This is a “positive” response in many ways, though I have experienced the opposite--direct rage and indignation from superiors who refuse to provide accommodations because they don’t “see” what I’m talking about when I say that I’m sick. I would invite them to observe my bowel movements, but then I think this would piss them off further. These situations have led to direct job loss, panic attacks, many sleepless nights, and any number of head-problems I’ve had to sort out with professional help. There are echos of these reactions in personal relationships as well, and it can be quite jarring to receive rage as a reaction to vulnerability, particularly in one’s inner circle. Sometimes these situations can be healed, other times not.
Something I will always grapple with is dignity and right to privacy when it comes to the very personal nature of illness and suffering. It’s a double-edged sword either way you pull it. Withholding information perpetuates isolation, while sharing it can traumatize the listener, revealing embarrassing, grotesque, or incredibly heavy details that neither may have been in the “right place” to digest at the time. These kinds of “reveals” can be quick ways to determine the strength of friendships you might have, but also may cut short the possibility of transmitting something important that both sides might be better off for facing. So in my life--and you can assume this for all other humans--I believe that each person has a right to their privacy and dignity, to choose NOT to discuss anything at all...
How do we make the world a better, more informed and compassionate place that can include people of all different types of trauma and ability, when we can’t talk openly, for fear of not being able to control our (or their) reactions? What do we share, and how? What if it’s messy? What if they judge? What if I judge? What if suddenly it’s all fucked-up and no one knows where to start the conversation anymore? Do we all walk away?
There are many things that I have experienced that I will never talk to you about. Never. Some of these things shape the way I interact in the world in significant ways. Still. Never. Sometimes to share is re-traumatizing for the victim. Sometimes it’s healing. Often the healing happens behind closed doors, and once healed, it’s better for that door to remain shut.
How do we care for and hold space, and continue to seek understanding of the invisible aspects of our experience?
I have no simple answers but time, reflection, persistence, and humility. To be honest, the only tangible technique I’ve found personally is to believe in art for this, which extends to my advocacy for social art programs. Among the powers that art has, its techniques are abstraction and translation through a medium, providing an opening for difficult, messy, or not-yet-fully-formed messages to be spoken and received. It allows us to draw, sculpt, morph, and phoenix-style rebirth our interpretations as we continue our journey of discovery without judgement, or the perception of judgement, by ourselves or others. If we can come to frame experience without the finality of gains or losses held by momentary reactions, then maybe we can all soften into greater understanding over time.