite actors is no longer in this world. That there are so many people who are hurting out there – who have dealt with (and continue to deal with) depression, and dammit, we don’t talk nearly enough about mental health. Or, if we do talk about it, it’s in unhealthy terms about trying to “fix oneself.” (Great web comic – If physical disease were treated like mental health)

There is stigma around what is felt to “someone’s own problem,” and the ways society (myself included) are sometimes so fucking unhelpful. I think about times my own depression got the best of me and my own ways of trying to cope with it (healthy and not so healthy). I often say of those experiences that I learned so much (about a lot of things) but would never ever wish that on anyone.

And this is a stark reminder of why I am going into the work I am, and yet, reminds me of the weight of it. Silence, my friend, you are no longer helpful in these situations.

****

I am, by nature and personality, someone who wants to make everything okay. I want to wrap everyone in a great big hug and shout – STOP IT! I want it all to stop. I want so badly to not see these things, to know these things. I want to not think about them. I don’t want to understand the status updates going around Facebook about what a lying liar depression is. I don’t want to admit any of this. I want to put on my super happy face and say “Things are FINE!”

And yet… they aren’t. They are so fucking far from fine. These two are only a drop in the ocean of the heart-breaking realities of this world.

And just as I start to pound my hands on the table, as soon as I start allowing the heartbreak in, I distract myself. Then I come back. This is part of the practice. The coming back, when it is so hard.

This is the back and forth of learning how to be brave. Because brave is not just “I am fine.” Brave is showing up, snotty nosed and full of bubbling emotion, and knowing that it has to go somewhere. I can’t keep letting it build until I explode.

It is choosing to tell this truth, rather than hide underneath the covers, rather than hide behind the other post ideas I had for today. It is showing up and saying things that are hard… that racism is alive and well and I have participated in it – at the minimum via my silence… that mental health needs to be talked about, and I am just as guilty as others in not responding compassionately, which breeds more stigma. It’s time to own my stuff and live from place that feels truer to who I am and want to be.

{This brave shit is hard. And so so necessary.}

If you are struggling with the bravery of staying in a world that is hurting so much – please reach out.

Lifeline is always available, including a chat function if you’re like me and don’t like the phone.

1-800-273-8255

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5 thoughts on “Breaking silence: When bravery has nothing to do with “fine”

  1. Huge hug. Thanks for not letting the silence take over this time. I’m with you. I’ve been struggling with this being-silent phenomenon myself lately. I wonder if part of this is that there is so much unrestrained noise via technology (twitter, facebook, and so on) these days. And there is this awareness of the exposure you have when you do join a conversation via those platforms. There is the knowledge that you want to say something, but also that you’re saying it very publicly. How do you say what you want to say and not hurt others? And, how do you say it eloquently?

    Silence isn’t the answer. “Grinning and bearing” the pain isn’t either.

    But for someone who is afraid of not sounding eloquent through the anger and frustration, you certainly did just come off as very profound and eloquent writer, my friend.

    -Cait

    • Thank you for this, Cait. And I think that you hit the nail on the proverbial head with the “saying it very publicly.” Not only not in hurting others, but getting hurt in return. This is where the “no wave-making” has really inhibited my speaking… that it’s not that I don’t like to be wrong. I don’t mind owning it when it’s the case. I also know that the disembodied-ness of the internet means there is often more harshness in conversation than I am used to, and I have to have the energy to stay in those – and when I don’t, I check out EVERYWHERE.

      There is a lot of unrestrained noise, and I wonder what that means for my use. That I want to engage, but also recognize the need for energy for it to be productive… and how much energy is leaking out? How do I focus it? (Not questions I’m necessarily looking for answers to, but stuff that’s been rattling around my brain.)

      What ways has the being-silent been a struggle with you recently?

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