This is a culmination of lots of things recently and not so recently. It’s about people talking on subjects they have not experienced.
First, one of the things that I’ve heard even people I respect a great deal say, is something along the lines of ‘You do not know what OCD is – you do not feel a compulsion that hinders your life, you just want to straighten things.’ That is an example of the kind of thing that I’m currently disagreeing with.
(TLDR at the bottom)
First of all – it’s pretty true. The difference between someone with that disorder and who has small time compulsions is vast. But we should be thankful for those little things – those are the things that give us sympathy/empathy.
I’m going to give a lot of examples, for various reasons, but partly because this is how I identify with these things.
I have been an outcast – I have really and truly hated every day because going to school was where I had no friends and as far as I was concerned everyone hated me – including my teachers. I had one friend, and her home life was so bad that her mother would constantly pull her out of school to do house work or take care of her sister. This was in middle school – the later days of choosing to be an outcast were actually freeing and enjoyable. Because of this, I feel empathy for people who find this a part of their actual lives – lives that they can only changed by changing society. I not only believe this gives me a right to speak on things it gives me a duty to do so.
I have been depressed. I have been sick for over a month and unable to bring myself to do anything but sleep and watch TV. I’ve done this twice in my life and it scares me – the idea that I might never get over it. It didn’t feel like depression – it felt like being too sick to care, but not in any way a doc could treat. This was super low grade compared to people who have chronic depression. But I feel like I could empathize with it – I actually fear the idea of it coming home in my brain. Also, not only do I feel like I can talk about it, I actually believe it exists. A lot of people don’t believe in depression. They literally think you can just cheer up.
On that note – I have been that person – the one that doesn’t believe in depression and tells you to just decide to cheer up. I have been the person that thought feminists were bitchy outraged girls. I have thought that people were overreacting to a few trolls and saying the geek culture was full of misogynists. In my way back days, I have thought abortion was evil, and that my tax dollars shouldn’t pay for others to have a better life. I have thought being gay is just a phase. I have been the asshat. This doesn’t give me sympathy for asshats, but it does give me empathy for people who believe everything their news program tells them. Who believe everything they are told, because why would people lie about that? Who believe that their tiny part of the world is representative of the whole. It also gives me hope that people can change and evolve. I’m fairly certain that there are people in my circles to whom I’ve said some shockingly dumb stuff. I hope those people realize that I’m still growing and evolving. It also gives me a strong belief that telling people that if they think a certain way, they are just stupid or evil or not bothering to think – that is really not going to change their mind.
With literally no segue I move onto weight. I have never actually been the person who thinks fat people are just too lazy or undisciplined to lose weight – but I’ve known several who actually think that. I have caught myself thinking that being in good shape is because in some way I am better than people who are not. This was in my construction days when I also thought I had a ‘real job’ with ‘real work’. I have also been the other side of that – fretting about body image in a way that made me make really bad life decisions. Because I’ve been on both sides of this – I feel like I can and should talk about both sides. Point out to people that a good metabolism does not make you a better person. Also acknowledge that there is a good deal of judging, pain and unpleasantness that overweight people suffer from, and unlike things that are a ‘natural part of you’ like race or gender, this is often a thing that is considered ‘your own damn fault’. So suffering without the sympathy and support that you should get. (rawr)
Because even writing this, spiked my anxiety, I’m going to say something about anxiety and really all mental issues that cause you problems with interacting with society. I have anxiety issues. I get nervous to the point of illness about the craziest things. Disagreeing with people on social media, going to a larp, even going to hang outs at my best friend’s house. It doesn’t always happen, but it happens often enough that I started adding vitamin b in hopes of cutting it down. This is not the same as a panic attack or not being able to leave the house because I’m crippled by anxiety. Those things? I can picture how terrible that is – my sympathy/empathy for those things is huge. And even more than that, I can picture and fear the idea of drugs you can take to make it stop – which have an impact on your personality and your physical well being.
Last and always hardest to write about. I have been divorced. The two of us completely destroyed our lives. I have also been judged for it by a lot of people who were not involved. Before that happened, I had never understood how devastating such a thing could be. The life that you expect to have, the one that you build in your mind – that is a real living thing, and when it dies, it is crushing – even if you are the one that kills it. It is the worst and best thing that has happened to me. It is also the thing that opened my eyes to the understanding that everyone has lives that I know nothing about. I have no idea what is going on in my friend’s lives. Judging their life is like judging an article by its clickbait name. Sadly, though this is a thing that I could speak on - that I could give genuine advice for, I never do, and probably never will. I will only speak of my half and that’s just not the story. Though I’m going to sneak something in right now. If you have something that you know is wrong – talk about it. Do not let it sit for so many years that it just becomes the thing you let go. The real worst thing that could happen is that you wait until it is too late to fix. The one thing that I have learned is that communication and trust are actually crucial. I would really love it if people could learn that lesson from me instead of the hard way.
In a fit of anxiety, I don’t much like divorce being last, and have almost yanked that part out like 5 times. So! Another! I am not a parent, but I used to plan to be one. I used to obsess over the things I would do and not do. I used to fret over making decisions my friends were making. I actually gathered a group of friends together in hopes we could all jointly raise our kids. This did not happen for me, and for the record - aside from some small moments of sadness, I don’t mind. My life is fantastic in a totally different way than my friends who are parents. That being said, I feel like I can empathize. I was after all - a kid at some point. I also not only have children that I love, I have parents that I love - not just my parents -friends who are parents. I’m fiercely protective of those people, even in defending them from themselves on the various things they can kick themselves for.
There are probably a dozen more things like this. Things I have in the smallest dose, but because I have them or am close to someone who does, I not only sympathize, I believe in these issues. I know they are real. So my real point here is, don’t silence people who think they empathize. And don’t be silent because it’s not your issue. Embrace the tiny parts of you and others that help us understand each other. Mostly, don’t belittle yourself or others for having opinions.
Other things I don’t have, but through friends or something else sympathize with: Migraines (I mention this one, because there are people who think they are just headaches), Children, Chronic illness, being unemployed (which to me can be quite as devastating as a divorce, if you built your life around it)